“We’re also big users of Google Calendar at the radio show. The desktop interface for that is good but the Google Calendar iPhone app is just fucking annoying and really should go to hell.”
-Ira Glass in “I’m Ira Glass, Host of This American Life, and This Is How I Work”
Ira Glass is someone who inspires me. I’ve long been a fan of This American Life, but they’ve kicked it up a notch over the last few years with ambitious investigative pieces, like this one about Tylenol or this two-parter that came out of the five months their reporters spent in a Chicago high school. They’ve also taken up doing live shows, and Ira’s always out on the road speaking. I saw him speak in Buffalo this past fall, and when you hear him talk about the process of putting together the show, it’s impressive.
The newest thing Ira’s done is he’s decided to take on This American Life‘s distribution, which he keeps insisting is not such a big deal but is actually completely badass. Every time I think about it, I want to do something radical and awesome.
What I’ve done instead, though, is I’ve started using the to do list app Ira talks about in this Lifehacker interview I can’t stop quoting. For many years, I have been using my patented Spiral Bound Notebook Organizational System™, but a few months ago, I realized this was no longer working in my new job* because I’m always looking so far ahead. Sometimes I have to write a thing down that I need to remember to do, say, two years from now. I write down things I want to remember to think about at some point. The present is important, but a lot of what I do is about the future and planning. Not so long after I got my job at HPL, I gave up my paper calendar and switched to iCal, which I mostly use on my iPad Mini, which worked out way better than I wanted it to (because I love my paper), so I decided that maybe the Mini was going to be the solution to my to do list issues and started using Reminders.
Reminders has been helping, but I don’t like its display, which is a completely aesthetic response, but some of its functionality is likewise irritating–like if you want to put a lot of items on a list at once, that doesn’t work smoothly. I keep fussing with the customization to try to like it better, but it hasn’t helped. I fell in love with the app Ira uses, Wunderlist, as soon as I opened it. It’s the pretend wood grain that hooked me, which is ridiculous–because shouldn’t it look like paper?–but I find it easier to look at than Reminders. It turns out the functionality is better, too, at least for me. Adding new lists, editing, and adding multiple items to a list is more a one-click business than it is in Reminders.
Not that I’m giving up my spiral-bound notebook, my blank paper desk blotter, or my colored pencils. For me making plans and really thinking things through involves paper. (And Malcolm Gladwell says that’s just as it should be, so it must be true.) Ira uses paper, too. He specifically mentions these notebooks and these pens, which how much do I want both those things now? Very, very much. But do you see how the notebooks are out of stock? I don’t know how the universe expects me to endure this hardship. I guess I could use the legion of notebooks I already own, but that’s not what Ira does.
And they do have a wide selection of other notebooks.
My choice here is clear.
*I celebrated my two-year anniversary on July 10. I’m not sure when I’m going to stop calling this my new job. Perhaps when I have a solid organizational system. Maybe never.