I Was a Task Management App Addict
4 Truths That Helped Me Break Free
Meet Sue. She’s sitting at her computer, eyes bright as she feverishly enters all her projects and tasks into another Brand New Task Management System. She’s more excited and motivated than she has been for months!
There’s an air of optimism about her, a surprising contrast to her usual half-hearted attempts at being productive.
Confession: Sue is me.
She’s a persona I’m finally free of because I’ve learned to internalize four simple truths. If you can relate to Sue and you’re ready to change, these truths can help you, too.
1. Just because a system has great reviews doesn’t mean it’s right for you.
At first it was exciting; like joining an exclusive club where the real productivity geeks hung out. That feeling didn’t last. As much as I wanted to join David and Thanh in regimented productivity bliss, Omnifocus and I never seemed to get along.
Myth: I’m not disciplined enough to use Omnifocus.
Truth: Omnifocus doesn’t suit the way I work.
2Do and Things are the two task management apps I’ve used the longest, but there came a point where I dropped the ball with each of them. I also tried plain text task management apps like Swiftodo and spent a fair bit of time trying to follow the bullet journal system religiously.
Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen was my bible for a time, but I could never keep up with the weekly reviews.
Each of these was like a suit made for someone else. Looked stunning on the model, but pinched when I tried it on straight from the hanger.
When everyone is raving about an app or a system, find out who “everyone” is. What do they have in common? Does that sound like you? If you’re a trapezoidal peg, don’t force yourself into a pentagonal hole.
2. If you can’t organize your day on paper, an app won’t help.
I sometimes wonder how Charles Dickens planned his day or how Eva Perón kept track of her responsibilities, without the tech gadgets we rely on today.
Physical lists have done the job for the most brilliant minds since lists were a thing. They did the same for my friends and me, prior to the digital age. Not having an alternative, we wrote out our lists and re-wrote them when needed, which was often.
When I was studying visual communication in the 1980s, I successfully kept track of multiple projects, got things done at home, and turned up on time to appointments. Looking back I can see that I was intuitively organized and productive for decades.
Enter the digital age, with its dazzling array of devices and apps for all occasions. I seemed to have a subconscious notion that without the right app or system, bad things would happen.
Time passed. The only bad thing that happened was losing touch with what I didn’t know I had until it was gone.
Then in 2018, I had a mindset shift.
It was enormously freeing to realize that while apps can be helpful tools, they aren’t vital. I won’t die without them, and I might just be better off without them from time to time.
To use an allegory —
Dishwashers are wonderful timesavers, but sometimes it’s good to re-center by mindfully washing your bowl by hand.
The focus is on the result. A clean dish. Not on having the most recent top-of-the-line machine that can do it for you, or buying a machine just because popular bloggers are raving about it.
Digital task management is convenient, time saving, and efficient, but it’s important to remember that we can still be productive without tech.
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