The Productivity Tool You Need To Get A HOLD Of With Maths Mathisen

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TBT 136 | Hold
The year 2020 is coming to an end. It may be a messy year with all the things going on, foremost of which is the global pandemic, but at least we can start putting in place some great habits and processes for us to focus going into 2021. On today’s show, Maths Mathisen, the COO and Cofounder of HOLD, joins Penny Zenker to introduce their new tool. HOLD helps you to plan your day to become distraction-free. It measures and monitors your productivity. Learn more about this amazing app from Maths.

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The Productivity Tool You Need To Get A HOLD Of With Maths Mathisen

I am excited to talk about some great tools to help you to be more productive especially since we have so little time until the end of 2020. If 2020 was a mess for you, at least we can put in place some great habits and ways for you to focus going into 2021. Our guest is Maths Mathisen. He is the COO and Cofounder of HOLD, which is a great new tool that I’m working with. It was released on October 15th, 2020 and more than 50% of the student population are using HOLD.
Maths will tell us more about that in context. It started with students and now brands such as Coca-Cola, Just Eat and Disney are supporting the mission. HOLD has changed the lives of more than 650,000 students since it has launched because it started mostly in the student area. HOLD helps you to plan your day to become distraction-free. It measures and monitors your productivity. We’re going to hear more about that from Maths.

Maths, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much. It’s great to be here.
Tell us first, to start your own company and to create software, we already know you have to be crazy. I know that because I came from that world too and it’s like a compulsion. What got you so fascinated that you wanted to go out and build a piece of software to support people in productivity?
It all started when we were students ourselves. We had a big issue. We checked our phones way too often. We were three friends, sitting together day-by-day, trying to get the best grades possible. What happened is that we didn’t get things done. We were multitasking, checking our phones, getting the ping message from Snapchat. We’re not getting all the things done that we wanted. What we started out with was providing ourselves a cup of coffee or the ones that did not check their phones during class got the coffee from the two others.
You incentivize each other. If you didn’t check your phone, then we buy you coffee.
That’s correct. The fact that we were working this as more of a competition and that get the price at the end, that changed the way we behaved. We figured, “Maybe other people might had this problem or some more students. We can create a tool for this.” That was a start. We had two more years of our Master’s in Copenhagen. We said, “Let’s try to continue the Master’s while building a tool.” We built a very simple app. The time you spend off your phone, you get points for it. Those points you can exchange to get a coffee, a discount from Just Eat or get premier tickets to the newest film in the cinema. That worked. That’s where we got more than 650,000 students on board and helping them to focus by creating this very simple tool.
First of all, I’ve been using the tool and I didn’t notice the point system. Is that only in your area or is there a point system in the background that I haven’t yet looked into?
There are two different tools. There is one student app where students can exchange the points and get some free stuff. The one that we’re building now that we launched is more of a productivity training for you. That’s the one that you have been using. There’s no point system there. There are no things you can exchange your points for.

TBT 136 | Hold

Hold: Most of the problem is that you have a plan, but you are not able to complete the plan by the end of the day.

