Two kinds of Infinity

At the recent WordCamp I attended, one of the speakers mentioned how when you’re working on your own website or software, you’re never “done.” There’s always some way to improve it (also, there’s always some new bug you never noticed before, and some integration that makes a change that breaks it.)

And that sounds about right with my work at Event Espresso. We’ve always got a new feature we’re working on. Or several. There’s basically an infinite amount of work to do.

I also have seemingly infinite time to do work. (Of course, both are actually limited to my lifespan and other stuff. But everyday I have more time to work, and also more to do.)

It reminds me a bit of some math class. If you have two lines on a graph (see this post’s image), both pointed towards the top-right, as you look further and further to the right of the graph, both lines continue towards infinitely. But, if one of them is steeper than the other, one of them may be “approaching” infinity faster than the other.

More recently, it also reminds me of trying to cleanup after my 3 -year old and 7-month old: they usually create a mess quicker than I can clean it up!

Even though both my todo list and got-done list are growing infinitely, it seems the former is growing faster than the latter: there’s not just only always more to do, but there’s more to do today than there was yesterday. And that can feel a bit discouraging, and it has some interesting consequences:

  • I’ll never be “done,” even momentarily.
  • It means there are some items on my todo list that will never even be started. My todo list is prioritized, and that means that anything with a low priority will never get done. So why do we keep them? I can’t think of any reason, other than that they might someday become high priority.
  • When a new item appears on my todo list, I isually spend 5-20 minutes just assessing the feasibility of it. If I’m able to complete the task in an equal portion of time, I’ll usually do it right away. Because otherwise, it will get put into my backlog, and then never get looked at again. So super/short todo list items can be done immediately, but everything else seems to never even get started.
  • If a task isn’t doable in under 30 minutes, and it’s not high priority, it may as well never be created, because it will probably never be done.

Of course, if my todo list were growing more slowly than my got-done list, eventually my todo list would be empty and I’d temporarily have nothing to do. That would be satisfying for a moment, until I realized that means I have nothing to work on and therefore nothing more I can bill for. Oups. So that’s actually not desirable either.

So is it better for the todo list to grow faster, or slower, than my got-done list? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll have a follow-up post where I know.

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