Hundreds of Ways to Get S#!+ Done'and We Still Don't

Walter Chen and Rodrigo Guzman came up with a bizarre idea in 2010. They created a website that allowed you to record your day and then email you a summary. This would be a great productivity tool, which you can impress yourself with by listing your daily successes. Chen says that it is common to discover that you have done more than you thought. This kind of motivation motivates you.Chen was a disenchanted attorney; Guzman was a witty, talkative hacker. The tool was built in less than one week. It was launched as IDoneThis. They soon created an app with the same name, and gained 6,000 users. IDoneThis became the full-time occupation of both creators within half a year.Then, users began to demand more. People wanted more than just to keep track of what they had done. They wanted to plan for the future, from projects at work to the multitude of tasks they have in their personal lives. Guzman, Chen and Chen have updated IDoneThis to add a new feature: To-Do Lists.This is when things got a little out of control.The founders soon noticed something strange in the anonymized data they had on their users. People were terrible at finishing their tasks. Chen and Guzman saw a growing number of long, complex lists of tasks that users failed to complete. Fully 41 percent of the tasks on IDoneThis weren't completed in 2014.Do you feel like this? You may find that the tasks you diligently enter into your productivity app or fancy app linger for days, weeks, or even months. A colleague of mine recently said that his to-do list has undone tasks since 2019. They look at you with a sour expression, disillusioned that they have not completed their tasks.Another thing you might recognize is that IDoneThis users accomplished many things in a very short time. Half of all completed tasks were accomplished within one day of being written down. These were not long-term or complex tasks. Ten percent of these were completed in less than a minute. It almost seemed like people were writing them down to have something to look at. It was a nice psychological boost but it did not serve the purpose of a to do list.Subtly, it was clear that there was a huge disconnect between what people intended to do and what they actually accomplished. Chen and Guzman discovered that very few of the tasks they had completed in their day were included on a to-do lists when people reported them (the first point of IDoneThis). Most of the tasks were simple tasks that users remembered. Perhaps it was something they remembered from a previous email or something that a colleague had sent them.