On Organization and the Paralysis of Choice

I’ve been in my new job for about two weeks now. I’m trying to look at the way I process tasks, organize projects, and capture information (articles, blog posts, staff information, etc.) that I need to recall later, but I’m finding that the sheer number of choices out there is making my life more complicated, not less.

A few weeks ago I read Alexandra Samuel‘s Work Smarter with Evernote. She made a simple yet compelling argument for moving away from paper and organizing your life with Evernote. I used it for two solid weeks, and I developed a new respect for the application as a result, but I found that when it comes to to-do lists, Evernote falls short for me. If I don’t add reminders to my to-do list, I quickly lose sight of them, which results in a bloated, unwieldy reminder of just how much I’ve failed at staying on task.

I found out about Wunderlist after Dorothea Salo sang its praises. Wunderlist looked promising because it’s free (hello!), it has fully-featured iOS and Android apps, and it works very well on the web. Wunderlist has reminders, I can assign tasks to others, and it just looks like the perfect solution…for someone who isn’t me. My main gripe is that you can’t hide completed tasks in Wunderlist which results in quite a bit of clutter when you have to remember as much as I do.

I’ve given the Omni Group a lot of money over the years, and I’d used OmniFocus in the past when I had to organize my work into projects. I absolutely love the power of OmniFocus, but the ramp to get into it is quite steep, and sometimes it feels like you need a degree in OmniFocus to use the software. I use it on my Macbook, on my iPhone and iPad. This has served me well enough in the past, but there’s no Android version (I love my Nexus 7) or web-based version. It’s ironic that I want more platform choice from OmniFocus when I’m feeling paralyzed by choosing between the perfect productivity system.

Here’s what I really need from a product:

  1. Multi-platform. Must run on Mac/Windows, iOS and Android, or on the web
  2. Inexpensive
  3. Must have servers in Canada or outside of the United States in order to comply with BC Privacy legislation*
  4. Should be able to assign tasks to people without requiring them to sign up for an account first
  5. Great looking
  6. Flexible enough to incorporate it into a variety of workflow situations
  7. Goes beyond basic to-do lists, but should be simple enough to capture single-item, simple lists

It feels like I’m asking for the impossible. Am I? How do you organize projects, people, and data?

* I’ve made the choice to use these services for my personal data, so this requirement doesn’t matter for personal use, but when it comes to organizing work projects, I’m afraid it’s non-negotiable.

1 thought on “On Organization and the Paralysis of Choice”

  1. I primarily use Wunderlist to manage my to-dos. I experimented last term with managing my assignments for classes last term, and that worked splendidly well. But I haven’t managed whole projects with it in the sense of having keeping the assets of the project in the same space. The projects themselves end up in a different tool depending on the nature of the project; usually it’s Scrivener, or a browser window with a set of relevant tabs, or a folder on my hard drive.

    I only just in the last month started using Evernote and it has truly been functioning as my digital junk drawer. I may move all my Simplenote notes over to Evernote, just so everything’s in one place, even though I like the dead-simple-ness of Simplenote. But I haven’t put any time into really using Evernote to its fullest capacity.

    I’m trying to stick with Wunderlist just so I don’t get caught up (again) in messing around with the tool and ignoring the fact that I don’t have a good system in the first place.

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