Satisfied We Are Not — And That’s Ok

Satisfied We Are Not — And That’s Ok

Photo Credit: Negative Space

I am rarely satisfied. And if you are anything like me, you’re rarely satisfied, too. There is always something that could be better, always some way to improve upon what I have just completed. “Maybe there is a way to make it more simple, and less complex” is a question that I will keep in-front of me over the next decade. Which is the exact opposite of what I have asked in the last decade (“How can I make this more complicated?”).

Task Management Software (I’m Not Satisfied)

A good example of this in my life is task managers (if you don’t know what that is, per se, think software that helps to manage todos, the things that you want to get done). Ever since my first Mac (a late 2008 white MacBook) it seems I have been on a never ending search for “the solution” to manage all of the little empty squares swimming around my mind looking for check-marks.

Prior to my first Mac, I managed tasks and things to remember the way everyone else in the world did (or so I thought): on paper. It was a simple solution, but it worked. If I had something to remember, I wrote it down. When I completed that thing or no longer needed it, I crossed it out. Next line, next thing.

No tags, perspectives, views, contexts, folders, projects, sub-projects, sub-sub-projects, areas of responsibilities, or any other piece of data to manage. Just the paper. The most complicated this rudimentary system of paper got was when it came to selecting my pen for the day. Other than that, it was a world of possibility all because of the blank page.

But then I got a Mac. And everything I read said that the way I was managing tasks was how they managed tasks in the stone age. Everything I read said to try this new software. So I did. What I didn’t know, at the time, is that I had just entered a rabbit hole.

2008–2015: My Journey With Task Management Software (where not being satisfied is abundantly clear)

  1. The Hit List
  2. Remember The Milk
  3. Things
  4. Back to The Hit List
  5. Clear
  6. Back to Things
  7. Back to Clear
  8. OmniFocus
  9. Back to Clear
  10. Back to Things
  11. Back to OmniFocus
  12. Back to paper…
  13. Back to OmniFocus
  14. Back to Clear
  15. TaskPaper

Complicated Does Not Work For Long (especially when trying to become satisfied)

Something clicked in January of this year. My life felt more complicated simply because I felt I had so many things to do. And I thought I had so many things to do because I had big and powerful software to make me think that I had so many things to do. I had software that could help me break simple tasks into sub-tasks to make the simple task even more “simple”. So instead of tracking that one thing I had to do, and getting it done, I was tracking the 20 things that I had to get done so that I could get that one thing done. Because I had such powerful software. This seemed normal.

Turns out it was crazy. My mind was numb. And I was tired.

So I went back to paper. Now, granted, it is a “system” that I am using, but the system is based on a blank page in a notebook full of pages (it is called Bullet Journal, if you are curious). Bullet Journal is not the focus of this post, but the eventual result of Bullet Journal is.

Back in 2008 something told me to begin looking at my paper system of tracking tasks and to become dissatisfied. To want more. That I deserved more from my task management system. That this silly piece of paper was not the answer to life’s most difficult questions. That I didn’t have the right to think about those questions, I was too small of a person in the bigger picture. I should leave that type of thinking to other people. Bigger people. Software developers.

But as it turns out, just like I don’t have the answers, neither do they. The systems they have built are great for them, maybe, and at a minimum have enabled them to build their own businesses and remain in control of their own lives (which is incredibly awesome!). That is good for them and I’m happy for their success in such a crowded market. Not only do they not have the answers, though, they don’t know how I think. Only I know how I think. And only I know what is going to work for me and what isn’t going to work for me.

We Must Try (And Become Satisfied)

And I think a part of the last 8 years was me determining what really works for me. And determining why. I have to try things in order to know why I like them or don’t like them. Without making that conscious effort, to try things, my preferences are on the surface only. They are light. And Certainly will not hold up to any type of challenge.

But, back to my task manager example, since I have “gone through he ringer” and survived long enough to come out on the other side, I now know with certainty why I prefer to manage my tasks with pen and paper and why trying to do so with software will lead to disaster.

I wouldn’t know unless I tried.

And for me and you, the unsatisfied-always-looking-always-trying-to-improve individual, we have to try. We will not be satisfied unless we do so.

What drives us is not knowing. Maybe there is a better way to do this thing. And so off we go, looking for that magical way. We learn things along the way. Become experts here, and opinion-makers there. And we eventually reach the destination of our conclusion, and can look back at our journey and say that it was a complete success because of what we tried, learned, and now know about ourselves.

And so we come full circle, if you have made it this far, back to the beginning and being unsatisfied. Is it ok to be unsatisfied? Yes. Why? Because the trial and error is how we learn. Is it ok to be satisfied? Yes. When? After you are finished trying things and once you have completed enough to know what makes you satisfied about whatever it is you want to be satisfied about.

Keep trying. Keep doing. And be satisfied.

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Aaron Aiken @aa