The Virtue in the Workaround

May 30, 2024

Situation: You are on the market for a todo app and you find one that looks nice. As time progresses, the tool meets your needs and helps immensely. You automatically think "this is the best way of doing things" because you are human like me and don't know what you don't know... One day your todo list is sunset. Tragedy. So you look for an alternative with feature parity. You really liked how the old todo app allowed you to color code things. So you evaluate all todo apps with that requirement in mind. You find a great new choice, but it doesn't have color coding. It's easy to assume this is a shortcoming of the product, but is it?

Virtue 1: Workarounds are an inconvenience in our workflow. But inconveniences are a chance to stop and ask: "is this necessary?" Maybe they intentionally didn't add the feature because they weighed the benefits and didn't find them worth it. We are constantly told we need to exercise, meditate, read more, be more, do more. Workarounds are a chance to introspect on our process and clean out the clutter of what everyone has told us is important. Maybe color coding your todos is extra little friction that you need to do, but which is actually getting in your way.

Virtue 2: Workarounds prevent you from thinking you have found the "best way." Pride about the quality of our work is a good thing, but pride about the tools we use is misplaced. It prevents us from being detached and makes moving on more emotionally difficult than it needs to be.

Virtue 3: Workarounds signal that a product has a clear vision. A product with every feature is a product without opinions. It's interface is bloated with buttons you won't use and things that distract you from the actual reason for using the tool. I want to use tools that have opinions and tell me how to do things, but at the same time I have my own opinions on how to do things. Workarounds allow our opinions to coexist.

Back to our todo app. Maybe using a emoji prefix or tagging items in the same group can be your workaround. Or maybe you don't need to keep an endless categorized list of todos that is always hanging over your head. The outcome is for you to decide, and workarounds are a great tool for making that decision.

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