Bttn is s a voice-enabled interactive assistant that is based on persuasive design theory and HCI methodology. It leverages a deeper understanding of psychology to mitigate procrastination.

Team: Bolade Fatade, Saloni Sabnis, Sophie Qin
Role: Research, Concept Development, Visual Design
Tools: Adobe AfterEffects, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe XD, Sketch, Principle
Duration: 6 weeks | Carnegie Mellon University, Human-Computer Interaction Institute


The Challenge:

To explore the design and evaluation of HCI interventions that aim to change users’ attitudes, emotions, or behaviors through an array of psychological theories and strategies for implicit and explicit persuasion.


The Problem of Procrastination:

In nearly every domain — academic, professional, and personal facets of life — procrastination is a severe issue responsible for exacerbating anxiety and negative habits, as well as limiting the quality and quantity of work that an individual is capable of producing. As students, an intervention to this negative human behavior was particularly relevant. For this reason, our team tasked ourselves with addressing and creating an intervention to procrastination. 



Literature Reviews:

We examined existing research on the subject of procrastination, including different intervention methods, the role technology plays in intervention, and the associated strategies of persuasion for reducing the anxiety surrounding these aversive tasks.


The problem is that most people struggle with visualizing their future selves and so they inevitably make inherently unstable intertemporal choices (Loewenstein & Thaler, 1989). Thus as opposed to thinking about the long term, we import new benefits into the present (Ariely, 2012).

Barely being reflective about procrastination habits in the moment could induce feelings of frustration & self criticism. In order to regulate these feelings, we might allow ourselves to abandon the task at hand – as explained by the theory of metacognitive awareness (Teasdale, Segal, & Williams, 1995).

Giving people autonomy, allowing them to demonstrate competence & increasing relatedness can allow greater volition and motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000). As people progress towards a goal, they take feedback as a signal of their level of expertise within that goal (Fishbach, Eyal, Finklestein, 2010)


User Interviews:

To better understand procrastination habits & hindrances to productivity, we interviewed students at Carnegie Mellon. The interview participants were selected through accidental sampling & came from a broad variety of academic disciplines. The oldest participant was 30 & the youngest was 20. We standardized the questions & asked about how procrastination manifests, how it affects them (emotionally & psychologically), how they dealt with it (specific tools they use, and mindsets they have) & their preferred kinds of interventions.


Reasons to procrastinate

“Usually (I procrastinate) when a task seems very big and daunting, or something that feels unappealing to do. When I don’t know where to start, how long will it take, could I even do it? ”

Most respondents stated a myriad of reasons that lead them to procrastinate. Many reported them as tasks that were like giant black boxes that seemed very daunting and abstract.If there was something that they have done before, and they remember it being unappealing, they’ll come up with excuses to not do it.

The role of re-prioritizing

“There is a difference between procrastination and de-prioritizing. Guilt of procrastination mostly comes with things I personally attach more value to.”

Although most people reported being aware of their procrastination in-the-moment, many said they weren’t motivated enough to stop it. This insight was an interesting example of someone’s attempt at emotional regulation through reframing. We wondered how might we re-prioritize tasks through re-framing?

Lack of accountability

“Calendar tells me my compulsory schedule and non-compulsory work is on my board. Non-compulsory non-work stuff gets totally neglected (because I’m not putting it in anywhere).”

In mitigating procrastination, many reported that it helped to visualize and put timelines & deadlines in front of them. While people reported using planners religiously to bring structure to their day, a lot of them spoke about how many tasks get sidelined since they aren’t considered important or accounted for on these planning apps.



Design Objectives:

Taking information from these papers along with interviews conducted with our primary user group, we prioritized five “anchors” as the central themes to guide our approach to the intervention:

Self Awareness

How might we build a state of self awareness to increase sense of self & connection to their tasks and emotions?

Visualizing Future Self

How might we build on a more consciousness connection with the future self?


How might we use reframing techniques to convert negative emotions to positive ones?

Emotional Regulation

How might we mitigate negative emotions attached to tasks and procrastination and build a state of emotional regulation?

Goal Pursuit

How might we use goal pursuit techniques to motivate people to complete tasks?



Concept Development and Testing


Concept 1: Orb

The first concept, Orb, mainly targeted the idea of visualizing the future self to motivate users towards goal pursuit through an abstract representation and constant feedback. This orb would present itself to the user through browser/lock screens, serving as a constant reminder of their future self.

Concept 2: Digital Buddy

The digital buddy was a voice bot scheduling assistant that resides within the app and utilises touch as well as voice inputs, and helps to increase awareness of emotions related to tasks and regulating them as a means of preventing procrastination.



Bttn is a chatbot which intelligently breaks up and schedules tasks and helps with emotion regulation. Although Bttn can be used by most people dealing with procrastination, we think it’ll be of particular importance to college students & knowledge workers who are motivated to self-reflect, improve productivity and manage stress levels.



Intelligent break down of tasks

A stand-alone app, Bttn uses a Voice User interface along with intuitive gestures to facilitate ease of use. It relies on user-supplied data and machine learning about tasks, and breaks them into smaller manageable tasks based on the user’s schedule.

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Emotional Recognition and Self Awareness

To initiate a state of self awareness and an early separation of positive and negative tasks , Bttn allows users to swipe “right” for a positive feeling and “left” for a negative feeling about tasks on the next day’s list. This state allows Bttn to recognize these emotions and counteract them accordingly.


Customising strategies for different reasons of procrastination

We narrowed down the reasons for people’s negative moods towards certain tasks to an initial 3 reasons of difficulty, fear of failure and lack of interest, based on research and testing. Furthermore, it customizes interventions– when a user reports that a task is too difficult, Bttn breaks down large tasks into smaller ones. For fear of failure, Bttn displays self-affirming messages. If there’s a lack of interest, Bttn asks you to reframe it as either a challenge or an activity with a reward. At the scheduled time, it reminds the user of their personal reasons to complete.

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Reframing the unappealing tasks

It can be worthwhile to shift the negative image one has of a task to a positive one in order to fundamentally change the perception one has of an activity so it doesn’t lead to further procrastination. Sentence structures would include options for reframing these tasks as challenges, positive associations or rewards.

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Reminders and Rescheduling

We reframed procrastination as rescheduling in order to counteract negative emotions attached to it. There’s no penalty if a task isn’t completed– it’s just rescheduled.

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Schedule as a visualisation tool to increase consciousness of future self.

We provided a visual timeline that reduces distance from future self by demonstrating how current decision may impact the future. Bttn scans through the user’s schedule, to suggest points in the future at which the task can be rescheduled. Through a range of colour


Summary Analytics

Summary analytics on historical behavior would help users not only with creating awareness about patterns responsible for their procrastination, but can also serve as an emotion regulation mechanism by providing proof that they were able to overcome their negative emotions towards task completion.

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This research allows us to make progress towards the understanding of how procrastination could be alleviated (or even, preserved) by technology. We see many interesting dynamics emerge, such as the fact that merely changing the way people perceive their procrastination habits could change their feelings & attitudes towards it. Giving people the tools to let them monitor both historical & anticipate future occurrences helps them avoid stressful situations. In summary, application developers need to think more deeply when building productivity tools. It’s no longer enough to have powerful integrations that are directly related to the work, they must also ensure the person doing the work is in the appropriate frame of mind.