What to do?

August 31, 2013

So, I haven't posted in almost 2 months. Part of that is the fact that the last two months have been very busy - work is crazy busy trying to do all the work and get more, and I've been busy with the family doing end-of-summer stuff. However, part of the problem is, basically, organization.

I'm, basically, a fairly organized guy, in that I manage to prioritize things and get the high-priority things done. However, I'm also not particularly big on multi-tasking, so that, quite often, my high-priority tasks get all the attention, and all the little, lower-priority things (like this blog) get very little.

One thing I'm constantly searching for is a tool to help me manage all my projects, personal and professional. I've tried every todo list/organizational tool out there. Some I stick with for months at a time, others go away almost instantly, but I've never found one that's quite right.

The problem is that none of them work the way I work, or organize things the way my mind organizes things, so whenever I use them, there's always this cognitive dissonance going on, which gets worse and worse over time until...I find suddenly that I haven't used it in a while, and everything's out of date.

I think part of the problem is that every one I've tried is basically designed like a todo list on steroids - lots of bells and whistles, but at the end of the day, it's just a list of things to get done. Unfortunately, that's not how things work with me. Projects very rarely gel into discrete things to do, at least none but the most trivial of projects. For me, a project is fairly amorphous until I'm working on it, and the things to do suddenly appear to me - but by that time, I'm either doing them or about to do them. I very rarely need to keep track of them at that point - usually, at that point, they're fairly obvious.

What's worse, a task list is actually detrimental to my usual creative process. There's nothing that can strangle creativity faster than having a laundry list of tasks to complete. What I need is not "Do A then B then C" but "Here's what I was thinking the direction might be. Does that make sense now, or should I take it in another direction?"

For me, the difficulty lies in keeping track of all the projects, primarily, keeping track of where I am with the project, and when it was I last did something on it, and finally, my thoughts on the project - where I think I'll be going next with it. In a way, it's really more like notes to my future self about where my present self left things, rather than a set of todos.

Anyway, writing this down has helped me figure out at least a minimal set of requirements:

  1. I need something which will keep track of my projects
  2. Within the projects, I need some place to keep notes on the project, both notes about what I'm doing, and also a way to talk about where I think the project could go
  3. I also need a way of capturing what things, in a general sense, that I think need to be done. These aren't necessarily tasks so much as general ideas about what I think might need to be done.

The more I think about this, the more it seems like I need something GitHub-ish. For example, I just found this post about managing projects with GitHub, and, while they're talking mainly development projects, maybe there's a way to leverage GitHub for my other projects, too.

Jack Lund

Jack Lund

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