The Philosophy Behind the 5 minute rule for building habits: Push notifications on Otto

Published on July 8, 2024

byJoel Benjamin

If you’ve been using Otto for a while, you’ve probably seen this notification popping up on your page. You saw it once, then you saw it again the next day and you kept on seeing it.

Otto push notifications

The reason you see it is because unless you do a focus session once a day Otto will keep on showing it to you until you build a habit to focus. Now when you click on “Focus”, it used to start a Pomodoro session. Now this isn’t very useful to build a habit.

I released this feature in Feb of this year and in May I changed it up a bit to only show it once every 4 days because I felt like it got annoying, especially because it started the Pomodoro timer. Now it is July and I tweaked things again and it’ll show you the notifications daily again. But unlike before, now it only asks you to focus for 5 minutes.

So why 5 minutes?

Well, we humans by nature are very lazy. We don’t like to do things that we should be doing. This is very understandable because seriously, who likes to work right? We just want to relax and spend time with our loved ones. This is all well and good, I like doing that too. But at the same time, since we live in a society we are expected to do certain things which we may or may not like. That too at certain times, we are expected to be reliable, productive, efficient, and a bunch of other things. We play many roles in our daily lives - at work and at home. And we struggle. We struggle every day, this is normal. Because if we don’t struggle, are we even human? That is the question philosophers have asked for a very long time.

When we struggle, we feel helpless, I’ve felt that many times, you’ve probably felt that, dear reader. And we need some structure or push. There’s a saying you’ve heard a million times and as cliche as it may sound for me to repeat it, but I will repeat it again

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step

Now back to five minutes, it is not 10 minutes nor it is 25 minutes. It is 5 minutes and it can go very quickly. Now at least from my experience and from what I’ve heard, the 5 minute rule is the ultimate rule that helps you develop a habit. Not to be confused with the 5-second rule, if you know what I mean.

They say, do something for 5 minutes a day and do it every day and you’ll build a habit. Think about it - You brush for less than 5 minutes, and you’ve been doing it for longer than you can remember and you feel icky if you skip it.

In the same way, focus is a muscle that you need to train to be able to focus on things longer. This is especially true currently on the web because we are bombarded with various stimulants that distract us.

Introducing Nudges

Nudges are little 5 minute focus reminders that try to help you quickly get over a block. I call them “Nudges” because they are gentle, not too distracting, and annoying like version 1, which many people found annoying. I heard you, so I give you version 2.

How to set up a Nudge?

How to open Nudge settings

To set up a nudge, it’s quite simple. To open nudge settings there are two ways

Option 1: Open using the Command Bar

To use the command bar, just press cmd+shift+o or ctrl+shift+o. You should see “Nudges” option .If it doesn’t open the popup like you see in the image, it means the shortcut isn’t set. Go to chrome://extentions:/shortcuts > Otto and it a new shortcut there under “Command bar”.

Otto command bar

Option 2: Open via the Otto popup

Otto settings nudge

Open the Otto pop, navigate to settings, and then click on Open nudge settings. It should take you to the settings page.

How to create a Nudge?

Creating a nudge is very simple. Select a time you want to receive a notification and click on the “Create button”. This is what it should look like. Once you do that, you should see it in the list below. Any future nudge you create will appear there.

Otto Nudge settings page

How does it work?

Say you set a reminder for 10 am, daily. You should see a reminder like this popping in at the corner of your screen. It should look something like this. Once you finish a 5 minute focus session, you should see another popup asking if you want to try again.

Otto reminder notification

Do I have to create nudges every day?

No, once you create a nudge, they remain forever. These reminders will trigger every day at the time you set.

The reminders aren’t triggering?

For nudges to work, you need to be on a web page. They won’t work in new tabs or any chrome://` pages

How do I turn of these nudges?

To turn them off just, go to the nudge settings and delete them.