Taskmaster • Making for myself

07.01.2022

Ongoing project
HTML, CSS & JS
UI/UX
Web Development

For as long as I've been developing software, I've been looking for a project that is both engaging to build and has a definite target market. The former criteria was easy; the challenge and reward of building something new had always been what drew me to software development, but the latter criteria was always difficult.

When I built Gravity, a few of my friends were interested in supporting me when I did it, and Morgann was almost entirely developed based on what my friends suggested. But, I found that once everyone's interest in my projects tapered off, so did my own. I struggled to stay interested in a project if other people weren't using it.

Fast forward to 2021, where university had caused me to almost abandon my social life and any ongoing projects to keep my workload under control. Suddenly, the only person interested in what I did was me, and my existing mindset to stay motivated disappeared. Perhaps it was a level of codependence, or perhaps it was because everything I made I would never really use myself: I've never played many videogames, and I don't use Discord bots all too often.
I realise - in retrospect, mostly - that I needed to find a project that I would use. Something whose success metrics were not based on external users or motivation, but something that was successful because I got value from it.

I also realised in 2021 that I needed to take more responsibility for my physical fitness and mental wellbeing. 2021 was a difficult year for most people, and my personal life was no exception. I decided that I wanted to start sustainably working out (that is, working out in a way that means I keep doing so in 6-12 months time). I'd tried this before my means of tagging along with my parents to their gym, or following existing fitness applications, but I figured I should sit down and do my own research so that I knew exactly what I should be doing and why, then go from there.
What I quickly realised is that remembering all the minute details of what exercises to do and when, how they should be grouped, etc. is enough effort that someone could make a full-time job out of it (and in hindsight, I realise personal trainers do). Realistically, I didn't have the time and motivation to do this myself, nor the money to pay someone else to do it. What I did realise is, if I spend maybe a hundred hours now developing an automated application to help me create a workout routine, I can keep using that system while I move onto other things.
That application has since evolved into Wolfram ("Wolfram" being another name for Tungsten, one of the 'hardest' elements. A bit of sly naming on my part), and has been instrumental in my personal fitness success.

To talk briefly about Wolfram, I found that it had a circular developmental motivation cycle: because I would spend so long building features for this application, I was motivated to workout using it to ensure it worked, and because I used it so often I'd find flaws and things to improve, which would motivate me to spend a great deal of time working on it.
I've found that, even outside of its development cycle it has been an excellent app. It saves me the 5-10 minutes of sitting down and figuring out a workout plan every day, by which point I usually feel less motivated, and instead I can spare myself the cognitive effort for other tasks.
It's this "cognitive effort saving" that got me thinking: I found the most difficult thing about a workout was thinking about it - the longer I spent thinking about what I wanted to do, the more likely I was to "overthink" it and lose motivation. And this isn't something strictly limited to exercise; I've found that a similar thing happens when I spend too long deciding what to eat - I simply won't because I've overthought it to the point where eating is no longer appealing.

I then decided that perhaps spending the four years I have to spend at university also developing a suite of useful tools for myself to save myself cognitive energy, so that when I graduate university and move presumably a busier lifestyle, I have the tools there to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This project is what I'm calling the Taskmaster project (named after the Marvel character who could duplicate another hero's abilities nearly flawlessly), with Wolfram being the first application in the suite.

So, what makes a Taskmaster app "Taskmaster"?

As of the time of writing, I am the sole developer of the Taskmaster suite, however I'd love for other equally interested people to work with me. Even if your speciality isn't in software development, I'd love to hear from you. Whether it's fitness advice, feature requests, or other lifestyle-improving tools you'd love to see or work on, I'd love to see where Taskmaster can be taken. I believe there's a great deal of potential here and what I've done has only just scratched the surface.

Visit the Taskmaster website!