Fourth Floor Studio

March 11, 2007

Life, organisation, and the war against entropy

Filed under: geekery, personal — chris @ 7:41 pm

I hate the second law of thermodynamics. The one that trashes my desk, dirties my apartment, and reduces my life to a disorganised mess. Barring a complete breakdown in standards of hygiene and work, I am doomed by the universe’s freakish sense of humour to constantly enter energy into aspects of my life that should Just Work.

Unlike Sisyphus however, I have two choices: I can either wait until “stuff” accumulates until I have to do something about it, or I can try to rework my habits to keep everything going on a day-to-day basis. So far, I’ve taken the first approach, and although periodic spring cleans of mind and space are good, they really don’t seem to cut it any more. I’m lost in my workload, depressed by my apartment, and bemused by my life. I’ve experimented with aspects of the second, and I feel they’ve given me quite a lot of mileage. So, over the past few months, I’ve gradually come to the conclusion that the second mode of continuous operation may be worth a shot.

Now, the death-knell of any resolution is its requirement of massive change at an arbitrary time-point. However, at some point there comes a time where systems must be switched, habits realigned, and behaviours reordered. Mine was a couple of weeks ago, when I switched over to Getting Things Done. I’ve since lapsed, of course, but this time I feel determined to stay on top of things. My difficulty here is two-fold: I’m not a natural list-maker, and my work is largely data driven, in the sense that one analysis will then engender material for the next, without a priori knowledge of what the second should be. Trying to implement a system based on lists of next actions therefore poses a challenge.

Nevertheless, I’m giving this a whirl: the prize of comfort, productivity and lack of clutter are too much to resist. Let’s see where we go.



  1. I’m also going through an extended phase of “not getting things done”. What’s always worried me about these systems is that they may represent yet another form of procrastination: investigating systems for getting organised instead of, well, just getting organised. But things have come to a head and I need help.

    I started by subscribing to a GTD feedburner network, which has quite a few handy tips. It strikes me that so-called GTD apps are conspicuously absent from Linux and aimed largely at OSX users. There are plenty of small apps – todo lists, planners and so on, but no killer organiser app.

    Comment by nsaunders — March 12, 2007 @ 7:02 am

  2. Yes, OSX seems to be getting all the love. I’ve found 43 folders to be very useful in general, though.

    Try Tracks – it’s a ruby on rails app that gets served locally via WEBrick. Rather nifty, actually, and does most of what you may want. I particularly like the feeds.

    Tracks, in combination with thunderbird for (IMAP) mail, liferea for PubMed RSS, and oracle calendar (supplied by local infrastructure) pretty much completes my setup. I’m avoiding a grail quest for the perfect app, as I don’t have that kind of procrastination time 🙂

    Comment by chris — March 12, 2007 @ 10:55 am

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