Skip to content

Treat your To Do list like a tech tree

McKinley Valentine — 2 min read

A problem that many of us have:

We think up all these cool ideas for projects we’d like to do: get some potplants for the front room, learn how to make sourdough, start a podcast, take a writing workshop, build a huge robot costume for Halloween, hang up a painting, learn Spanish, try a new recipe.

They might be fun things, or things that will improve our environment, or cool skills to have — but they’re all things we want to do.

But if you are like me, once you’ve thought of a tonne of these, they stop feeling like fun exciting projects you could do, and start feeling like obligations you haven’t yet fulfilled. You don’t owe them to anyone, they were just plans to make your own life better, but now they’re making your life worse because you’re feeling bad how you’ll never get time to do even half of them.

Here’s how I’m trying to think about it:

A tech tree is a thing in videogames — basically it’s a flowchart for what new tech you can develop when you next level up, or get enough points, or whatever.

This screenshot is from Civilization so it’s all society-level technology, but it could also be a skill tree — maybe you’re an archer and when you next level up you’ll get to choose whether to learn Poison Arrow or Exploding Arrow.

Feel as excited about new proiects as you do about in-game upgrades
Skill tree / upgrade map from Horizon Zero Dawn

The thing about skill trees is, they’re one of the things that make a game addictive. It’s extremely motivating to keep playing, knowing you’ll get to unlock a new skill soon.

It can be stressful to choose between them (since you’ll usually never get enough points to max out every branch) but it’s also fun.

You never look at a skill tree and go “uggghhh I can’t believe I haven’t got any of this done yet.” It’s exciting that you still have so many to unlock.

I doubt I’ll ever be able to see a genuine chore that way, but for all the side projects and cool ideas that were meant to be fun (or that will be a level up even if the task itself isn’t fun), I’m trying to remember that it’s exciting that I’ll get to unlock them in the future, not a debt I haven’t paid yet.

This piece was originally published in The Whippet #110 – subscribe to get the next one in your inbox!

Unsolicited AdviceBe More Functional


Sign in or become a Whippet subscriber (free or paid) to add your thoughts.
Just enter your email below to get a log in link.