Delete guilt tasks

A few items on my personal to-do list had lingered, untouched, for more than a month.

I just deleted them.

Those tasks did nothing but make me feel bad about what I had yet to start doing. They were guilt tasks. Maybe, now that they’re gone, I’ll be able to work on them again.

You don’t need guilt from your to-do list. You need encouragement. That encouragement often comes from the checked off items. That’s why I typically write things I’ve already finished on my list, just so I can check them off. I recently discovered doing that isn’t odd.

So what are some of the signs of a guilt task? A guilt task is any task that:

  • has stayed on your to-do list for more than a week with no action
  • you’ve kept updating the due date without any progress toward completion
  • obviously doesn’t need to be completed (if it did it would be done)
  • is not a priority (although it’s taking up mental priority)
  • you have a mental block towards that task that’s kept you from starting

Rewarding tasks get done, because you see the payoff, feel the positive feedback that accompanies checking the item off the list. Guilt tasks offer very little in terms of reward, even when completed. Finishing a guilt task is seldom a relief. If anything, checking it off the list will just make you feel guilty about how long it took you to get started. They only succeed in making you feel bad about the things you’re not doing.

But guess what…there’s tons of stuff you’re not doing now, you won’t do soon, and you may never do. Feeling bad about all the things you’re not doing doesn’t help you get any closer to finishing the tasks that actually matter to you. Feeling bad about guilt tasks doesn’t help you do the real tasks.

So pull up your to-do list, and delete (or, if you’re not ready for that, archive) everything from your list that is bringing you down or that you will not start in the next week.

Systems > Goals

Striving after goals means failing every day until you succeeds. Living a system means succeeding every day, building on the momentum of earlier successes, and living with a more positive sense of self. Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, recently wrote:

My problem with goals is that they are limiting. Granted, if you focus on one particular goal, your odds of achieving it are better than if you have no goal. But you also miss out on opportunities that might have been far better than your goal. Systems, however, simply move you from a game with low odds to a game with better odds. With a system you are less likely to miss one opportunity because you were too focused on another. With a system, you are always scanning for any opportunity.

Consistency and reliability are so much more valuable than accomplishing one-off goals, even big ones. That’s why I intend to start focusing on creating positive systems instead of chasing goals. I’m less interested in being the person who finished a marathon that one time than I am in being the person that runs every day, no matter the weather or circumstances—not that I’m a runner. Religiously followed systems will lead to successes with a firmer foundation than periodically accomplishing a goal.

Rather than expecting an overnight success by reaching a goal, focus on consistently doing the small, atomic actions that the person you want to become does every day. Soon enough, the rewards of that kind of effort will become clear.

The @GSElevator gift guide

This clever holiday gift guide is filled with all the stuff I’d buy myself if I had the money to afford more expensive taste. There are no gift suggestions in this guide for my wife. However, the writer has a good reason for his omission, which he expressed like this:

My apologies, there are no gift ideas for women in here.  If you don’t know what to buy a woman for Christmas, you’re an idiot.

@GSElevator, who authored this post, is behind what is very possibly my favorite non-personal Twitter account, mostly because of his quips like this and seasonal jokes like this.

Comments suck

Web comments are awful. Most comment threads are complete garbage. They are full of the worst of what people say and think. But you knew that already.

I recently installed Steven Frank’s Shutup.css extension to shut down the cesspool of Internet comments. Shutup.css hides the comments sections on most popular websites. I’ve only had it for a few days, but it’s already making the web a much happier place.

Some sites have good comment sections. There are, after all, exceptions to nearly every rule that involves people. Some well moderated and positive conversations happen in the comment threads on sites like Fred Wilson’s and Horace Dediu’s Asymco. Other popular sites like Daring Fireball,, and consistently stir up both divisive and interesting conversations despite not having comments on their pages. These sites may actually get these in-depth conversations elsewhere on the web because they don’t allow on-site comments.

There are also sites like Imgur and Reddit whose community of commenters offer a large portion of the site’s value. Users’ ability to up and down vote comments plays a big part in bringing the good ones to the top of the list. Fortunately, Shutup.css lets you toggle comments on and off for specific domains.

Discussion is good, but a post’s permalink is often not the proper place to engage in it. Besides, many comments on the web are actually directed at other readers with the intention of turning their opinion against that of the author. It sounds crazy for an author to provide a venue for a few early readers to undermine his point for the rest, and it is, but that’s what the comment section offers.

Web comments are a difficult problem to solve. Google is trying to solve the commenting problem on YouTube by forcing users to use Google+ and their real identity for commenting. This move won’t stop all the garbage posted on YouTube, but hopefully it will make there be less of it. Disqus, Discourse, IntenseDebate, and others have sought to fix web comments too. All these platforms seek to put comments out in the open, on display for all. But should comments be public? Perhaps not.

Email might be a better platform for comments on many sites. Email is personal. Email provides a better way to communicate directly with authors on the web. Emailed comments can start a more positive dialog between reader and writer, and the writer can then address specific comments in a follow-up post. Everyone (if you’re reading this you probably have at least one email account) still has and uses email, and few writers will ignore an email directly responding to something they publish on the web.

I don’t expect to miss seeing comments on the web, re-enable them, or seek them out again anytime soon. (Thank you Steven Frank for shutting them up.) But even though I don’t want to see comments on the web, I’d love to hear from you. Email me your comments through the ‘Comment’ link below. And please be nice.