Why We Like New Things; or why I have to try out every new GTD program.

This came in from one of our contributors, Dr. Lynn O’Connor.

I’m one of those unfortunate people who loves trying out new software for my GTD system. So far, I’ve always gone back to the online, tried and true, Vitalist (www.vitalist.com ) for contexts/next action lists (projects too if needed).  But that hasn’t stopped me from doing that experimenting or “tweaking” as some optimists call the time I waste fooling around with new organization/GTD programs. I’ve made this lame excuse: “Every time I enter my next action data into a new program it allows me to review everything in greater detail than I do in a weekly review.” That was as far as I got in explaining my sneaky kind of procrastination behavior. It began to feel even shameful to wile away a whole afternoon exploring some new program.

I felt a lot better about my “try new software”  habit when I read a report from the latest issue of Neuron, as described in New Scientist. In an experiment, researchers demonstrated that our love of adventure and novel objects, is based upon our hard wiring, we could say on our basic nature.  It seems that every time we explore, investigate, try out or learn something new, the reward center of our brain starts firing, much as it would if we were expecting to win a lottery, a card game, a horse race  or any kind of competition. My guess is trying out new GTD software is yet another way I flood my restless brain with dopamine.

This fact about how we’re naturally wired is long known in business and advertising. It’s why companies may put out a product with absolutely no changes, except for the packaging. People buy the new, even if it is more expensive and less convenient. We all fall for something novel. So now, maybe I can get off my case about trying out every new GTD program.

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  1. I am always doing the same, that’s exploring new stuff to add to the list of tools I use daily.

    To a certain degree this habit really helps me. I have not only once noticed big gains in my productivity just because I have discovered a tools that really helps me.

    I think the magic is to always keep things in balance, don’t exaggerate spending time on research (but also don’t spend too little) 🙂

  2. Lynn – there’s definitely a factor of people trying to find new GTD software – as an author of it I kinda rely on that!

    But just wondering – it doesn’t seem to be universal for either the person or the app. There are definite “early adopters” but even for early adopters – when’s the last time you tried a new word processor? Some things I want to fiddle with, but for word processing I need *less* adventure! 🙂

  3. Viorel: I agree, I should aim for balance. I get such a kick out of fooling around with new tools, it really is a dopamine rush. That becomes the activity I’m going for, instead of what’s supposed to be the “purpose.” Its a relief to know there are others like me, having fun focusing on methods instead of results. I should remember “balance.”

    Richard: OK, here’s another confession. I DO try out different word processors, especially as ms gets more and more bloated. I experiment with online writing tools and services. I had one seminar using Basecamp this year. At the same time I had an Independent Study running on Backpack. I keep a wiki on Zoho, and was an early beta tester on OmniFocus (for a while). Of course when play time is done for the day, I’m back on ms word.I get your point. Hey, keep me in mind for your newest product!

  4. One can certainly burn through a lot of hours playing with the new potential “trusted systems”. I’m going through that right now with OmniFocus for the iphone. When the synching works, it is wonderful capturing data on the go, and then seeing it synch wirelessly back to the mothership. But man it has been a bump ride so far. I would be wise to just drop it until they have gotten the bugs worked out, but I just can’t stay away from the next tiny incremental update to see if it works any more smoothly.

    It’s interesting to me that the personalities who are drawn to GTD also seem to be inveterate fiddlers. At least the fiddling often leads in productive directions, or at least fun ones, and when we’re lucky, both. Nice topic, Lynn.

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