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Author Topic: My assignment: The ToDo List of Doom  (Read 12245 times)
app103
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« on: May 17, 2009, 10:13:12 PM »

I have this list on my desktop, one of many todo lists I have. Nothing on it has a defined due date or set priority.

The problem is that once something goes on the list, it never seems to get done. It's more like a "don't do" list than a todo list.

My goal is to change that and clear everything off it by actually doing it.

The first thing I did was transfer the items to my Yahoo Notepad widget and remove the todo list widget from my desktop. (I feel better already!)

My next step will be to break down these items into smaller tasks in Post-it boards, and schedule them into my day (one at a time)..a sort of "do this now" approach, with an option to actually do it now, delay it for defined number of minutes (up to 1 hour), or dismiss it till tomorrow. If I manage to complete a task, I'll schedule another to take its place.

The reason why I am going to use the scheduled post-it note approach is because it pretty much works for me with small "do it now" types of tasks.

The way I see it, no matter what option I choose to use when the alarm rings for a task, instead of it being in a big list hidden behind a bunch of open windows and completely ignored all day every day, only seen when I reboot to a clean desktop (which I am rarely actually conscious of seeing the list), the items will be broken down into actionable tasks and brought to my conscious attention every day until they get done.

The list has lost a number of tasks during the transfer from the ToDo List widget to the notepad widget, mainly things that were on there so long that they don't matter any more and aren't even worth considering doing. I also removed the items that are so vague that I can't even begin to think about doing them in the near future, and are better off on my ideas list.

That leaves me with 9 tasks, 8 of which are very doable, and 1 which I may resist doing till death.

Let's see how many of the 8 I can get done, first, then I'll worry about the last one.

One thing you won't hear this year is the state of my home and how much I hate housework. I seem to have that under control now, with the tea approach.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2009, 03:56:32 AM by app103 » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2009, 10:23:19 PM »

Just read the tea approach idea -- sounds like a good idea that might actually work.

As for a todo list ever present on your desktop/monitor -- i'm curious to hear how that works out for you.  I've concluded that I absolutely cannot have these todo items in front of me on my monitor constantly -- it's much too distressing and distracting.

One of the things i love about my index card approach is that i can simply pull out the ONE item i am going to work on at any given time and clear my entire workspace of everything else.  Much more calming and less stressful to know that i can just reach in and find 1 thing manageable if i feel like i need to be productive.
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app103
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« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2009, 10:52:58 PM »

See, that's the problem...the big list wasn't working at all. Not only was I not doing anything that was on it, I became immune to the presence of it. Plus I usually don't see my desktop, and it was pinned there at the lowest level, covered by all the open windows. Pretty much out of sight, out of mind. The only time i was ever acutely aware of the list was if I rebooted and for some reason it didn't load. But even then, it was the list itself that I thought of and not anything on it.

The memo board with the post-its isn't on my screen all the time, and except for placing the notes on it and choosing the next to set an alarm on, I never have to see it again. I can fill it up and set an alarm on a note, that note appears on my task list in my alarm manager, and the focus of my attention is on whatever caused the alarm to go off at that moment. All I really see is a single task. I don't pay attention to the upper portion of the alarm manager where the whole alarm list is, because there are things there that I won't need to think about for months, like birthdays & stuff.


That's a reminder to grab the free stock photo of the day.

I can trash the note right from the alarm manager when I am finished with something, or click a button to dismiss that instance of it, for something with a repeating alarm.

I can also change the time something rings, if I find myself ignoring the task too often. (maybe I am just not picking the right time of day?)

This is the approach that seems to work well for me, for a lot of small tasks that need to be done or things I need to remember. I was pretty lost without it last year, when I couldn't run the software on the old PC. I felt like I had my brain stored in there and it couldn't work without it.

The index card thing would be great but I'd end up letting it sit there, gathering dust, possibly shoving it in a drawer to get it out of my way and not having it take up valuable space. Plus it doesn't make noise to remind me it exists and has things in it that need to be done.
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« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2009, 01:53:02 PM »

Great post - I'm also intrigued by the tea idea, as the little-and-often approach seems to work.

Being able to dismiss the item sounds like it would be good for when more important tasks appear.  Perhaps it would be good to have a retry limit theat does something else, rather than raise an alarm, when you meet it - maybe it flashes up in red every 5 minutes (with some kind of penalty to stop it - maybe entering a long string like one of DCs applications whose name I can't remember).  Hmm...a NANY perhaps?
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« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2009, 02:47:07 PM »

I'd have to say that Mark Forster's AutoFocus System works well for many, including me. The ideas underlying it help a lot of people overcome 'procrastination' - though that's not why I find it helpful. Emphasis on 'little and often', closed lists and dismissing stuff that will never get done.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2009, 02:58:23 PM by Dormouse » Logged
app103
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« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2009, 08:05:01 PM »

The tea idea does work, as long as my hubby isn't busy making messes faster than any human can clean them (after all these years, he still isn't house-broken).

