Counting Thingamajigs

Thingamajig /ˈTHiNGəməˌjig/: used to refer to a thing whose name one has forgotten, does not know, or does not wish to mention. Something difficult to classify or whose name has been forgotten or is not known.

I am at the point of my personal circular staircase where it seems like I am irrecoverably behind and will never, ever catch up. The circular staircase, by the way, is a metaphor that a friend helped me coin, when I complained that I seemed to be running into the same life dilemmas all over again. The good thing about the circular staircases is that you might be looking at the same thing, but you are higher up so you are viewing it from a different angle and get more of a bigger picture.

This state is characterized by an abundance of thingamajigs. Some of those are physical: bills stacked up, dirty cup and plate on my desk, paperwork that needs to be processed, various objects that need to find their proper place in my home. A much higher number of those are digital. I try to keep a single to-do list, but things invariably pile up in other places. One of them is my brain, which is much harder to track. So I thought it would be useful to count at least some thingamajigs. Maybe an important revelation will come to me in the process.

Things: 11 thingamajigs (5 for today, 6 overdue).

Gmail: around 75 thingamajigs. 19 in my inbox (5 unread). 36 unread in filters, 29 starred (some starred have also been marked as unread). Some things in the inbox have been there since January 2012 because they are my (ineffective) reminders for projects I want to complete.

Evernote: 6 thingamajigs that were on my mind and that I moved into their proper place, as Things todo items. Win!

Desktop: 3 images sitting on my desktop to remind me of something (one of them since November 2012, apparently). Processed: two of them became todo items (not urgent ones, to be incorporated into future projects).

So that I actually leaves me with 85 or so digital thingamajigs. Not too bad, and this also demonstrates that all is not lost when it comes to keeping things mostly in one place when it comes to my online work.

Counting the digital thingamajigs made me realize that I have about 20 physical ones, mostly papers but some objects. Those are harder to process because they don’t lend themselves to filing just as easily, it’s more than drag-and-drop.

Total count comes to about 100 unresolved thingamajigs. Sadly, there is only one of me, and I don’t scale easily (trust me, I’ve tried) so that means triage, triage, triage. Reaching the point of relative sanity and more accurate estimation of my capacity is the first priority. And once I have a more reasonable todo list to play with, we’ll move into action.

(This post inspired by my employer, Automattic, where our teams recently started more actively tracking, analyzing, and bringing down the number of open thingamajigs.)

One thought on “Counting Thingamajigs

  1. Wendy says:

    I love the circular staircase metaphor! Apparently, I have a staircase overwhelmed by thingamajigs too. I’m trying to implement a paired-down version of GTD with some success but I admit that an empty inbox (much less several empty ones) still strikes me as almost unnatural. 🙂

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