I’ve been mulling over ideas for better versions of my various todo list and project management tools for a while. Much of this is inspired by something I once read in a blog post from a programmer named Steve Yegge, in which he pointed out that if you have tools which can better manage vastly complex software projects, then you will just get better at dragging around the bits of a monstrosity of a program. There’s a point where the tools make the problem worse.
Likewise for task and project tools generally. We have such a wide variety of them available, and such a wide variety of (often vaguely defined) tasks and projects which flow through our work and personal lives – having such a great selection of high-quality tools can lead people and organizations to get incredibly good at… managing tasks.
But what we were really supposed to be doing is managing our lives, or managing our businesses – the tasks and projects aren’t really what is supposed to be important, remember?
All of this has been written about a million times. And many people never experience this problem at all because they may instinctively side-step the information overload problem. (I can’t think of a single person right now who does this effectively, but maybe someone like that exists…)
In a few days I am going to do something I haven’t done in a very long time – I am going to spend one week on a sailboat, pretty much entirely disconnected from my routine life. I plan to do no reading but to do a lot of journaling in my old black marble notebook. Old-school.
I’ve read that Bill Gates does something similar each year – where he’ll go on a retreat for a week and do nothing but read books, the sort that he probably wouldn’t normally be reading in his work-a-day life.
The ideas of this and of my task-list-project-management problem are similar. In both cases, we’re looking at ways to undo the mess of information overload and re-find the things that are important.
Thus was born a quick script this weekend which I called Percolate Your Weekend. It was inspired by ideas I had read about in a little ebook during my dastardly train commute on Friday. It’s about getting more of the things you most value into the limited time you have available on the weekends.
It’s a bit of a turn-on-the-head for how I’ve approached things up until now. I’ve got such a crazy commute to work and I’m usually pretty much zonked by the time I get home, so I tend to always put off my chores, admin tasks, grudge projects, and other crap I have to do but don’t really want to do until the weekends. So that means when the weekends come I usually don’t want to make any social plans, go anywhere, and pretty much feel like the weekend is already gone before it starts.
It’s a dire outlook, but I’m working on it! 🙂
With the Percolate and related ideas, instead the weekend becomes focused on the fun stuff.
This weekend percolator is a special instance of a percolate idea that has been… percolating in my head for a long while. The essence is that it would be good to have more ways to bring the right things to the surface at the right time, but putting some kind of intelligent examination on the buckets and buckets of information in whatever personal database a person uses (For many of us, that means email. For me, things like Evernote and Google Docs also need to get factored in.)
The Grudge Projects
So what about all the other crap? I’ve still gotta get it done, I guess.
That’s where Naggler comes in – another idea I’ve been mulling over for a while. It’s about getting through the crap of the todo and project lists and helping to focus on what you really meant when you dumped all those assorted tasks into the pile. I’m going to try to work out some more ideas in code for this one during the next week or so – initially protyping in Google Apps Script since it makes it dirt-simple to focus on the data model and logic without having to worry about user interfaces, deployment, or administration for the prototype.
Both the Percolate app and the Naggler app are pretty simple, but I think they could complement each other well… Prototyping…