That screenshot above, that's what my to-do list software (Cultured Code's Things) looked like the morning I published my first post. Somewhere around the time I started using Things, I began to believe that if I set deadlines for my goals, a bright red "due" or "overdue" badge would provide me with sufficient motivation to accomplish them.
And to a degree, that's been true. But more often than not, the deadlines are arbitrary, the consequences for missing them, non-existent. And as more and more of my goals and tasks have gone into Things, I've become dependent on the software, even addicted to it. I'll be on the verge of doing something when I stop in my tracks, sit down, type up the task and file it away. Deep breath. Chaos temporarily averted.
The idea for this blog has been percolating for close to a year, but really only picked up steam 3 months ago, when the right combination of motivation and inspiration made me feel I might actually have an itch to scratch. I decided then and there that I would write and publish my first post by the end of the month. I fired up Things, entered the task, and set a due date. That was over 3 months ago.
In the interim, the software reminded me daily that the task was overdue. But all that did was it make me feel guilty. It didn't make me more productive. It didn't get me writing any faster. It just shone its passive-aggressive red light in my face, snickering in the background of my life. At the same time, I couldn't bring myself to delete it. I wanted to feel that guilt, wanted to remind myself that I was a lazy, unproductive human being.
I know myself well enough to know that I will always battle procrastination. That comes with being a writer. But there's something particularly ugly about seeing your procrastination yawn and strut around in front of you, especially within the frame of "productivity software." Not that I blame the software, but my reliance on tools like it represents what I increasingly see as the excessive mechanization of my life. I didn't used to need a deadline to write for myself, let alone a program to transform my creative impulses into a digital database. I just needed a word processor or a pen.
Still, with all the inputs that come into my life - the emails, phone calls, RSS feeds, directions from colleagues, invitations to events - I don't know if I could do away with Things without losing track of a bunch of important tasks. So the challenge is to know, intuitively, what needs to be written down and what doesn't. Which deadlines necessitate a bright red badge, and which ones speak louder through the ache in my heart? Something to think about as I try to move my life back into my body and out of the machine.
In the meantime, junkies need their fix: