We have all brainwashed ourselves either a little or a lot. About a lot of things. About success. About failure. About our place in the world. About our own importance. About our lack of importance. We are all suffering from some weird delusions, and to each his own delusion. One of the biggest illusions we are suffering through right now is the illusion of progress through productivity. We believe in this idea. We think we can sit down and show that it is real through numbers. Through metrics. Through science. Through self-confidence. Through any and every type of explanation we can muster in order to convince ourselves that progress come through being productive. We also believe that we know what being productive is. It’s obvious, right? Productivity is defined by producing things. Whatever it is that is important to us or to the things that make us money or define is. Producing them is important, and moreover, producing more is better. Right? *looks around* What?
Yet, here I am thinking of exactly doing that. Producing something. But I wonder if it will be progress or change. And really, is progress what I want or is it just a change? I could change by just letting my precarious life I already have devolve into madness and lack of care. Yet, I’m not a monster. I have a wife and kid and that type of change, while certainly a possible path for some people, isn’t the type of change I can, erm… pursue (if you can call it a pursuit). Lately, for the past couple of years, I haven’t pursued much of anything except a sort of static existence. Admittedly, I am frustrated with that static existence. It’s why I came here to write and figure things out in my own head. I have done some things, of course. I have paid off debt. I have not gotten further into debt. I have paid for my kid to have specific attention necessary to her needs. I have lived in the country’s second most expensive city on wages that most people here would consider poverty wages, yet we have a 2 bedroom apartment in an active neighborhood close to museums and playgrounds and great places to walk to or take a train or bus to. It’s the sort of childhood I myself very much desired. A city childhood. There are some crappy parts too. No yard, only a park the size of a small town (wait… is that crappy?). A lot of people around me doing much better than myself, yet also some doing much worse). It’s a weird existence. I have almost changed it more than once. And it has to change in the next year no matter what. Everyone in my family is tired of the same ‘ol thing in a lot of ways. And I am too.
I have accomplished a few things in the last year and half. Some of them look so simple but took longer than I ever thought, like a resume I liked and could update with ease. A web site for my professional self that looks OK and has some excellent content (albeit a bit behind). I have even managed to pay off the little debt we had, buy a suit, get two job offers (sadly well below a pay range that would work for me), go to an incredibly important personal event, and still have time to have a job and be a dad (and on the weekend my wife works so I have to be 24/7 caretaker). To top it all, I go to work 40 hours a week to a job I’ve almost entirely mentally separated myself from for the last five years and managed to do a good job and help people work. Yet, I definitely feel like I want things to be different. Do I want to make progress? I have no clue. I just want things to be better for everyone in my immediate family. I want my daughter to be closer to the family that we do have. I want my wife to as well. I want more time to myself to write and draw. And more. A lot more. It’s funny that the more is not so much material as it is chronological and geographical. Meaning, I want more time and more travel. Both things that are difficult to coordinate and arrange when you’ve got a kid and the regular parts of day-to-day life. Not only do I want more time and more ability to travel, but I want to make things with that time. And the ONLY way to do that is to get organized. And the only way to get organized is to start to, well, make progress. To accomplish things. Things that I have put off accomplishing due to fear of not accomplishing them to an acceptable degree of quality. Yet, lately, I have started to decide that as much as I have the desire to make amazing quality stuff, frankly, I don’t have the talent. And time to build the talent is diminishing for me every day, so I have just moved on to just making things that are amateurishly terrible and not giving a shit. In other words, I’ve very much reverted to being a lot like a kid. I’m making things because it’s FUN to make things for myself and not care about what anyone else thinks about these things. Millions of people can do thing things I find fun much better than I can do them, but they aren’t me doing them. That’s the real important part for me to remember. It doesn’t have to amazing for everyone. Hell, it doesn’t have to be amazing for ME. It just have to be me doing it to have fun doing it.
WTF does that have to do with productivity? Well, this ties back to my ideas about having a place to write and a place to keep things. No matter how I think that the ideas of progress and productivity are a sort of cultural madness and delusion, I am right up front in suffering from those ideas. To the point that I have searched off and on for a way to keep to-do list and tasks list for years. And I have been through many, and frankly, I expect to go through more than a few more. I had a GREAT one in Wunderkinder’s Wunderlist for a while, right up until they busted v 2.0 with locking down a few things I loved and getting rid of them. So I went to another one that had a lot of potential and now has become the one that I’m going to be using to try to capture the “things I need to do for these silly things I want to accomplish”. That one is Producteev.
Producteev isn’t perfect. But it’s good. And if it’s good, then that’s just as important as it being great to me. Ironically, it lacks the very customizable feature that made me give up Wunderlist. So why abandon Wunderlist for Producteev, then? In my mind, Producteev never offered the feature in the first place so I don’t have any reason to resent losing that feature. Whereas Wunderlist gave me something that aesthetically pleased me and then took it away. In other words, Wunderlist hurt my feelings. And as much as we pretend to be an objective bunch of animals, we get bent out of shape when we have our feelings hurt. Seriously bent out of shape. And it isn’t that we don’t want to embrace change. We just don’t like having something we like taken away. It feels too personal. Like it’s against US, even when it isn’t. I know Wunderlist isn’t setting out to hurt my feelings or intentionally ruin a thing I like, but wow, having to stare at it and having it start back at me in a way that I am not used to and knowing that before I said yes to the upgrade that we had a great and pleasant agreement between us, well, it’s like having a splinter you just can’t get out. Whereas with Producteev, they’ve kept things pretty much intact. It’s got challenging interface issues, but they are diminished by the amazing things it offers. I also don’t look at it with that hurt feeling of “You USED to do that thing I loved.”
And this isn’t just Wunderlist, of course. This goes straight back to my earlier post on studying failure. Stitch upgraded to failure as well. And Google Reader. And Apple Maps. And Windows Vista. Lots of companies upgrade to failure. Some of them realize it and apologize and try to fix things. Others steadfastly stay with their vision. Vision is awesome, of course. We get great things from visionary people and companies. But there are many kinds of visions. Tunnel vision being one of them. And with tunnel vision you end up seeing only the things YOU want to see while abandoning any other points of view. The big picture is there and important, but only you can see it. Sometimes, that works out great. Other times that works out as a just a fanciful (and sometimes wistfully hopeful) vision of futures of your past. Visions that never come to fruition (Google Wave) despite their amazing potential. Visions that swim to the surface and never break through (Yahoo Pipes) to the surface.
What do I need? A simple task list with a place to take notes on the tasks and to categorize them. Who can do this? Tons of task list apps and services. Why did I pick Prodcteev this time? Because Wunderlist hurt my feelings and Prodcteev didn’t. Funny how much a change to a small tool that keeps track of big parts of your life can come down to hitting “Upgrade” and then ending up with a pouting bottom lip for about 30 minutes while you try to figure something out.