The Functional Equivalent of a Solo Meeting

Inbox Zero; Getting Things Done; IDEs; Notes and Annotations. These are the tools and techniques that we – the productive, naturally – use to make sense of our busy lives, to squeeze the most out of limited time and focus, and to accomplish and achieve to our maximum potential.


I’m as guilty as everybody else. In fact, despite having spent a month in TaskPaper getting used to its minimalistic philosophies, I turned right around with the new release of the new Things to-do app (with sync, finally) and took an hour porting back to the app to give it another try. In another six months, I’ll most likely be captivated by yet some other piece of software or advice that might better my life.

A part of the lure of this productivity porn is that we have bought into the idea of consistent self-improvement. Productivity software is the geek equivalent of self-help books: they’re easy to start, hard to follow through, and ultimately the benefits are mixed, mostly dependent on the practitioner-user’s ability to follow through on the systems. We like to think that there remains some untapped efficiency potential within ourselves than can be unlocked through raw process and unfounded discipline.

One of my former engineering managers told me that, as I took on more tech lead responsibilities, it was easy to fall into the trap of filling my schedule with meetings and pretend that I’m making a huge difference. I’m starting to feel the same way about all the time spent trying out new software and productivity advice; the rush of endorphins that come from mapping my life onto a to-do list or spending days cataloguing disparate bits of information is short-lived, and the increasing opportunity cost of actually getting stuff done outweighs whatever incremental gain they may provide1.

Blog post for the week, check.

  1. Not to mention, some of these systems, in the name of making an investment on users’ workflows, are pretty expensive.

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