Hi! I'm chris escue. I design databases, build software, and dabble in the culinary arts.

On Checklists

goodbye, 2022

And so passes another year.

The pace of 2022 was much more relaxing than the previous year. Among other things, I:

  • Hosted several dinner gatherings
  • Bought a calligraphy pen
  • Started learning Unreal Engine
  • Finished arranging my home office
  • Didn't do any blogging

I also discovered that I do well with checklists.

At some point this year I started making daily checklists in the form of xit! documents. While I have no way of quantifying any resultant boost in productivity, I have certainly felt like I've gotten more done since falling into the habit. These lists typically look something like this:

[ ] #core 30x30s planks
[ ] #core 30x5s supermans

[ ] #data-wrangling Demystify Mystery Data
[ ] #administrative Commune with digital beings

Free Time
[ ] #meat-skills >= 10m calligraphy practice
[ ] #technomancy >= 1hr unreal development


Had I started doing this earlier, I might have made time to blog last year.

This format is convenient since I have a text editor open for the majority of my day, and I find it immensely satisfying - I'm not certain why, but I've got a few theories. Perhaps checklists provide me with the illusion of productivity. Maybe I find comfort in the routine of acknowledging the fact that I occasionally do get things done, or maybe my psyche is vulnerable to the underpinnings of gamification. It may is definitely conceivable that my brain is simply terrible at keeping track of tasks, and persisting them elsewhere leaves it free to actually work on completing them.

I lean toward the latter, as I've also had success with a couple of productivity applications that scratch the same itch, so-to-speak: I've been logging my meals with LoseIt, and maintaining an admittedly simple budget with YNAB.

Despite this success, there are several disadvantages to me "keeping track of things" workflow that I'd like to resolve:

  • My xit! documents don't scale particularly well when task lisks grow in size, and it's particularly noticeable once I have several dozen tasks pending. Precise categorization of tasks is possible, but comes with the cost of cluttering each task with tags. These aren't so much critiques of the format as they are limitations of the plaintext medium.
  • LoseIt seems to be geared toward mobile users - given the market, this is understandable. I generally use the web client however, which has some annoying quirks. For instance: Sometimes search results will appear before I finish typing the name of a food. This in itself wouldn't be much of an annoyance, but these search results also have a habit of taking focus from the search input. Additionally, the nutrition facts for foods logged by other users are often flat-out wrong. This also happens, albeit more rarely, for USDA data.
  • I find the YNAB interface a little cumbersome, but that's to be expected from budgeting software. (Disclaimer: I use YNAB4, not the modern version). 
  • Most importantly, there's a lot of time spent throughout my day entering data and switching context between each application. While they all have very focused purposes, they share on commonality: I am trying to keep track of things.

I've decided to take this as an opportunity to build my own application as a (somewhat limited) substitution for all of the above: a keeping-track-of-things app, if you will. This gives me another good excuse to learn some new things!

I'm confident I'll blog about it - it's ony my checklist.