The Most Important Question You Can’t Answer

After years of struggling with inbox stars, sticky-notes, paper lists and other to-do apps, we at Handle still found ourselves in pain and in need. Despite all of our hacks, we could seldom answer the simple question: “What should I get done today?”. In a world filled with limitless information, opportunity and demands on our time, assembling a comprehensive plan for the day was simply too cumbersome, but going into a day without a plan led to being overly reactive.

We asked our smartest friends what they did, brilliant minds like Mitch Kapor, Chip Heath, David Fischer, and more and while they shared the identical problem, they had each cobbled together a different way of coping, but none were particularly happy with it. We knew there was a better way. So we set out to build Handle, a tool that would be the first to bring together our to-dos, email and calendar into a single time and priority-based workflow so we could stay focused on what was most important, no matter what came at us in a day. Our release today represents a major step forward. Put simply...

Handle now offers the simplest path to stay on top of your life. * *Focus is essential to Productivity ** The sheer volume of things we need to do is clear, but what’s less clear is how to manage them. Our corporate mission is to help people spend their lives on the important things and we recognized that this happens one moment at a time, most often driven by what we look at. This made sense 10,000 years ago. “Food… mmmm. Cave… hmmm. Tiger!!” Today, this same visual responsiveness gets us in trouble. Work out of your inbox and you’ll find yourself busy, yet reading articles about a man hugging a lion? The Interwebs have been engineered to hijack your attention from one link to the next. The alternative, working off of a normal to-do list is no better, you’ll find yourself missing out on important information or reviewing stale items you can’t do anything about right now.

Ultimately, what we discovered is that any to-do app that is actually going to help you be more productive must do 3 things: 1. Integrate with your existing tools 2. Actively help you declutter and prioritize what you consider doing 3. Shield you to allow focus

*To-dos must be placed into the time and place when they deserve attention * As we studied how people organized and prioritized their to-do lists, we started to see a common thread in the micro-decisions that they made each time they reviewed their lists. How important is this? Is there something more important? Can I do this now? What project does this move forward?

Through thousands of customers and countless hours of personal usage we learned two key principles.

  1. There are important things you can’t do anything about right now. They need a place to go so they reclaim your attention at the right moment.

  2. There are countless good things to do, but one “best” amongst the set of things you CAN do at the moment. They must be evaluated relative to one another.

Our breakthrough was to give reminders the primary responsibility for helping organize your attention and having to-dos “move” in time and space along with their reminders, thus decluttering your list of everything that isn't important at the moment.

*With only 5 minutes of planning each morning, you can head into the day with a clear agenda of both appointments and your most important to-dos. * Although priorities may still shift, this simple habit represents a step function in picking the right things to do and the right things NOT to do. With just a swipe or a tap, every to-do in Handle can be marked with a time-based reminder that defines when it should next be considered: now, tomorrow or in the future. To-dos come back into view as their reminders become relevant again. For to-dos that are relevant, Handle lets us shift priorities with simple gestures like drag and drop, swipes, or typing in natural language (on the desktop). Say you leave an important voicemail but want to follow up the next day if there’s not reply? Don’t put a sticky note on your monitor, simply swipe the to-do to tomorrow.

The more reminders you add, the more you can rest assured that commitments in your list will appear in your workflow at the perfect time and place to get the attention they deserve. This effortless flow allows you to make simple but powerful plans about your time and keep your efforts in line with your priorities. And ultimately, that is the goal. To spend the precious moments of our lives on what we feel is most important, then be fully present to enjoy our time off, knowing we have it Handled.

We hope you enjoy the update as much as we have and look forward to the continued journey towards the end of overload with you.

Shawn Carolan CEO & Founder of Handle