I usually do more than the required 4 minutes...about 8.

Perhaps it would be good to have a retry limit theat does something else, rather than raise an alarm, when you meet it - maybe it flashes up in red every 5 minutes (with some kind of penalty to stop it - maybe entering a long string like one of DCs applications whose name I can't remember).  Hmm...a NANY perhaps?

nooooo! Not adding more to the todo list till I have done what is already on there! I am not even going to consider it.

The application I am using, I have had for years and I really like it. It works well for me for what I have used it for thus far. I am just going to try using it to complete the bigger stuff now.

I'd have to say that Mark Forster's AutoFocus System works well for many, including me. The ideas underlying it help a lot of people overcome 'procrastination' - though that's not why I find it helpful. Emphasis on 'little and often', closed lists and dismissing stuff that will never get done.

I am staying away from other people's "systems" for a lot of reasons, but at the top of the list is that is what helped to totally mess me up in the first place. I am playing it by instinct this time.

But if you like Mark Forster, I have a surprise on the list that if I can get to it, you'll enjoy. It's the dreaded task #9, though.
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« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2009, 02:29:20 AM »

The application I am using, I have had for years and I really like it. It works well for me for what I have used it for thus far. I am just going to try using it to complete the bigger stuff now.

Is the application in the picture one of your own?
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app103
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« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2009, 07:35:42 AM »

Is the application in the picture one of your own?

Nope. It's 3M's Post-it Software Notes (v2.1), which they renamed Post-it Digital Notes, and current version is v4.7, I think.
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app103
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« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2009, 07:03:19 AM »

There is a delay. I am in the process of moving all my notes to another application, and that is going to take a little while, since I have 100's of them, and they have to be copied over manually, one at a time, and organized in the new software.

I am going to concentrate on that first, since I really don't want to put that task on my todo list of doom.
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« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2009, 09:38:44 AM »

I've long used a reminder program to tell me when it's time to pay a bill or send a birthday card. On one of my more brilliant days, I set it to prompt me away from (unproductive) computer use by telling me it was time to work on the book, or clean house, or mow the lawn, or start my exercise routine. The result? I got so good at dismissing the reminders that I stopped looking at them. Wasn't long before I missed a payment and created painful late fees.

The thing about to-do lists is that they cause not only stress and strain, but guilt.  This is my new plan: I'm making a reminder list entitled, I Am NOT Going To Do This. I will have it pop up once a day so I won't be worrying needlessly about when I will get to the items on it.
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Paul Keith
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« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2009, 01:47:49 AM »

Good luck with that sazzen. Keep us updated. I've often read it stated that the word NOT is less effective (or at least less hypnotic) than the reverse -- it will be interesting to see how well your results of it go. Could even usher in a new form of to-do list in which you can switch into a negative statement of the same tasks.
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« Reply #11 on: August 23, 2009, 02:57:40 AM »

I have THREE to-do list softwares that work really well for me.
My system is:
1. Select a to-do lister (I have 3 favourites)
2. Populate, and admire the aesthetics.
3. Set to start with windows, remove autostart for any others.
4. Admire the list for about a week or until ennui sets in.
5. Change to new to-do software, set up new to-do list.
6. Admire aesthetics
6. Set to auto start, remove autostart for any others.

The beauty of this system is I actually have to remember stuff to do as I only seem to be able to take in an overall impression of the window and what has to be done doesn't quite register.

Now I'm thinking of it, that's very similar to my note taking efforts ... except I've about 6 repositories for data that needs remembering, and it takes ages to find something Ive noted.
I think I'll add "sort out note-taking" to my next to-do list.
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« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2009, 12:28:51 PM »

I have THREE to-do list softwares that work really well for me.
My system is:...
...2. Populate, and admire the aesthetics...
...4. Admire the list for about a week or until ennui sets in...
...5. Change to new to-do software, set up new to-do list...
...6. Admire aesthetics...

I'm using software now only for to do's related to computing & large project/goal type stuff.
I know most people reading this thread are concerned about getting their computing stuff done, but everyone has incoming papers, so I thought I'd share this:

For basic home aesthetics, I started putting the papers on my desk in an 'in box' drawer. My apartment looked so nice & was so relaxing without any papers in view, that sorting options & aesthetics, both physical & virtual, became my enemies. I'd later find missing appointment cards, business cards, and other things which, as mentioned above, can ultimately become very expensive. So aesthetics was not working for me.

Whatever ended up on a computerized to do list would require hunting things down, or in some other way, more work than normally would be required (linked/dependent tasks). This would require sorting and other time wasters for someone in my position. So nothing got done.

Now, I'm finding that putting all current paper-related to dos - along with bright post-its for errands - on my front door with magnets is working rather well, thanks to the fact that I cannot stand to look at it. It looks horrible.

