Here I talk about finding out that what I say I want isn't what I'm doing and what I'm doing to bring the two things together.


I spend most of my working time looking at my todo list. It lists actions that will take less than one hour.

Things that would take longer than one hour are in my projects. I use a Github issue for each project and put them in a project board (here's the public eQuality Time one). The projects gather all the files, links, and thinking in one place and get broken down into smaller actions for my todo list.

I think I'd do better work if I spent more time thinking and creating at the project level, but I keep getting dragged back down to the detail.

Working out why

This week I found one of the reasons I've been getting failing: as an test, I went thought my todo list and marked each one with a link to the project it was part of. You can see the change in this diff


I found out two things:

  • A lot of projects had been abandoned. No actions, no effort. I would have told you that I was working on them, I would have been wrong to do so.

  • A lot of projects didn't exist and should. Looking at 51 actions meant I had to create 12 new projects.

That's a good reason why I wasn't working well at the project level: the things I thought I wanted to do over the next few months, were different to the things I was doing day-to-day. I don't know why. It could be because:

  • I was getting pulled into urgent things
  • I'm bad at planning projects
  • I had taken on too many projects
  • I was spending lots of time distracted and avoiding the long term work.

I don't know the real reason: all I need to know is that I was doing it and the changes I need:

  • Do this exercise often
  • Ruthlessly drop projects that you aren't working on, or tasks that are distractions.

Bonus, taking it up a level.

I wanted to know how far up I could take this idea of bringing what I do closer to what I claim to want.

In January, I wrote a mortifying ten year plan It had ten goals on it.

I decided it would be interesting, and fairly quick, to divide up the projects between the ten goals and see what bits where missing.

It was embarassing. 29 projects ended up in 'Unknown' and 13 where in one of the ten year goals. Most of the 13 were projects I'd just found out I'd abandoned.

Something was wrong here, either I had let myself get completely distracted from what I wanted in life, or, there were things I needed to admit to myself that I wanted in life.

I went through 'Unknown'. There turned out to be three categories:

  • lots of projects about safety: security for the house, savings goals, backing up data, making sure I’m healthy, making sure I’ve got a job.
  • ‘getting better at stuff’: learning, doing experiments, writing helpful code to make my day easier.
  • silly projects that should have been closed long ago if I’d had looked at the carefully’: it was a relief to mark them off.

That was interesting, there were things missing from the ten year goals I hadn't admitted I wanted. Security was the big one but I hadn't really focused on how important 'play' was for me.

I've written a new set of categories that I'm going to sort projects into. It's more true than the ten year plan,

So I’ve rewritten the structure a little bit: these are thing things that are important to me: it’s the structure I’m going to sort things into from now on and it’s the structure I’m going to start setting targets with. It looks like this:

New Categories

  • Security
    • Health
    • Mental Health
    • Money/Assets
  • Love
    • Partner and Child
    • Family
    • Friends
  • Adventure
    • TMC
    • Work (including eQuality Time, but ten years is a long time
    • Play


That was good work: I see much more clearly about what is important to be long term and I'll be able to make better decisions about that. The system was working and the ten year plan post was worthwhile, but I can now but things in a nice order.

I closed down some projects I should have done years ago, but most importantly I got a lot of clarity about the things that are important to me long term. The post I wrote before is still important and useful, but I’m hoping to use the structure above to keep things clear for myself.

Future work

There are important steps to take now, I talked about them above. There are also a couple of ideas that are more 'fun art' than 'vital work', but I wanted to share them anyway.

  • If I've got my ideas clear, and I think about work carefully, then I should be able to trace every tiny ten minute entry all the way from todo.txt though my projects and up to my ten year goals. That would be cool.
  • Some people use a 'Wheel of life' (a set of categories of their life, where they rate each bit of the wheel out of ten). The structure above would make quite a good wheel of life for me, and a small reason is this: I've never been able to happily answer the question 'How are you?' when it’s sprung on me and I would quite enjoy being able to say “about seven and a half out of ten” in full confidence that I can back it up with figures if anyone asks, which they won’t but that’s hardly the point.

Note for Joe: this article is a write up of closed private project 142