A Better Paper Clip


Obsession with details — looking for a better paper clip — is one of the characteristics often leading to procrastination. Some times I am going to start working in something but I need to spend ‘only five minutes’ thinking about a small problem. One day later…

I use Apple’s Mail as my primary email client. It is simple, surgeon does not crash too much and — in general — does the job. But, and many searches for a better paper clip start with a but, IMAP support is not great and messages are saved in a non-open format rather than mbox. So one starts looking for options and Thunderbird sorts out some of the issues, but it does not integrate well with Address Book. Have you heard that there is Correo, which is related to Thunderbird and Camino, and that integrates with Address Book, but it is still alpha and there are quite a few missing features? Inevitably, the end of the road meets the beginning and there is an awful lot of wasted time, because:

  1. The ‘better’ solution introduces a new set of buts.
  2. Some of the original problems are inconsequential — at least for me. Who cares that the format for Mail is not mbox? Yes, there are legacy issues, but I do not ever go back to email that is older than two years. Anything important has either been filed or, if it is not confidential, put in to a web server.

Another example: I wanted to buy a new mobile phone. My current phone works fine, but I can not synchronise it using iSync (Apple’s synchronisation system), because it is a bloody Samsung. Then I decided to look for a cheap phone that does what I want: normal and video calls, address book and a simple calendar. I do not care about mp3s, taking pictures or any other multimedia features. I then found a Motorola RAZR V3x, for a very reasonable price. However (and here comes the obsession), I checked the page of supported iSync devices and discovered that Motorolas do not support ‘to dos’, only calendar and address book. I then learned that Sony Ericsson phones support ‘to dos’ as well, but there is a huge number of Sony Ericsson models, and I needed to find the appropriate (perfect, that is) one and balance that with price. Of course, I have never owned a Sony Ericsson, so I had to look for reviews and I was stuck in a loop. I could not make a decision and I struggled to stop looking for information.

In cases like this, I have to remind myself to step back and look at the start of the problem again. Why did I need a new mobile? To make phone calls and keep basic information (names, phone numbers and appointments) with me. Do I need ‘to do’ lists? Thinking again, working with lists in a phone is highly inconvenient and typing anything is torture. No, better I have a piece of paper with the lists. Couldn’t I have everything in a piece of paper and keep my current phone? Yes, I could. And life is good again.

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