I want 43things.com
crossed with a project-management tool. Crossed with delicious.com social-tagging. A crowd-sourced life coach.
Does anything like this exist already? Is the idea insane?
[The following won't make much sense if you haven't looked at 43things. Check 'm out
; I'll wait here.]
What I'm picturing:
You're prompted for a goal you're working toward. (Such as "Learn Japanese.")
Then you're prompted to supply a list of things (sub-projects) you need to do before you can complete the goal. You can type in a list, and there is a pre-populated list aggregated from other people working toward the same goal; which you can tick "Need to do this" or "Already did this" (or, "what? this has nothing to do with my goal. Bury it.")
Then you go into each of the sub-projects, and fill in what you need to do to complete that
goal. Also pre-populated with other peoples' suggestions. And so on, until you've mapped out a tree of the concrete details between where you are and your goal. Ideally, the terminal nodes are either already done, or "Next Actions" you could take right now (in the right environment; more on that in a bit).
Alternatively, you can start at the beginning, making a numbered list of steps. The site can present your project in either direction- detail-first or big-picture first. The problem with a numbered list of steps is it can artificially limit the order you do some tasks- so this site has to make it easy to rearrange tasks and look at your goal in many different ways. (Some folks do this with mind maps; I'd hope this system could switch from entirely text to a visual mind map as well).
A task might also need to specify a context
in which it makes sense to do it; necessary conditions that are environmental, not items you do. ("At the office", "After September 1st".) With that addition, we've built something based on "Getting Things Done". But there's the social aspect, which is lacking from GTD, and a big part of my motivation for describing this.
Projects and sub-projects could have "testimonials" from people who successfully finished them, as 43things.com currently has
- such as "I did this and it was easier than I thought. The key thing was..." "achieving this made me feel ... " and "people who are doing this are also doing ..."
I like this idea, though it doesn't go far enough. Psychology tells us if you want to achieve something difficult, you will need to break it down.
And the further you go into detail, the more likely you are to succeed. I saw this when I was making phone-calls for Obama: they had us ask "do you know when you're going to vote tomorrow? Do you have a plan for how you'll get there?" and the claim was that asking these questions would improve turnout by 25%. So, yeah. Motivating a task by breaking it down into little pieces is powerful.
But I want more. Once you have a recipe for achieving a big goal, not only could it build you a map to get you there; it could also aggregate for many people. As I said previously, it could suggest sub-projects from others. Things you hadn't fully thought out yet; an intervening step you missed; or different options for doing the same thing.
With aggregation, you can browse. Find out what other goals are made possible by your goal. This is a choose-your-own-adventure for REAL LIFE things people have done. And where that eventually got them. This is a powerful motivator, I think: in addition to breaking down your project into sub-projects, it's a step-by-step story of other peoples' successes.
So. Finding patterns. One example: if you spent a bit of time checking off things you've done, it could list you some easy "new projects" characterized by few additional steps. Sure, lots of them won't appeal; but I imagine some could be inspiring surprises. And building the list of accomplishments could make you feel pretty good about things you've done and forgotten, or mentally discounted as unimportant.
Some large amount of 43things seems to involve doing something repetitive, like "go to the gym three times a week." For that, the social motivator could be a little calendar where you tick off the days you met your goal, and show a little public "43 weeks successful at goal" progress-marker. There are certainly lots of tasks that just involve bearing down and doing it; perhaps all those websites to track peoples' progress at exercise or whatever are relevant here.
A bit about how realistic this is. It's possible the aggregation would be impossible. At least there are these gotchas: how to accurately match up the same goal with slightly different text; and whether all goals with the same text are actually the same goal. Perhaps the matching is made on both the text of the goal, and what kinds of sub-goals it has- it can track and differentiate multiple goals with the same text, depending on whether aggregates of people pick certain sub-goals. (I'm thinking of "Proposal to Partner." Either you toss the sub-tasks "get on one knee" and "buy a ring" or you toss "determine full spec" and "book conference-room." Maybe that works?... At least it gives the user an amusing moment when they see the suggestions.)[Edit to add: I forgot something important. Many steps aren't binary "did this" or "have to do this." There has to be a state of "working on this."
So you can see a view of "what am I currently working on?" This isn't exactly the same as "this is a sub-project with sub-items and some are done." Maybe it's close, though. Perhaps if you ticked "I started this" and there aren't
any sub-items, it could warn you after some period of time with no change, "are you sure there aren't any sub-items you need to identify?"
I also didn't mention "I am not going to do this." Which is a valid and useful thing to acknowledge about projects you changed your mind on.]
So... yeah. Can you build this for me, dearest interwebs? Thanks!
I would consider prototyping this in some web 2.0 language, coming up with a clever name, and seeing what happens, but I have enough experience with my idea-backlog to say that I'm perfectly happy if the idea is just out there for somebody to take if it sounds good to them.
I'm curious what you think, even if it's "why would anybody bother?"