how a $.99 iphone app led me to an important realization

March 10, 2010 | 6 Comments

A new addition to my iPhone is an app called Daily Deeds (iTunes link). It’s very simple. You make a list of actions you want to accomplish (almost) every day. As you complete them, you check them off in a satisfyingly large check box, er, circle. Trailing out to the left, you can see which ones you’ve done over the past week.

My first impression of it, and maybe yours, was that it’s another to-do list app.

But it’s not. Not really.

I bring into each morning a list of activities I want to do every day. Not instinctive activities like eating, sleeping. I’m talking about intentional activities that I choose to do. I don’t like to include them in my task management app, because they feel like clutter there. These are activities I’m aware every day that I want to accomplish, and don’t need a reminder.

But sometimes I need the motivation. Daily Deeds, at least in the few days I’ve used it, offers the satisfaction of a check box and review of how I’ve done.

But Here’s the Real Point

What all this has really helped me see is the (very healthy) distinction between projects vs. rhythms. Projects are the kinds of things I maintain in my task list. As GTD’ers understand them, they are collections of tasks that can be checked off, and be done with.

Rhythms, on the other hand, are practices. They are actions to be repeated, over and over. Ideally, they lead to a healthier me, and make me better at creative work. Not to meantion a better husband, better dad, better friend.

But where it gets ugly for me, and maybe for you, is the seeming mandate of the projects and their tasks. Too often I set aside today’s rhythms as I convince myself that the urgency of the projects demands priority. The rhythms will be there tomorrow, after all. But when I do this, I notice the difference, and my projects suffer too.

Projects are all about doing.
   Rhythms are all about being.

Projects need to be managed.
   Rhythms need to be sustained.

Projects (hopefully) feed my stomach.
   Rhythms feed my soul.

So while I’ve only used Daily Deeds for a few days, I think it’s found a permanent home on my iPhone, right next to OmniFocus. You can see a few of the rhythms I’ve added on there. What activities are important for your daily rhythms?

  • you always cause me to spend more money…

  • John

    C’mon now…the last two weeks I’ve posted about free Mac apps.

  • I _really_ like way you’ve characterized this dichotomy. “Projects” is obvious, but “rhythms” is a great word for what you describe, and what you describe is something everyone can relate to.

    Thanks for the blog – keep it up!

  • Todd

    Great post, just spent another buck, well worth it.

  • Zach Phillips

    I’m curious what people think are important things to keep track of in Deeds.

    I have 5 things, because that’s what fits in the screen and I love the number 5. These are things that I have determined keep me healthy: physically, mentally, spiritually.

    They are Pages (which includes reading and meditation, morning pages, etc.), Cooking, Writing (conspicuously blank all last week!), Moving (exercise), and (for lack of a better word) Working (staying on task, getting things done).

    I am open to criticism, and would love to hear how others are using this.

  • John

    I’ve been trying to keep it to 5 as well, so that I can see them all. Mine have shifted a little from what is pictured in the post:

    501Words –
    Write – anything besides 501words, a blog post, daily pages, something
    In Bed by 11 – I notice a big difference when i don’t.