It's so incredibly ugly that whenever I walk out the door, or just pass it too many times in a day, it bugs me. It's so cluttered, it just makes me nervous.
Therefore, I'm compelled to remove as many papers as possible and handle them ASAP.  Now, I grab any paper I see, including unopened mail or whatever's in my purse & immediately post papers at eye level. In a few more months, maybe I'll be able to trust myself to stop avoiding paper. Then, I'm going to install a magnet board on the inside of the entry closet door, so I won't have to see it's ugliness. It's hideous.

But, if I get the 'out of sight out of mind' problem again, even once, this stuff's going right back on the front door.

The longer I've been doing this, gradually, the fewer papers I have living on my door. Today, (so far) I only have 3 papers to handle, this is great!
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-Sarah
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« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2009, 12:09:12 AM »

that sounds a great system for you, but if I'm honest with myself, I KNOW sloth triumphs over any other considerations apart from greed perhaps.
So I really know that I will only ever do stuff when I'm forced to, regardless of system. My to-do lists are really just play/me having a lend of myself.
 My final consideration for your system, apart from my main motivators of sloth and greed, there's cowardice, which would come into play when my much feared wife saw mouldy, fungus covered notes all over one of her doors....maybe your system could work for me after all!
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Paul Keith
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« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2009, 02:38:09 AM »

Quote
I KNOW sloth triumphs over any other considerations apart from greed perhaps.

I don't agree with SKesselman's system either but your post can also be considered mistaken.

Fun and clarity triumph over sloth and greed.

Not because they are superior. But because they feed them better than those two concepts on their own.

That has and will always be the vision and bane of productivity.

(Sorry if this comes off as self-preaching. I'm still working on how to write short replies well.)

Quote
My final consideration for your system, apart from my main motivators of sloth and greed, there's cowardice, which would come into play when my much feared wife saw mouldy, fungus covered notes all over one of her doors....maybe your system could work for me after all!

That's not cowardice, that's SBS: "simulating bureaucratic stupidity" :p

Think about it. Like a large bureaucracy, even if you do things well, fast and efficient... you're always hurting your momentum because you're in the fake timeline that will hurt you if you adapt against it a little bit.

It'd be like being late 30 sec. for class because you overslept from making the best thesis you can because you're passionate about the subject but because it's a rule in your school that being late equals not being allowed in a classroom, your teacher not only kept you from going inside and listen to the data but your thesis is rejected because you weren't in class.

Anything that's anti-adaptation will always be anti-productivity and this is anti-adaptation because when you fail, you're left with more trouble that keeps you from moving on and when you succeed, you're not allowed an air to breathe without the consequences being constantly in your mind. Such stress will then only increase your chances of completely breaking down while the system's fungus eats away at your life. (contrast this with a productive enough person who has a messy area they just need to clean a little bit because of the lack of such constrictions)

Similarly, SKesselman's method is akin to doing your homework because your teacher will spank you in class and give you a failing grade. It works to a certain extent for things you don't really care about but applied as a system, it's not really going to make you do the things you want but make you pretend you need an annoying system for the things you already could've done without it.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2009, 02:42:55 AM by Paul Keith » Logged

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« Reply #15 on: September 14, 2009, 12:15:10 PM »

Well, I really just posted this as something that's working for me with the hope that it might be of use to someone else.
I really didn't expect a disagreement, especially since you don't list any alternatives that you thinks might work better.

Similarly, SKesselman's method is akin to doing your homework because your teacher will spank you in class and give you a failing grade.

hmm...I don't know about getting spanked, but yes, avoiding punishment does motivate me. Why shouldn't it? Why else do people pay their bills, show up for traffic court, or make bank deposits? Fear. Nothing wrong with that, if it's saving you money, time and of course, your self respect.

...but applied as a system, it's not really going to make you do the things you want

Sure it does.
'Want' and 'don't want' are two sides of the same coin, are they not?
Example 1: The mail
I hate mailing birthday cards, I'm afraid they'll never reach their destination. I hate my handwriting. Maybe they're expecting a gift. Anxiety. Procrastination. But, if I want to let someone know they're being thought of on their birthday, I can put their card on the door until it's filled out and sent smiley. The punishment for not doing so is feeling guilty and weak for succumbing to my own silly little fears.

Example 2: the vet
Seeing my cat frightened, yowling and in caged up is very upsetting to me...but I want to take care of her, so I put her vet appt. cards on the door to remind myself to prepare for them, and take her in. The punishment for not doing this is that I could cause her to suffer preventable health problems. And knowing I'm being a hypocrite ("I love my cat sooo much".). Right.

but make you pretend you need an annoying system for the things you already could've done without it.

Pretend? I very much needed this system. I made it up for myself, & it's worked for long enough that I think it's worthy of being posted.
People are really surprised now when they remind me of something, that it's already -done-.

Another benefit I forgot to mention in my initial post is that this system keeps my hands in what I"m doing. I have a feel for my tasks now that I didn't have when I used the computer, no matter how often I saw, or even worked with, a to do list. And, my memory is improving. I know what's on my door, and I know that whatever reminds me to do it will never be lost in any of the multiple systems I've tried. I don't know why, but I cannot tell you what's on my Outlook calendar; even if it mirrors what's in my wallet calendar, and I see it every day. But, I can tell you everything on my wallet calendar, at any given time. Even when I only look at it once a week. Weird, but paper can actually help some people.

I also don't have to sort tasks by how much time it will take. I grab 2 quick tasks off the door, and get going on one lenghly one.

All in all, for people like myself, this can be quite successful  smiley.
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-Sarah
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« Reply #16 on: September 14, 2009, 12:26:39 PM »

Actually I think the concepts Sarah described are ones that work for me as well -- and i recently found myself thinking to myself about the phenomena.

I can't remember when exactly it happened, since I wasn't always this way, but i have become in the last decade or so, someone who need to have things in my house very much in their proper place and organized.  I can't go long without washing dishes and straightening up.

Now what's important is that i no longer clean up because i rationally think it's a good idea, or because I can force myself to stick to a schedule of cleaning.  Instead, by whatever process, i have acquired some kind of internal cost function that will cause me discomfort if i don't do it, and give me a sense of tangible reward if i do.

It's this creation of a cost function which is so significant because it means that one no longer has to exert "will power" to force yourself to do something -- it's become something that is it's own real reward.

This suggests that rather than try to force yourself into GOOD HABITS of doing what you rationally think you should do -- one might be better off trying to construct these subconscious costs functions that regulate what actions make you feel good and bad.

And it also suggests that maybe when we find it very hard to act in the way we want to in terms of getting things done, what we may be facing is a "malfunctioning cost function."
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Paul Keith
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« Reply #17 on: September 15, 2009, 01:38:49 AM »

@SKesselman

Quote
Well, I really just posted this as something that's working for me with the hope that it might be of use to someone else.
I really didn't expect a disagreement, especially since you don't list any alternatives that you thinks might work better.

Yeah, to be honest, I didn't really want to prolong my reply so I omitted alot of things I wanted to say. Also, it just doesn't fit since this thread is more about creating the application rather than scrutinizing the concept.

Edit:

Previews currently written post:

*Gets a headache  tongue

*inhales deeply...*

 "oh well... long post it is " tellme

Quote
hmm...I don't know about getting spanked, but yes, avoiding punishment does motivate me. Why shouldn't it? Why else do people pay their bills, show up for traffic court, or make bank deposits? Fear. Nothing wrong with that, if it's saving you money, time and of course, your self respect.

Exactly.

Just like doing most homework, these things aren't about becoming productive or managing time or getting things done.

These things are either about "feeling organized" (even if you are only slightly disorganized) or are about having a life manager. (which is pretty much what feeds the life coaching business)

The problem is that the first can be fixed as tsaint alluded to by jumping around doing something, stopping at something and doing something again. It's like school when you first started out. You do all these things that you hope would be necessary and only a couple of things like alphabet, basic math and writing stick around until you move to an advanced course where you pretty much forget what you've learned and let your passion/fear of chaos move you forward until you pretty much retained what was retained or kept making yourself habituated into a routine.

The problem with roulette instead of productivity though, is that it won't really open you up to tackling problems. Most people aren't going to question whether the bills they are paying are the most optimum. Most people who go to court aren't really being noble about following the law for the better of the law. It's just routine for them to either use it to gain an advantage or use it to preserve the law they never think about when they go home watching TV. Most people who deposit to a bank rarely go beyond considering the stability of their banks until a recession slaps them in the face.

The whole thing is not about having a "to-do" list, the whole thing is about having a "must-do" list. Going further past that, a must do list is inefficient because most people who want to be productive in things they must do often do so because reality slaps them so hard in the face, they must do things without having the opportunity to really think about improving or doing well what it is they always have been doing. They just have to do it.

That kind of defeats the purpose of a productivity system because you're asking for the system (or in this case, a program) to do the things you only need a reminding of. Not necessarily the things that will make you become productive or put you in a situation where you will become more productive.

Also:

Even if you do agree with this concept, as tsaint alludes to, it's a losing battle because you're just convincing your mind "to fake the stress" instead of having a real motivation unless you have a real life threatening scenario.

Simply put, it is in my opinion that you're never going to create a software To-do list of Doom for everyone unless that program will wipe out your entire hard disk if you don't finish a task you put in there.

...And that's where the irony of the matter comes in:

I wasn't so much disagreeing with your post (as your post supports the theme of what a To-do List of Doom should be) but that I was disagreeing with tsaint's solution even if I agreed with him.

...that's kinda confusing.

Let me hope to simplify by chronologizing:

>I disagree with this thread but I didn't want to express it because I understand that people would disagree with me here and it's not really productive to state a disagreement with the concept since the thread is not about making a poll but in creating an application that fits with said concept (that I disagree with)

>>I replied to tsaint with the intent of disagreeing with his solution and not so much with your post.