Are you planning to incorporate that?
That’s something we will have to have to look at, how people use it, how people interact with the tool, but we don’t want to stop there. The reason for you to start using HOLD shouldn’t be to get the free things on them. It should be that you want to change the way you interact with tools, and the way you get things done. Most of the problem is that you have a plan, but you are not able to complete the plan by the end of the day. You put a lot of things on your task list but there’s so much thing that you don’t know where to start and how to get through it.
A little extra incentive is not a bad idea. I have some thoughts that I want to share with you after the show. When I was using the tool, it reminded me of the Pomodoro technique. Are you familiar with the Pomodoro technique?
Was that an inspiration for you at all in terms of having the timer aspects so that it’s timing you while you’re doing your tasks? You can see that little green bar that’s going around.
We’ve been looking at a lot of different techniques. We started with what we see as the best way for us at the moment. We start our day by planning out which task we need to do and try to set up, “Which one is the most important and where should I start?” You use a way of getting to task-by-task. You’re not trying to shift between. The thing that we saw is people start on an easy task. They add in a lot of different smaller tasks to feel busy or feel that they get things done. That’s the starting point there. Help you plan the day, and then get you into the flow. That’s where we see that you start with a specific time amount for that task. You have a cut end time. You can then say, “I need some more time on it or I’m finished,” and then you move to the next task if you finished.
I know that there are some articles and science behind why a timer is effective in helping people to stay on target and stay focused especially for those smaller periods of time. Are you aware of some of that science?
On that first project, this student app, you have to keep away your phone for at least twenty minutes. That was based on science. It takes three minutes to get back to focus again. They’re the mechanics that we try to take from science into our product. That’s also why we want to work with experts around the world on this topic. We only have experienced as we had like you by trying to get as much done by the end of the day, trying to help these students focus. We believe there are many people that know more about this. That’s why we want to work with them in order to create the best potential product.
You said this is a distinction. It’s important when we’re talking about productivity. You said it earlier, it’s about getting the most important things done, the things that make the biggest impact. We tend to not always start with those things because they feel overwhelming, we don’t want to do them or whatever reason. We focus on those urgent things first, and then we never get to the things that are most important. It’s important to highlight that for people because there are all different types of audiences on this show. Some people are beginners to figuring out how to better prioritize themselves. Some people might be more advanced, but I bring it back to getting clear on what those top impact items are.
It’s the Pareto Principle, finding your 20% that’s going to make 80% of the difference. I hope that your tool will come up also with some functionality that will help people to be able to prioritize. Right now, it’s a list. I get to put it on and I love that I get to plan my day. I do that anyway but this is nice to put it into the system. It’s right there in the Chrome Add-in so it’s sitting right there. I pop it up, I see what I have to do, I hit start, and then I focus on that particular item. For me and some of the science that’s there, it’s also with seeing the time tick away gives you this sense of, “I have to stay focused.”
You spend 76 days on your phone per year. Imagine if you can turn that into more productive work. Click To Tweet There’s a positive sense of urgency that keeps you on the task. I like that it asks me when that twenty-minute is up, “Do you want to take a coffee break? Do you need more time?” It’s guiding me. My favorite part to this is the integrated fun memes. It makes it fun so that you’ve got those fun memes that come up that I pop onto a website that isn’t on my list of what I should be doing. It says, “Are you sure you want this?” It’s a little person going, “No.” You guys put a lot of creativity into this as well.
That’s one of the things that we’ve been trying to make pro-tip more of a tangible thing. If you ask the person, “Are you productive enough?” They don’t know, “What’s productive?” It’s different from people and it’s hard to grasp. We want to put a bit of fun into it, but also help to feel accomplished at the end of the day. Both being this training for you, but also make sure it’s fun. That’s what we learned the most from working with the students. They are procrastinating a lot and how to keep them engaged. We learned everything a lot from games as well like we add in streaks, we’re adding point system, all the different things. It’s more like a game that you play to get more things done, and your day feeling accomplished.
How do you define productivity? It’s a question I ask every guest because everyone answers it differently.
For me, it’s the output you get at the end of the day. How much gets done? It’s a combined picture of how I plan my Monday and also how it ended. That’s how I see how productive I’ve been doing that day. It’s the amount I’ve got done on that specific thing.
What’s a shortcut for you to help you to be more productive? What’s your go-to shortcut?
The first thing I do when I start, it’s either I put my phone away to do not disturb, both my phone and my computer. A small message from a friend, a ping or it could be a sound, it will take your mind somewhere else, and then it takes some time to get back. That’s the first thing I do is I time box my calendar from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep. I’m very structured and organized. It’s not always that I follow it to the exact timeframe I’ve been setting up, but I try to do that. I try to start the day like, “This is how I should live my day-to-day.”
Sometimes, you don’t know if this meeting goes 1 or 2 minutes over or there’s a call I had to take. Try to work more of a single-task, and then combine in different tasks. Another thing that I wasted a lot of time on was checking emails. It’s how I control my life with email because if you open emails throughout the day, and you answer every time people send you email, you will spend half of the day writing, answering and reading emails. Instead of reading them once, label the emails when you need to answer them, if it needs to be answered today or in a week’s time. Only check the emails 2 or 3 times per day and not having it open constantly because then you feel busy. You feel nothing is happening. It’s not the most important thing. You never get to think about this long-term.
You’re on that hamster wheel. You might get a lot of emails accomplished but not the most important thing that moves your business or create meaning in your life. I want to spend a couple of minutes talking about distractions. When we talk about shortcuts, you’re the first person that I’ve interviewed that the first thing that they do is remove distractions. I want to say no wonder you’ve created a tool that helps you to focus because you understand that it’s more important first to get the distractions out. Those are the things that are keeping you more from your focus. Your tool is amazing and it helps you to focus, but if you don’t put your phone away, then you’re still going to have all those distractions. It’s still going to have an impact. I liked that. Why do you think that is for you that you go to first, what to take out that’s in your way?

