Short Version: Current Task List Managers regardless of platform are fatally flawed. They churn out one-size-fits-all tasks in a never-ending assembly line from Hell, faster and faster, until the whole edifice comes crashing down on your head. I don’t want to build Yet Another Productivity App (YAPA) – even if that means pouring ten times more effort into the side project I’ve been working on. So the software that started as Solopomo is getting a reset, and becoming the embodiment of a new approach to online productivity that, rejecting YAPA, I hope becomes something truly useful.

About 3 months ago I could no longer deny I’d lost my productivity religion. I couldn’t deny anymore that there’s already thousands of productivity apps out there — from Asana to WunderList —  that see “productivity” as making it easy for you to track endless lists of stuff you need to get done — and no apps out there improving how you get those things done, let alone improving your skills, knowledge, and insights so you can really be more productive.

They all follow the same pattern. Put everything into lists. Every task no matter how important, complicated or long gets treated the same. So you start using a new “productivity application”, feeling good over how organized you are. Then less good as the tasks keep coming. Then worse as you realize your lists are getting longer, not shorter and you’re in a game you can’t ever win. At some point you declare “task bankruptcy.” Again. Sometime later, you see some new YAPA online and hope against hope that this time, this time, it will be different. Been there, done that, have the tee shirts to show and don’t want to play that game anymore.

My problem was that at the time I was (and am) deep into coding Solopomo, a productivity app marrying up Trello for managing work and the Pomodoro Technique for getting work done. But I couldn’t stomach building what was turning out to be a YAPA (Yet Another Productivity App). I’d done that twice before, and at their best they were just slightly better implementations of the same failed and flawed paradigm.

There had to be a better perspective, a better way of looking at productivity than endlessly churning through unimportant tasks. So, I stepped back, and started thinking hard about what “productivity” really means day after month after year when you work online.

I’m not offering up a David Allen-esque all-encompassing productivity religion – but I do believe:

  • All tasks are created unequal. Treating everything the same – from getting milk, to building something online that matters – is a doomed and dooming exercise from the get-go.
  • Productivity Software to be worth a shit must enable you to become better at what you do that matters to you, not just track items on lists. You can look at what you do in your life as task after task after task, or you can look at your life as a never-ending quest to get better at what you do. Not both.
  • We live in a world where your attention is fast becoming a natural resource to be sold, mined, exploited, harvested and ultimately taken away from you. Any actual software attempting to help you needs to built with this digital reality in mind.
  • When your work is digital, figuring out how to do the work, is the work. Industrial productivity is not digital productivity. And treating what we do as work online as if it were not online is literally unproductive.

So, now that I’ve got that all figured out :), I’m starting to code again, resetting the clock on the Solopomo page, and will get on with it – in my non-work time before and after my day job. Stay tuned.