To-Do List Apps Should Make Us Better Humans

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One of the things that I’ve been incessantly obsessed with over the years as a professional is ensuring that I not only am using the best tools to get the job done but that I’m also reviewing the underlying behavioral mechanics that have driven me to choose one particular tool over another.

You see, there is a intimate relationship between my own natural behavior and the tools that I choose to use. The hope is, of course, that the right tool will exponentially increase my ability to execute and perhaps even automate that behavior without my explicit input.

Because this is what great software does: It distinctly makes life better by automating the very things that are already happening.

Better yet, some software (not as many as we may believe, unfortunately) can even create opportunities for optimization and streamlining that is intrinsically impossible given the principle resources (i.e. you, the user, the human).

This is the ideal, of course, but it is never without cost because any new tool that you introduce into your workflow may fundamentally transform other areas of your life and the much larger meta workflows. You may gain in one area at the cost of another. As the saying goes… caveat emptor!

This is why it’s important to consistently review your own toolset and to very simply ask if the benefits are grossly outweighing the costs. It’s why I revisit my own tools and update, remove, and prune as necessary.

The first paper sketch for George.

One particular type of tool that I have never been able to commit myself to is a To-Do List App.

Trust me when I say that I have tried everything – I have wanted to find one that works with my own behavior mechanics, the natural behavior that helps me get things done, but nothing has worked and nothing has stuck.

Instead, I’ve used existing tools and applications to help simulate a type of “todo” workflow that’s sufficient. In fact, my inbox and email have been my go-to so far and clearly existing my email strategy is working quite nicely. Heck, I even have a friendly relationship with it as I work my way to Inbox Zero multiple times a day.

But, it’s not perfect, which is why I’ll do new experiments with new apps and make serious attempts at it as well, like my most recent week-long move to Superhuman. I’ll always give new tools a decent “college try,” as they say.

Yet the To-Do List App has remained a mystifying challenge – why haven’t I been able to find one that would work with my existing workflow? What I know to be true is the following:

  1. Most To-Do List Apps are far too bloated and complex. Most (if not all) of the apps out there have features that I would never use. This excessive waste is a major turn-off and ends up making the entire workflow too busy to be useful.
  2. Consequently, most apps end up wasting a ton of your time in either configuration or the actual process of capturing the core components of the experience. These apps are meant to save you time, not drain it!
  3. Most apps are “candy” and simply a bandaid to a much bigger behavioral problem. In other words, a good To-Do App will help you get stuff done while a great To-Do App will fundamentally evolve your behavior.

My ideal app would, therefore, quickly capture the items that I need to get done without friction and would also challenge me to become a better doer of those tasks.

Simply put, the perfect To-Do List App would make me a better human.

Is that too tall of an order? Perhaps, but, why shouldn’t we believe that technology can fundamentally transform us into better versions of ourselves? Why shouldn’t we expect the absolute best possible outcomes when we engage with thoughtfully designed tooling?

Let’s not lower the bar and lower our own reasonable expectations just because most of the tools at our disposal are shadows of what they really could and should be! Let’s keep the standard high!

I mean, does this resonate a bit?

So sad… so true

I think I literally laughed out loud when I first saw this tweet! This has been my experience as well and why I recently began putting thoughts down on paper as it relates to my dream To-Do List App.

Could I put together something that could dramatically make me more productive and, consequently, make me a better person? I have no idea but the thought tickled me enough to give it a try.

Simple stuff at first. Nothing but the essentials.

Here’s the thing though… I have done immeasurably well without a dedicated To-Do List App and have built companies while getting attending graduate school (finished 2 masters degrees!) while raising 2 incredible children all the while keeping my marriage intact (praise the lord).

Clearly my own internal systems and methodologies have worked well enough to keep the proverbial “ship” afloat and even successfully sail (if we’re to keep this particular metaphor going…)!

I won’t lie… there is something within me that says this very small project is a shadow of a true itch, an attempt at building something where the end-result will be more self-awareness than an actual tool.

And perhaps it’s just because I want to build something myself instead of using something someone else has created. There’s always that possibility, especially for builders and creators.

Regardless, I’d say that the investment is and will be worth it. I want to codify my own natural behavior and try to hack it and make it principally better. It’s worth a shot, right?

Sure, why not?

Oh, and if you’d like to help me Alpha / Beta test the app then I am looking for a few dedicated folks to give it a serious run. Feel free to check the box when you sign up for my Personal Newsletter.

I’d love to have your help.