GTD Wagons and Dirty Dishes

Part of using GTD is falling off the wagon. Everyone gets overwhelmed and lets their system linger a bit sometimes. If you keep up on some of the regular maintenance though, it’ll happen less often and when it does getting back on won’t be so hard. Just like a sink of dirty dishes tends to stay full, too many inbox items, or stalled projects, and you don’t even want to look at it. Unfortunately, just like the dishes it only gets worse if you ignore it.

As soon as you start letting items sit for days or weeks in your inbox, you’re doing more harm than good. By capturing items into a system you’re letting rot, you might trick yourself into thinking you’re staying on top of things when you’re really just letting them fester in inbox purgatory. It’s like if you let the dishes sit until they molded. You already know the solution, and you’ve probably even made attempts to do in the past: process everyday.

I have a potentially unnatural love of coffee, and I never forget to make it, regardless of what’s going on. Processing my inbox, however, happens all the time. Force yourself to turn processing your inbox is as much a habit as morning coffee, and there’s no way for it to get out of hand so much you’re scared to look at it. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but I think with work it can become easy.

The other time I get panic attacks when opening OmniFocus is when I’ve got stalled projects. Your GTD system is an evolving one, and it needs constant care and feeding. Letting projects sit with no path or intention for completion adds a lot of friction when looking for something to do. Reviewing your projects often (OmniFocus for iPad is great for this), getting rid of dead projects and redefining ones that are important to you is important for friction-free productivity, and I think one of the things people neglect doing the most.

Sometimes figuring out why a project has stalled can be pretty hard. There’s probably a lot of things I think I’d like to do that realistically I either don’t care enough about, or don’t have the time for. I think it takes honesty with yourself, practice to recognize what you will and won’t do, and ruthlessness to kill anything that’s just cluttering things up. I think deconstructing projects with no action steps to the point where you can work on it also takes a lot of progress. And – like most things worth doing – I think it takes doing it a lot to master.

The one thing your system needs to be is trustworthy. It’s okay to fall off the wagon, but you need to do your part to try and hold on if you’re going to build trust.

Hope You Got a Good One

The Verge:

Samsung has just distributed the worst news of this Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade cycle: the popular Galaxy S smartphone that sold 10 million units last year and the 7-inch Galaxy Tab tablet won’t be upgraded to Android 4.0.

The Galaxy S is a premier Android device that was released less than a year and a half ago, is still on sale and won’t even get an upgrade to the next major OS release because of the “experience enhancing” crapware that Samsung installs on their devices. This reminds me of the post that went around that detailed the terrible track record of Android upgrades.

One of the reasons I prefer iOS – and Apple products in general – is because Apple is the only device maker who doesn’t consider their relationship with you to be over once they have your money. I see no evidence from carriers, or from Android device makers to contradict that, and plenty that supports it.

I tell people who ask me about buying an Android device that if they do, they better hope the OS version they got was a good one because they’re probably never going to see another. I don’t know if Android is winning, but I’m certain that the people who buy these things are not.

Kindle Fire First Impressions

I finally got to put my hands on a Kindle Fire today. I only used it in a store for a few minutes, but my immediate impression was that it wasn’t as awful as I’d expected, but that I couldn’t imagine buying one to use.

Immediate takeaways:

  • I’ve seen 7″ tablets before, but it still seems crazy small. Why is the tendency in the non-iOS world towards huge phones and tiny tablets? Is this something consumers want or is it something they’re being given?
  • It took 2-4 touches for most things on the home screen to register correctly.
  • The carousel is a terrible UI metaphor for finding anything. I can’t imagine it being the main way I interact with the device and not being frustrated.
  • It would be better to have not shipped magazine reading as a feature than to have it the way it is.
  • Miscellaneous visual glitches were frequent.

I also noticed some positive things:

  • It seemed totally acceptable for playing the preloaded games. Cut The Rope seemed about the same as on iOS.
  • Although tapping on the home screen was pretty non-responsive, swiping around the carousel was OK lagginess-wise. Better than I expected for sure.
  • From a purely visual standpoint, the software and the device both weren’t as ugly as other Android based things I’ve tried. That has nothing, however, to do with actually using it.

Justin William’s Developer and Power User Tool List

Justin Williams:

This is the third installment of my must have must have list of tools and utilities as a Mac and iOS developer. A lot can change in twelve months when you work in the technology space. The biggest change for developers in the past twelve months is the completed transition from Xcode 3 to 4 and from iOS 4 to 5. Oh, there may have been a new version of Mac OS X thrown in there for good measure too.

Great list. I own and use almost all of the apps that Justin mentions.

RSS Folders Followup

I posted a couple of weeks ago about getting rid of my somewhat arbitrary RSS folder setup in favor of using no folders at all. As it turns out – for my needs – using no folders vs. organizing everything has made no difference all. I’m not missing anything I was getting to before, or annoyed by any difference in the order I read things in.

It makes me wonder what other systems I may have built up for myself that are really just me creating arbitrary labels instead of providing value. GTD contexts seem like low hanging fruit to look at next. For example, I’m starting to doubt the wisdom of dividing to-do items into categories like what app I’d be using, and tying them a bit more closely to physical opportunities and limitations.

Goodbye, RSS Folders

Although I’d add or subtract every once in a while, I’ve had my folders in Google Reader pretty much the same for the last couple of years (Tech, Developer Blogs, News, etc). It’s worked pretty well on the whole. I’ve often had the problem when adding new feeds, however, that if they don’t easily fit into one of my existing folders I don’t usually really want to further complicate the existing taxonomy with more folders.

I started wondering if it was improving anything at all. As an experiment I went into NetNewsWire and blew them all away, moving all of my existing feeds into the same place. Turns out it doesn’t make anything any slower and now I don’t worry about where to put things. The lesson for me is that, once again: less is more and simple usually wins.

I may end up experimenting with something based more on how I read than content categories in the future (e.g. Favorites), but I want to live with this for a while first.

Simple Is the Greatest Kind of Empowerment

My mom is not technical. When someone makes reference to normal people not understanding things like the filesystem, they’re talking about my mom. She also loves the iPad I bought her last year and uses it constantly. It’s the first time I’ve seen her excited about technology at all. It’s even empowered her to speak intelligently about things like Apple, Steve Jobs and the significance of what they’ve done with technology, which I never would have expected.

Richard Stallman considers the iPad a jail and the people who would use such a product fools:

Steve Jobs, the pioneer of the computer as a jail made cool, designed to sever fools from their freedom, has died.

This statement is a bit old, but since I read it a few weeks ago I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Besides being callous, insensitive and demonstrating Stallman’s clear lack of social graces, it’s just flat wrong. My mom doesn’t consider the iPad a jail, she considers it empowering. So do a lot of other people.

Not having to be a computer expert to derive value has always been the spirit of the Macintosh, and the iPad is the culmination of the philosophy of a volks-computer. Simple is the greatest kind of empowerment.