Keeping it Simple with Momentum

I have a love-hate relationship with productivity tools like time and task managers. The older I get, the more I lean towards simplicity and multiple solutions. I’ve also learned that you can’t force systems on others. Everyone has their needs and comfort level. However, one nice thing about the Momentum extension is that you’ll know right away whether it will benefit you.

What is Momentum?

The developers of Momentum call their browser extension a personal dashboard. I can’t argue with that phrase, but I tend to think differently about dashboards. To me, dashboards have graphs, charts, KPI, numbers, and trend lines. Where we do agree is that their design minimizes distractions and inspires you.

Momentum is a custom page designed for people who spend a lot of time in their web browser. The extension works with Google’s Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Firefox. Ypu can find download details on their site. (Sorry Apple Safari users, but you’re out of luck.)

Instead of getting the default New tab page, you’ll get a dashboard like the one below.

Momentum extension display with image, to dos and quote.

Each day the page changes and offers you a stunning image from Unsplash. You’re asked (1) What is your main focus for today? That’s a great question to ask. Some people may prefer answering that question when they end the day in prep for the upcoming morning.

To the right (2) is a simple To-Do area where you type your action items. You don’t have to worry about due dates, delegations, duration, categories, labels, attachments, contexts, or pre-requisites. If you want to get fancy, you can drag and drop items to change the order. I tend to limit the entries to just what I want to get done in one day.

The other item that might capture your attention is an inspirational quote (3). It’s in a smaller font and at the bottom. Like the image, these changes each day. If you hover over the quote, the author’s name will display.

There are several other features in the top corners such as current temperature or an area where you can add links. Those items will appeal to some, but I’m content with the ones I outlined above. My feeling is the more that gets added, the less I’ll focus on that key item or my to do’s.

Although the system is minimalistic, it does have a Settings panel. Each of the features can be toggled on or off by clicking the gear icon. You can also double-click the temperature in the top right corner to flip between Fahrenheit and Celsius.

Momentum Plus

Momentum Plus is a premium plan which offers more functionality to the program. The cost varies between $5 monthly to $33 yearly. The main differences between the free and premium versions are customization and integration.

  • Add your own photos or mark specific ones as a favorite
  • Add your own quotes.
  • Adjust color scheme and fonts.
  • Autofocus mode
  • Multiple to-do lists
  • Pomodoro timer
  • Tabbed groups
  • Metrics dashboard

Program Integrations

Perhaps the biggest enhancement Momentum Plus offers are to-do and project management integrations. These go beyond the minimalistic task list you get on the free version. Presently, the service integrates with:

  • Asana
  • Basecamp
  • BitBucket
  • GitHub
  • Google Tasks
  • Todoist
  • Trello

Working with Lists

Although these integrations are a nice addition, they can add complexity. I think people would be best served to sticking with one system. I did try the Google Tasks integration but opted not to use it. I preferred the simple Momentum To Do list structure of Inbox, Done, and Today. I also had issues with Google Tasks disconnecting.

Interestingly, I preferred the Momentum To Do list structure over Google Tasks. The default structure allows you to move a task between lists. This method works best for my workflow. The disadvantage is this system isn’t as portable as Google Tasks.

You can also add lists to the default structure. For example, Getting Things Done devotees might add a Someday list. Within the Setting panel are options to add a color bar and move the lists. You can’t delete the original set.

Main Momentum Settings panel.

Autofocus and Sequential Tasks

The premium version allows you to sequentially tackle a specific list. The feature is called autofocus. The idea is that you apply your focus to one task at a time. When you’ve completed that item, the next item on your list appears.

This structure works well if your tasks are in order and don’t have dependant tasks. For example, I kept the default lists of Inbox, Today, and Done. I then added a Someday folder. As tasks popped up, I would drop them in either the Inbox or Someday.

Each evening or morning, I move the tasks I want to complete for the upcoming day from the Inbox to Today. I also arranged them in the order I planned to execute and applied autofocus. Once I complete the present task, bank deposit, the next task from my list.

Current Momentum task.

Pomodoro Timer & Metrics

One newer feature is the introduction of a Pomodoro timer. This is a productivity method developed by Francesco Cirillo. The technique uses two timers. The first is a 25-minute focus timer. The second timer is a 5-minute rest-timer. Both these timers replace the main clock timer.

Pomodoro Settings.

The settings are adjustable but aren’t found in the main settings panel. You need to hover over the timer and look for the 3 dots.

While I found the feature useful, I was surprised that it doesn’t automatically integrate with the metrics section. You could manually set up a metric and have it clear daily though.

Adding manual metric to Momentum.

Whether you choose the free or plus version, there’s plenty of value. If you’re not sure if you’d benefit from the paid features, I’d suggest you try it for a month. After that, you can decide to keep or revert to the free version.