The Gum Problem

Imagine chewing a fresh piece of gum and immediately sticking it somewhere.

After an hour, a day, or maybe even a week you come back to it, trying to convince yourself to chew it again.

Even if it’s only been an hour, you’ll hesitate.

Now imagine it’s not even your own gum you’re looking at.


That’s the key problem with todo lists and productivity in general.

Fresh ideas are exciting. But they become stale quickly.

Motivating yourself to do what just a little while ago got you excited is hard.

You already sucked all the flavor out of it.

I’m old enough to know that if I’m not acting on an idea right away, I probably never will.

But this requires having a lot of slack in your system.

When you’re too busy you have no choice but to write ideas on neverending todo lists.

A graveyard of stale gum.

No wonder so many people struggle to get things done.

And it’s even harder to motivate yourself to do what someone else told you to do.

If paid enough money, people will chew your metaphorical gum. But they sure as hell won’t enjoy it.

It will be a struggle to motivate them.

The solution?

Stop asking people to chew your stale gum.

Let them develop their own fresh ideas.

And allow for some slack so they can act on them right away.

Written on October 16, 2023

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