Back in June, I wrote about the project management paradox. In that piece, I tried to answer the question,
Why is it that I can manage large, complicated, technical projects at work, but be paralyzed with indecision when it comes to managing my own to-do list outside of work? What’s worse, I can’t even settle on a way to manage that to-do list.
Well, Clive Thompson1 may have the answer. In his recent article in the September issue of WIRED, Thompson asks the question: why don’t to-do apps help us get stuff done? It turns out, there are a lot of good reasons, and even the makers of the apps agree with them. He writes,
The creators of personal to-do apps–or task management software, as it’s sometimes called–generally agree that they haven’t cracked the nut.
The fact that to-do apps makes it easier for us to record what we have to do is part of the problem. We accumulate more stuff because it is easy to accumulate. The fact that there are market forces driving us to feel more productive also help to proliferate tasks. Then, too, we don’t often think of the accumulation of to-do items in a time-context: we only have so much time in our lives to get things done, so we need a better way of figuring out what matters and then actually doing that stuff.
It is a fascinating read, especially for someone (like me) who has tried and failed with so many to-do apps. And some of the conclusions drawn in the article vindicate my recent musings on the lure of paper. Thompson writes,
In this vein, a whole bench of task management philosophers believe that the best interface isn’t digital at all–it’s paper.
For anyone interested in the psychology of task management, to say nothing of the failure of to-do list apps to achieve their goals, this article is for you. I recommend checking it out.
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