>>>Unfortunately because tsaint and I have something we agree with, I ended up criticizing your post.

...and now I pretty much don't know whether I should apologize or clarify my opinions.

I really do sincerely want to apologize but I don't want to come off as doing it just to appease your feelings. It's just that this is one of those cases where even if I disagreed with your system, I didn't really reply with the intent to criticize it.

Quote
Sure it does.
'Want' and 'don't want' are two sides of the same coin, are they not?

I don't think so.

I mean... I get the idea of what you're saying but for me it's more "do" and "don't do" are two sides of the same coin.

Your two examples are kind of hard to address though as they're not things I normally do but I'll try:

Quote
Example 1: The mail

I hate mailing birthday cards, I'm afraid they'll never reach their destination. I hate my handwriting. Maybe they're expecting a gift. Anxiety. Procrastination. But, if I want to let someone know they're being thought of on their birthday, I can put their card on the door until it's filled out and sent smiley. The punishment for not doing so is feeling guilty and weak for succumbing to my own silly little fears.

See, if the issue was that want/don't want were the same coin, "IMHO" your punishment would be the thought of making that person unhappy or sad.

Following this trail of thought, if you want to mail them a birthday card, you would do so. If you don't want to mail them a birthday card, you would find another way to make them happy or achieve whatever it is you want.

However if the issue was in "doing" the action. The case would be that if you want to do something, you would already find the right motivation to do it. If you don't want to do something, then you would need to create a situation where you will either want to do it or want to get it over with.

In this case, by putting the birthday card where you can see it (or where you must do it), it generates an annoyance that desensitizes you from your fear, enough so that you need less will to "get it over with".

This matches with the idea that two opposing things can come close to being just opposite sides of the same thing.

In this case, you figured out that in the right frame of mind, you will do something you won't normally do IF you put yourself in a situation where you must do it and vice versa.

The only thing where "want/don't want" comes into play is because we often like to think that something we do is often something we want when in reality, we often don't need to think whether our wants is being addressed as long as we do the stuff or we put it in a list that sends the message to our brain to do the stuff.

That is why, as confusing as the whole thing is, this is not a case where want/don't want is the issue but on whether you "did and didn't do" the task. You're basically transferring your wants into a false want which is..."wanting to do everything that you put on this list you consider as a todo."

Even if you don't want something...by putting it in this list/system, you're saying to yourself that you must want it... until you don't really want to and delete the entry or throw away the list.

Therefore want/don't want being on the same side of the coin don't come into play with this situation.

It is also why you would normally jump to the conclusion that the punishment is in being guilty because rather than in focusing on achieving your want, your thought is in doing what's on the list and if you weren't able to do it, you would feel guilty because you weren't able to do it.

That's also why some people can become stressed with their to-do lists.

Nevertheless, it's a confusing issue. One that needs separate article on their own.

Things like false want was something I was originally going to make a long post out of titled: Give "fake" meaning to your life.

and alot of the things you said and I said are part of the snippets I've written about when I was originally planning to write a 10 commandments of Productivity.

Just some of the not fully fleshed out snippets I have under there are:

Out of sight, out of mind. (Not: In your list, in your life)

Point C is not Point B

Finished is not checked off. Checking off is not finished. Finished is being able to build a ship to go to an island where you're unfinished.

The secret is not willing things by doing things.

When you want to get things done, write it down where you will want to see them.


As you can hopefully see, it's really not something I feel I am able to comfortably address without going into lengths. (...and even with unlimited length, I feel I have not really become productive in such a way that I can completely addressed these concepts.)

Hopefully even with these problems, you kind of got some of the idea where I'm coming from.

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Example 2: the vet
Seeing my cat frightened, yowling and in caged up is very upsetting to me...but I want to take care of her, so I put her vet appt. cards on the door to remind myself to prepare for them, and take her in. The punishment for not doing this is that I could cause her to suffer preventable health problems. And knowing I'm being a hypocrite ("I love my cat sooo much".). Right.

This is even harder in that I never had a pet that I was responsible for and I don't really know what vet appt. cards do.

If there's a similar theme, it is that by focusing more on the want (in this case because you're trying to argue more from the "don't want" position), you started listing some of the things you normally won't think about of a task and realize that there are alot of things you can miss by just doing those tasks.

Had you wanted to bring your pet to the vet under such a system or turned your pet into a general statistic and get the task over with (like the first example), the words preventable "health problems" wouldn't have hit your radar. (or not so much depending on how much you love your pet)

By focusing on the "don't want", you were able to realize "why" you want something done. By focusing on that, you opened yourself to the possibilities of health issues and it could potentially lead you to the interest of researching on health problems your vet normally won't notice...and that could lead you to different cat-related issues that could possibly benefit your pet. (Kind of similar in that browsing wikipedia would lead you to other issues you weren't originally reading if you dig in it long enough)

At the same time, it also lead you to addressing something you feel made you a hypocrite. (Although you lost me on that one.)

