Mario Villalobos


I’m full of contradictions. That, of course, makes me human, flaws and all. Every now and then I entertain the idea of pursuing perfection, but perfection might be the wrong word. Obviously, perfection to me will most definitely be different than what anyone else might take it to mean. What I mean by perfection is essentially being the best I can be in any given skill I want to learn. I want to be the best writer I can be, the best athlete I can be, the best reader I can be, etc., and that to me epitomizes the perfect life. A life well lived; a life well earned. I’m never going to get there, though, and that’s okay. The journey is everything, and like any good journey, there will be obstacles along the way. And one of those for me are my contradictions.

Earlier today, in an effort to be a bit more proactive with my blog, I wrote down an idea for an entry in my notes app on my phone. Actually, I dictated it while I was driving, which I don’t recommend, but I didn’t want to forget it. The idea, in full, was “Due dates for routines.” What does that mean? I’ll get there. First, I want to write something I’ve noticed about myself. I like freedom. Hell, I love freedom. I love being able to do whatever the hell I want whenever the hell I want. I don’t like feeling constricted, and, for the most part, I really don’t like being told what to do. As a writer, I’m best when I’m writing to discover. This produces long-winded and meandering stories or entries or whatever format I’m writing, but that’s okay. There’s always rewriting. I don’t like outlines because I’m not really writing. It could be another one of my flaws, but why constrict myself when I know myself and I know I don’t like outlines?

“Due dates for routines.” I really didn’t want to forget this idea because I thought I had a lot to say about this. I’m a pretty recent OmniFocus convert, seeing as I purchased the iPhone and Mac apps around February of this year. I’ve been using todo list apps for years, and I’ve been following GTD since around 2009. I knew my way around these type of apps, and I’ve developed a system that remained fairly portable through the years. I didn’t have a complex system, except that I assigned many tasks with due dates that weren’t technically due ever. They were just personal things I wanted to get done and due dates reminded me to do them. OmniFocus is different, though. They have two date fields: a due date and a defer date. A defer date is a way for me to assign a date to any of my tasks and that task will disappear from my list until that day rolls around. This is a powerful idea. I have hundreds of tasks in my OmniFocus database and seeing them all the time is paralyzing. So for those tasks that aren’t technically due ever but are just those things I’d like to get done eventually, I assign defer dates. All fine and well, right?

Many well-known OmniFocus users prefer this workflow. I do, too, to a limit. They recommend OmniFocus users to use due dates sparingly because if we don’t complete these “due” items on the day they’re due, we’ll feel guilty and hate ourselves and fall off the OmniFocus/productivity bandwagon and cry ourselves to sleep every night. If I assigned a due date to something and didn’t do it, I postponed the task for the next day or rethought the task and assigned another due date far off in the future or even just removed the due date altogether. I didn’t feel guilty about doing that. On the other hand, if something was due on a certain day, and I didn’t do it, then yeah, I would feel guilty. I hate feeling guilty so I do the damn task when it’s due. It is with this mindset that I use when I assign tasks with due dates, and most of the tasks I assign due dates to are my routines.

I have two contexts: Morning routines and Nightly routines. Every morning, I have a set of routines I have to do to be better. That includes writing my novel, meditating, learning, etc. And every night, I have another set of routines I have to do to be better. That includes reading, writing this entry, clearing and evaluating my day, etc. I have each task due at a certain time throughout my day. My alarm is set for 5 AM every morning, and my writing task is due at 5 AM, so I wake up already behind! Not really. When my alarm goes off, I have to grab my phone to turn it off. After I do, I see that my “Write novel” task is due since OmniFocus on my iPhone notified me of it. So I write because I have to to be better. An hour later, I’m reminded to take my vitamins. And so on and so forth. Same thing every night. My phone buzzes like half a dozen times every morning and every night, and that’s okay because I’ve allowed that to happen. And I think I’m better for it.

On one hand, I love the freedom of writing without borders, of living my life however the hell I want, but on the other hand, I yield my mornings and nights to an app that tells me what to do. Granted, I’m the one that told the app to tell me what to do and when, but still. It’s a contradiction, but one I’m oddly okay with.

As long as I’m always improving and always getting better, right?