Considered and Stateless

Kourosh Dini, concerned about introducing dishonesty in to his task system by checking off things he didn’t do or deleting stuff he might do in the future, suggests a method to keep things on track.

I find myself doing similar things like having tasks begin with “Look into…” or asking future Nick a question by adding a task and deferring it until later.

“Look into…” tends to work for me much like “Plan project to…” where I don’t know what the next steps are or care to define them now since I may not follow through on it. Maybe it’s just a dead end and there’s no “project” to actually plan in the long run so there’s no point doing up front work.

Often, I’ll ask myself questions in OmniFocus because it doesn’t make sense to think about something any further until that question can get answered at a future date. For example, a couple times in the past few months I’ve tried to get my health insurance cards delivered to me by mail and they would never show up. I finally realized that the address in the system was incorrect so I fixed it and requested new cards. At this point, there’s no point thinking about “next steps” if they don’t arrive or putting in a “waiting for cards to arrive” task which would show up in reviews, so I just added a task and named it “Did I receive my health insurance cards yet?” and set a start date for three weeks from now. Eventually it would show up and ask me if I got my cards. At that point, if Yes I check the box and will have not spent any time planning for something that I never had to do, or No and decide what to do about it now. (I did eventually received the cards for those of you gripped in suspense.)

We may desire our programs and environments to do the thinking for us, but this is not their role. They only hold onto, more or less, our stored intentions. We, then, process them at their points of relevance.

Being stateless can be an ideal situation in computer environments where a request doesn’t require any memory or information of previous requests to handle the current process. Leo Babauta has recently commented on statelessness in the context of mindfulness and it’s similarly applicable to how we manage our task system. We shouldn’t expect our program to think for us but only hold the information we need to satisfy that task. If we provide enough data in the task itself–intention and want–our brain can be stateless when we approach a task and it provides us with enough to process it and nothing more.