Had you had a system where you will be "annoyed". Even if these thoughts started entering your mind, the annoyance could lead you to forget about these issues and make you focus on the current task at hand. (unless you're extremely good at jotting everything in your head)

Similarly, if you have a lot of pending tasks, you won't easily be able to focus on the issue of why you want/don't want to do a certain task. Habit will pretty much convince you to jot down the task and put it there and deal with it in a do/didn't do fashion and the want issue is left spinning on the table, hoping the metal ball would land in such a way that you would contemplate on the task that would make you productive.

Finally, I think this example also addresses the fact that sometimes we have wants that would require us doing something we don't want and vice versa and if you have a system based on annoyance, you better hope you don't have lots of tasks or the current task you are doing is the right task you should be focusing all your resources on.

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Pretend? I very much needed this system. I made it up for myself, & it's worked for long enough that I think it's worthy of being posted.
People are really surprised now when they remind me of something, that it's already -done-.

Oh. I didn't mean it that way. I mean in the sense of pretending as in creating a false purpose for what would normally be things you don't need such a system for.

It's not that the system will be so ineffective that you won't need it, it's that these systems can sometimes be only necessary for a few tasks but unnecessary/unhelpful for most but because it's effective in some problem tasks, a person would apply it for most of the problems they normally don't need such a system for.

From a recommendation standpoint, it becomes problematic because sometimes these systems can't help in certain tasks but because the person doing it, can already handle it, they don't notice it when recommending the system to another person until the other person encounters the issue with alot of their tasks.

That said, the issue of pretension is kind of iffy because I said it more as a way to address tsaint's point which was already based on a similar premise rather than a case of criticizing you or your system.

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I don't know why, but I cannot tell you what's on my Outlook calendar; even if it mirrors what's in my wallet calendar, and I see it every day. But, I can tell you everything on my wallet calendar, at any given time. Even when I only look at it once a week. Weird, but paper can actually help some people.

If you may allow me to make an uneducated guess, I would say the trick is in your fingers. (or the motion of your body)

It's like typing on the keyboard without ever going through a touch typing lesson or knowing the basics. Do it long enough and your fingers kind of remembers where the letters are even if you aren't exactly going to beat a practicing touch typist.

The muscle memory/instinct just matches up with the action.

When you're doing it in Outlook, your body is instinctively training to focus your eyes on the monitor and learning how to input something into Outlook.

This is because as far as your body is concerned, what you're inputting in Outlook is no different than what you're inputting in Word or anything else. Your body is only remembering Monitor -> Locate Icon -> Open -> Wait for Pop-Up -> Push boxes/keyboard buttons.

There's no concept of insert because the senses don't match with the action. Your feeling sense/touch is going to the keyboard, your sight is in the monitor, your smell is nowhere, your hearing is hearing click, click, click mainly and your obviously not going to move your mouth.

With paper, two of your senses is going to the inputting tool and the paper.

Feel/Sight is both on the pencil/pen and on the paper.

Add to this, there's often very little distraction. Unless you're suddenly interrupted during that process, your mind is totally focused on input tool and paper.

When you recall that action, it's totally on tool then paper.

With Outlook it's multitasking on the keyboard then to the monitor then to the way your Outlook is setup combined with your keyboard combined with everything else your doing combined with your perception of what Outlook is doing based on your knowledge.

Too much interference.

Similarly this is why David Allen advises on visualizing on your brain dump notebook when you happen to not have a pen around when wanting to brain dump something. Just visualize the hand writing the task and you will remember nearly the same motion once you get to your pen and notebook.

Even a guy like me who has poor memory, I use this as a replacement bookmark when I'm reading a book.

As long as I'm reading two or three books, all I really need is to write the page number down on the cover of the book with my fingers, say the page number mentally in my head and 6 times out of 10, I'll get the right page. 8 times out 10, even if I forgot where I left off, I'm a few pages away from where I left off.

@mouser

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It's this creation of a cost function which is so significant because it means that one no longer has to exert "will power" to force yourself to do something -- it's become something that is it's own real reward.

This suggests that rather than try to force yourself into GOOD HABITS of doing what you rationally think you should do -- one might be better off trying to construct these subconscious costs functions that regulate what actions make you feel good and bad.

And it also suggests that maybe when we find it very hard to act in the way we want to in terms of getting things done, what we may be facing is a "malfunctioning cost function."


That's kinda strange mouser. From where I'm sitting, it kind of sounds like what happened was that you gained some good habits but then you said it's not about good habits so I'm kind of confused.  tongue
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« Reply #18 on: September 15, 2009, 07:27:40 AM »

I think my concept of "ToDo List of Doom" may have been lost during the course of this thread.

It's not a "do this or else" list. There is no punishment or reward involved with it.

