13 May 2018, 12:53

complice staleness

12:53 Sunday 13 May 2018 JST

I wrote this:

I have been using Complice for a while and I am at a stage where I am reminded to do a few things that I might not have remembered, but I am not excited to craft my things to do.

I think part of the problem is I have a bunch of stuff coming in from Workflowy, which includes little reminders (wear a belt, which I sometimes forget) and (do not eat after 9pm, which I sometimes ignore)

I am just blathering, but if this is a thing that people go through (and has an article written, I would not mind being pointed to it, or) you can just nod and listen

Malcom from Complice wrote the following:

This is a thing that probably warrants an article being written about it! It took me awhile to get to this, but I have now written TWO articles! One is published, and the other one (which is a more direct reply to you) is not yet. But here it is:

This is a natural cycle. What you’re encountering is a form of staleness. Complice is in general designed to combat staleness, for instance by not allowing you to enter a bunch of tasks that you’re not actually going to do today. However, staleness can still show up in a few ways. The dailies and notdones features were ones that I knew would introduce sources of staleness into the system, so I did my best to counter-optimize for that. I think I did a reasonably good job, but it’s not perfect yet.

The WorkFlowy integration… needs major work. Having established that, there are two levels to it:

  1. What can you do differently? (since you’re asking)
  2. What can Complice do differently? (since most Complice users won’t read this article)

What can you do differently?

It sounds to me like you want to fix your belt problem using something other than a reminder in your task list. I wrote an article called How to send perfectly-timed physical messages to your future self which would advocate for a strategy something like “when you take your belt off, put it on top of something that you’ll pick up tomorrow after you have your pants on” and then obviously when you go to pick up that something, you’ll first need to pick up your belt, at which point you put your belt on.

This is a specific example, but the general principle is that doing your desired behavior automatically is better than doing it by reminder. And if you do have to use a reminder, the best kind is one that leaves no ambiguity about whether or not now is the moment. So for “do not eat after 9pm”, maybe what you want is something that will make your phone buzz once at 8:30pm, to remind you that it’s your last chance to eat today, and something to make your phone buzz at 9pm, indicating that eating is now over for the day.

Another even-more-general principle is: if something isn’t working, stop doing it. If the Complice “do not eat after 9pm” intention isn’t reminding you to stop eating after 9pm, then find something else. You might still keep the intention around if you want to track which days you were successful at this, but it’s clearly failing as a reminder.

Triaging staleness

While writing this post, I ended up writing so much under dealing with staleness that I decided to make it its own post: Making sense of a single stale task The basic gist is that it could be because the thing actually doesn’t matter, or it could be because you’re conflicted about it. If the thing doesn’t matter, don’t do it! If you’re conflicted, either fix the task until you’re not conflicted, or find a way to get back in touch with why the task matters so that rather than forcing yourself to do it (and resisting being forced) you’re naturally drawn to it based on your sense of purpose.

What can Complice do differently?

Well, one thing would be if Complice could detect when people might be in situations like yours, and encourage them to reflect a bit like this post is doing.

Another piece is that it’s currently hard to stop stale WorkFlowy things that are getting pulled into Complice, from within the Complice UI. My workflow for this looks like “copy the node id from my intentions textbox, open up a WorkFlowy tab, replace the node id in that tab with the one from my intentions, then delete/complete/untag that node.” Even though that only takes 10-20 seconds, it’s still way too cumbersome.

Regarding reflecting when things go stale, Complice could notice when you have an intention N days in a row and it doesn’t get done, and prompt you to think about it a bit more. The notdone propagator currently does this with one-off intentions, but there’s still a major issue here with repeating tasks either from the built-in dailies or from WorkFlowy.

reminder to wear a belt