TBT 136 | Hold

Hold: Productivity is the output you get at the end of the day. How much gets done?

That’s the way we got the pro-tip space and know the impact you have by having your phone off and having things buzzing around. That’s all the science behind it. Think about how many days you check your phone per year. You spent 76 days on your phone per year. Think about if you can turn that into more productive work. You probably don’t have a friend that you spent 76 days a year with. Your phone is your best friend. Think about what we saw when the COVID-19 hit. The screen time has spiked. It was up 60% when COVID-19 hit. The way we interacted, the way we were getting all the information is something that people haven’t experienced before. They have to control their willpower. It needs to be better than ever. That’s hard if you don’t have a way to control it.
Willpower is exhaustible. It’s important that you remove those things from your environment. Don’t leave it up to your willpower. Have systems and structures that remove it for you. That’s the key. If you don’t want to gain weight, then don’t buy cookies and have them in the house because then you’re going to be like, “I need cookie.” You’re going to go to the cookie bin and you’re going to eat the cookies because they’re there. We have to move these things from our environment otherwise, we’re setting ourselves up for self-sabotage.
We are self-sabotage machines if we don’t have the systems to put in place to be purposeful. I love everything that you’re sharing. I want you to share where they can go and download the app because it’s more timely than ever for people be more purposeful and to where they’re putting their time because there are so many distractions. To have a great tool like that as a support and then to block out distractions. Where can they go to get your tools?
You can go to and then you can download it. It’s a Chrome extension that you can access. You have the cross-platform that you work both with the phone and a desktop. Hopefully, we can get people to focus on what matters the most and get things done. Especially when you work from home and you’re sitting from your home desk, it’s hard to figure out when your work ends and when you should take time off. The work-life balance is something that we need to focus on. It’s also interesting to see how people who have been working from home for the first time are getting it into habit. It’s nice, but how will this be in a long-term basis? Does this thing work nice because it’s new or is it a mix of going to the office, working from home and how to control your time?
Thank you, Maths, so much for bringing this tool out. I wish you the best of luck and success with the business.
Thank you so much for having me on the show.
Thank you all for being here. You’ve got to go and download this app. It’s simple and it’s going to make a difference in helping you to stay on target and stay focused. That’s what we want to achieve. I also encourage you to go and take a look at to find out what your level of distraction is. Put some tools and things in place to avoid and eliminate those distractions. Thank you all for being here. We’ll see you in the next episode.

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About Maths Mathisen

TBT 136 | HoldMaths is the COO and Co-Founder of Hold. The idea behind Hold originated at Copenhagen Business School. Together with his class mate – Vinoth Vinaya – Maths discovered the recurring issue of checking his phone while studying. The solution to their problem was Hold Student, an app to incentivise students to put the phone down. Hold quickly gained traction amongst students and brands in Norway. More than 50% of the student population are today Hold users, and with brands such as Coca-Cola, Just Eat and Disney supporting their mission. HOLD Student has changed the life of more than 650.000 students since launched., but that was just the beginning of HOLD…

The inception of Covid-19 resulted in an increasing trend in remote work, which also followed by a 60% screen time spike. With the information at hand, the team decided to help remote workers focus and achieve their goals. Effortless. Everyday.
The team has now built HOLD, the first personal productivity trainer that will help you focus throughout the day. HOLD will help you plan your day, become distraction-free and by measuring and monitoring your productivity – tell you to have to peak your performance.
HOLD – your first productivity trainer will be launched 15th of October at Product Hunt.

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