What it is, is a list that once something goes on it, it's doomed to never getting done.

The reason why it never gets done is because I am really good at brain dumping into lists but not so good at getting it back into my head. Any list will fail, and any list which sits pinned to my desktop, covered with a bunch of windows, will never be noticed except when I reboot, which is about once every 2 weeks or longer. And it isn't the items on the list that I notice but the list itself. (like I said, lists fail)

What I need to do is find a way to take individual tasks and bring them into my conscious mind, by themselves, at the right time, until they get done. If I have a million things to do, they won't get done. If I have 1 thing to do, the odds are much better.

For example:

If I have an email in my inbox which is marked with a little yellow flag to catch my attention when I am checking my email, to remind me to add command line parameters to my AlphaSort application (I thought I did this already but I guess not), this will remind me of this task that needs to be done each time I check my email.

The problem is, I check my email in the morning and late afternoon/early evening, and by the time I finish, even if I was reminded by it when I saw the yellow flag, it's gone out of my mind again by the time I am finish going through my inbox.

Also, the best time for me to do any coding is at night, not the morning when I am tired or late afternoon/early evening when my husband will soon be home and becoming an annoying distraction (I can't code when he is home & awake, it's like trying to code while babysitting a bunch of 2 yr olds). This is another reason why the yellow flag doesn't work.

But again, the ultimate reason why it fails is because as quick as it enters my mind, it leaves again because it's in a list with other things.

Now, if I were to create a sticky note the next time I check my email and the yellow flag catches my attention, I would be taking it out of the list and isolating it so it stands by itself, not competing with other tasks for my attention (no list). In addition, if I set an alarm on this note and make it pop up in my face during my optimal coding time (after my husband goes to sleep), it will be more likely to get done. And if I take it an additional step and make that note also open my IDE when it is popping up in my face, it will be even more likely to get done, even if I am doing something else at the moment that it pops up.

So if I am doing something else, like replying to a post on the forum when it pops up, if I set the delay to bother me again tomorrow, dismiss the note, and then minimize the IDE, when I am finished doing whatever has my attention at that moment, the IDE will still be open and sitting on my taskbar, which still means there is a good chance I'll remember to do the task and be able to delete the note that is set to bug me again tomorrow if I don't.

Why the notes work for me is because they get in my face with a single task at the time that has the best chance of it being done, not a whole list of tasks in which a single task gets lost, or causes me to be mentally overwhelmed by a whole big list of things to do and making me not want to do anything, or popping up at the wrong time of day in which the task would be likely to not get done.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2009, 07:30:05 AM by app103 » Logged

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« Reply #19 on: September 15, 2009, 10:40:45 PM »

Sorry, app. Yeah I did misinterpret.

Tbh, that sounds complicated. Could you share how it would be different from putting a task on a different list or putting it on a separate reminder system?

For example, I often don't put deadlines on my tasks but when that occasional deadline item comes, I separate it from my productivity apps and put it in ReminderFox. (which I never use at all except for tasks needing reminders.)

Similarly, if I need a constant reminder of a someday item with no specific deadline, I would put it in PopUp Wisdom.

Finally, wouldn't a portable reminder system or a separate piece of paper actually be more accessible if you just want to isolate it?
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« Reply #20 on: September 15, 2009, 11:33:53 PM »

Lists of any kind don't work, unless it is a list to be completed all at once (like a shopping list).

Anything that just sits there like a piece of paper will get ignored, I'll tune it out. It will cease to exist in my conscious mind till I notice it much later on...perhaps years later. There is nothing to remind me to read it, nevermind do what it says. It's like needing to put at the top of your todo list "read your todo list" (not too effective)

Sure. Popup Wisdom would probably work, partially, but the ability to schedule specific messages to pop up at the optimal times for them to get done is very important. I wouldn't want a message to remind me to buy something to pop up at 2am when the stores are all closed, and I wouldn't want something to remind me to add a feature to an application to pop up at 9 am when I am too tired to code.

Things that have deadlines I have set to start popping up about 4-7 days before it is due, that way I have that wiggle room to get it done (like paying my rent). I also set the deadline a day early, so by the time it really is due, it has a red overdue notice at the top that is likely to catch my attention and warn me I can't put it off any longer.

There are even things that I don't have popups for and I just automate the tasks with the notes, like remembering to check giveawayoftheday just opens the web page about 15 minutes after the new deal gets posted, without popping up a note about it.

I also like this method because I can keep the notes sorted on memoboards by type, and color code them, set priorities, temporarily post a single note supersized on my desktop, insert images, links to web pages or files on my hard drive, add other info needed to complete the task, attach notes to web pages or files that pop up when I open them, too.

And they can make noise! (something paper doesn't do)

And all contained in a single application (I switched to Notezilla), so I won't have to have a bunch of stuff running in the background all the time. Just the one application. I make jokes about having my whole brain stored in there but it's really less of a joke than it might seem to an outsider hearing me say it.

