well-kept and Peaceful desk

How my life became a giant tasks list

How I went from “just organized” kid to tasks list drug addict.

When I was young, I was not like any other kid: I was organized. I liked to keep things tidy, and liked to have my pens aligned on my desk. When I grew up to be an adolescent, I was surprised to see that most of my friends did not have a well-kept bedroom. Mine was clean, at all time.

At school, grades were important for me. In my mind, good results were directly linked to well done homework and assignments. At the time, I was taking pleasure in doing the work, but not as much as actually finishing it. Going to school the next day and knowing that all my homework was made gave me a sensation of peace. I felt like nothing could happen to me. After all, I did everything the teacher asked for! During the exams, I was flying through questions as fast as I could, usually finishing before everyone else (proof-reading included!), and ultimately getting a good grade for it. I liked school, I liked teachers, and they liked me back.

Finishing the math homework? CHECK
Read the english book? CHECK
Check if all assignments are done? CHECK

When I finished college and engineer school, I started my own company. And suddenly there was no one to give me homework. I had to decide what was going to be my homework for the day. I also had to choose my own tools to organize my work. And after years of writing down homework to avoid forgetting anything, no wonder my mind was bad at memorizing. Cloud computing came to my rescue with the Holy Grail: online tasks management. From then on, I was able to track all my tasks, organize them, add new ones with a single click or even through email, read them on my computer or my phone. I could have sub-tasks, organized into projects, organized themselves into workspaces. It was HEAVEN! I could also send tasks to others. It was obvious that everyone else loved tasks management as much as I did, especially my business associates, wasn’t it?

Answer all my emails? CHECK
Study competition for a business idea? CHECK
Take a look at a new technology? CHECK

As you can imagine, things got a little out of control. The goal was not to do the task anymore, but to check it as fast as possible. Big tasks were chunked into “as many as possible” sub-tasks. The more small tasks I had, the more I could check in a day! If that is not productivity, bite me! I was sure about the quality of my work, or at least convinced of it, until validated tasks came back unchecked in my list, invalidated by others. Slowly but surely, my personal life invited itself into the game, and a new kind of task started to appear in my list, the kind that I should be able to keep in mind without help: call grandparents, organize a get-together with friends, help girlfriend with the wedding coming up… An empty list, or an inbox-zero for that matter, created an immediate feeling of emptiness. Sure, I now had time for myself, but what if I forgot to write down a task?

Brainstorm to find new tasks? CHECK
Go through all the undone tasks and check the easy ones? CHECK
Delete tasks that will never be done? CHECK

I saw life through a special kind of prism: tasks, tasks everywhere. I believe the first step to recovery was to realize there was a problem. I started to address this issue by forcing me to put quality above deliverability. If I was offered 2 days to a job, I must take 2 days to deliver the best job possible, at least. Needless to say, it messes up with my productivity, from my old point of view anyway! But that is the only way to better work, better deliverables, and to be a better colleague, friend and boyfriend. I am on my way to recovery, and time will give me the needed wisdom to change… If you feel like you see life through the same prism, don’t hesitate to contact me, maybe we could heal together.

When I registered on Medium, I did not know what I wanted to write about. And I couldn’t anyway, I was in the waiting list, like everyone else after registration. A few hours later, I received the green light: “Medium invites you to write”. The task of writing was a little bit scary, full of uncertainties, and not really dividable into small tasks… I finally hit the wall: I had to really take time to write, and stop that “I need to check tasks” madness…

Write my first article on Medium? CHECK.