Hundreds of Ways to Get S#!+ Done—and We Still Don’t

You want to be productive. Software wants to help. But even with a glut of tools claiming to make us all into taskmasters, we almost never master our tasks.

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Hasnain says:

Really great read on software, productivity, human psychology and work ethics. Also brought back some memories for me as I used to use the app it talks about at the start daily through my college years.

“No matter whose fault it is, we take this stuff personally. American to-do behavior has a deeply puritan streak. Benjamin Franklin was among the first to pioneer to-do lists, creating a checklist of “virtues”—temperance! frugality! moderation!—that he intended to practice every day. That’s what the information scientist Gilly Leshed and computer scientist and cultural theorist Phoebe Sengers, both at Cornell University, found when they talked to people about their to-do lists. “They abide by the norm of ‘We need to be productive citizens of this world,’” Leshed tells me. Doing more is doing good.

To-do lists are, in the American imagination, a curiously moral type of software. Nobody opens Google Docs or PowerPoint thinking “This will make me a better person.” But with to-do apps, that ambition is front and center. “Everyone thinks that, with this system, I’m going to be like the best parent, the best child, the best worker, the most organized, punctual friend,” says Monique Mongeon, a product manager at the book-sales-tracking firm BookNet and a self-admitted serial organizational-app devotee. “When you start using something to organize your life, it’s because you’re hoping to improve it in some way. You’re trying to solve something.””

Posted on 2021-08-31T03:30:14+0000