And I also have PesterMe for when I want to put some real pressure on myself and repeat a single message every x minutes. The obnoxious sound it makes still scares the crap out of me and makes my family yell at me.
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« Reply #21 on: September 16, 2009, 12:00:14 AM »

Thanks. I agree with alot of what you said.

Yeah PopUp Wisdom doesn't work that way that's why I have ReminderFox for that but I can understand what you mean by having it all in one application.

So just to clarify, To-do list of Doom is going to be a plugin for Notezilla?

With regards to the opening of webpages in specific times, which application do you use for it? Also Notezilla?

Finally what kind of noise do you often use? I'm just curious. This is the one aspect that just seem like it still follows the alarm annoyance model.

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« Reply #22 on: September 16, 2009, 12:17:49 AM »

ToDo List of Doom isn't going to be a plugin for anything. It's a metaphor for what I am battling and trying to kill. Any list of tasks is a ToDo List of Doom unless the tasks are meant to be completed all at once, one after the other.

Isolated tasks need to be kept isolated.

It has to do with how my brain processes lists. They fail unless I am meant to process the list all at once in a "single serving".

Another metaphor could be if you were to think of doing a task to be like eating potatoes.

Potato chips, you don't just eat one, you eat them by the handful (list).
Baked potatoes you don't eat a bunch at a time, you eat just one (isolated tasks)

So you wouldn't sit down to a whole platter of baked potatoes, with the intention of eating just one, any more than you would consider doing one task on a list of many large tasks meant to be completed over a longer period of time. (at least that's how it works for me) The thoughts of "holy crap! I have to eat all of that? forget it!" is what ends up going through my mind, either consciously or subconsciously, and I run from the table and don't eat anything (aka nothing gets done).

Makes more sense?

Yes, Notezilla can open files and web pages, either displaying the note or hiding the note. You can select any sound for a note or use the default (a cuckoo bird)

Unchecking the "show reminder" option will make it not display the popup. So for opening a web page, I put the url in the box and uncheck the top boxes so it doesn't pop up the message or make a sound.

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« Reply #23 on: September 16, 2009, 04:16:31 AM »

Oh! ...I think I get it.

The screenshot and the topic title kind of threw me off. Not really sure you should change it but just a heads up.

I think the potato analogy needs to be changed though.

For one thing, the reason you eat handfuls of potatoes is because it's in a set. It's just as possible to do this with baked potatoes, see:



Similarly this is why there was once a suggestion of a one potato chip for sale. The idea was that as soon as you open the packaging, you would see only one potato chip and you would be satisfied and wouldn't want to eat more.

With regards to the noise, I was specifically wondering what your personal alarms sounds like. Alot of these default sounds can be boring while others can be so annoying they're literally the same as watching screamers.

Finally with regards to your problem, the thing that would confuse me is why you would have a list of todos "that's doomed".

It kind of doesn't make sense. Seems much easier to not put in the task in the first place or segment those lists further so you can just delete the unnecessary fat and bloat in those list.

I'm not sure if this is the same thing but the reason I made the word "Parking Lot tools" was precisely as you said, it seems there were certain tasks that keep your other tasks from being isolated and focused on.

With your metaphor, it seems like you've put yourself in a never-ending battle to retain those lists instead of salvaging them or starting from scratch.

This is less so much a criticism but as an inquiry into what you hope you would do with such a list once you have settled on the criteria that all lists are To do Lists of Doom.
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« Reply #24 on: September 16, 2009, 07:02:53 AM »

Those are some really small baked potatoes. Not exactly what I had in mind. I was thinking more like this size:



I don't know too many people that would eat more than one of those.

And a bag of potato chips with only one chip? That would have to be a mighty big chip for me to be satisfied with just one.  cheesy

It took me awhile to figure out that the problem was the lists themselves and not me, so it took me this long to decide to throw them all out after moving the tasks to something better.

I have mentioned a few times before in other threads that following the methods of other people wasn't working and only lead to messing me up completely. The majority of the productivity systems seem to be so obsessed with the idea of lists...lots & lots of lists. And so many different types of lists and so many ways to organize your lists and tackle your lists.

There seems to be this idea among the "productivity gurus" that you can't be productive without everything being on some sort of list.

I spent too much of my time trying to figure out how to make these lists work, fighting against myself, trying to figure out how to "fix" myself so these lists would work. It's just not going to happen.

So now instead of fighting with myself, trying to "fix" myself, I am throwing away what doesn't work and adopting my own system that works with how I think. I don't expect my system to work for anyone else. That's not important to me. What's important is that it works for me.

So, no more lists unless I am going shopping or sending out invitations to a party.

There really isn't too much difference between my sticky notes and mouser's index cards, except that his cards sit there quietly waiting for him to read them and mine jump up in my face at the right time of day and demand to be read...or they start the task without me and wait for me to jump in and finish.
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