tl;dr. This might be a way to aggregate all the productivity and wellbeing advice, whilst keeping it personal to you, and avoiding too much dogma.

In software development the stack is all important1.

“Having x framework, with a, b and c tools plugged into it to achieve your goals allows people to do things more efficiently” is the standard line, but it goes beyond that, that efficiency allows people to do things that they just wouldn’t have bothered with because there aren’t enough hours in the day. The ideal state is that you set up a massive task list of tests and deployment tasks that get done every time you save a file, which means that you always have a working and up to date version of your project.

The reality is that there is a pretty substantial amount of setting up involved in getting your workflow to this point. This is where tools like grunt and Yeoman come in, abstracting and automating some of that setup. There is still a bit of work involved if you want to stray from well beaten paths, but the basics are handled for you nicely.

OK, so that’s the state of affairs in software, but one thing that keeps coming back to me as I work on mum 2 is that you can think of most of the things you do in life as a stack. If think of everything in your life as a process, then you can improve those processes. If you had a copy of yourself (you B) that was solely dedicated to optimising the life of you A then you B would be able to have a better idea of what your inefficiencies are, or where you could be doing something better3.

Tim Ferris is a good example of someone who is able to allow person A and person B to exist together, but that is a significant proportion of his life’s work. For other people, who have other goals, there has to be a better way. Advice isn’t hard to come by, perhaps it’s even too easy to get! Lifehacker, GTD, all the productivity blogs, self help books etc. produce a stream of advice that you need to parse, see if it fits into your life and then implement of discard depending on your quick assessment of it. This feels like it could be improved.

So here’s the plan. You can break down your life in fractal detail, so you can start nice and simply and get into the minutia later. 4 I’d start with:

  • sleep
  • exercise
  • work
  • home
  • relationships
  • food

Not for any particular reason, just because they were the first things that came to mind. If you pick off each one in turn then you can break it up into smaller chunks; lets take sleep:

  • sleep
    • preparing
    • space
    • position
    • waking up

and so on. What doing this has done for me is expose loads of areas of ignorance, and I’m sure that there are more things that should be in the stack at the same level as ‘preparing’ and ‘space’ etc. that I just don’t know about, but an expert in sleep effectiveness would.

What I’m proposing is a system, called implement this5 for the moment, where people can put together stacks, share them and pull bits of other people’s stacks into their own. I think that using github or a very similar model would be a pretty good start.

An example of this is brushing your teeth.

  1. A totally naive tooth brusher would just grab some toothpaste and a toothbrush and off they go. So that'd be the first entry into the _oral _hygiene repository/solution.
  2. Then someone might point out that flossing is at least as important as brushing, so flossing would be added to the stack
  3. Then someone might add a flossing technique
  4. Then someone (Tim Ferris in this case) might point out that flossing is a pain in the arse, and that Waterpik water flossers make it all really easy.
  5. and so on...

The idea is that it aggregates the advice, and even though there would be different branches, each branch would give you a complete and well thought out solution to a particular aspect of your life. That would allow you to get on with the bits of your life that are important to you.

Another example could be how you set up several apps to work together using ifttt6 to automate their data sharing.

This feels pretty trivial with only a couple of example, but imagine if there was a full stack for all aspects of your life, then you could spend a day putting together a stack that suited you, and then learning to implement it7. Then pretty soon afterwards you’d be super human.

The other nice thing is that because it’s modular you can swap out bits of it. So say you now have a housemate, there are bits of the stack that can be shared to take some load off.

I’m not sure how you’d go about fleshing out your stack, I think that it’d probably need a fairly well established starter stack, 8 and then people could fork that stack and add to it. I think that it’d probably end up with a number of major stack stubs, and then smaller communities dedicated to refining forks of those to suit their needs9. If we assume that most people are at least a bit T shaped then they’ll be able to contribute to one aspect of the stack, whilst taking what they need from the rest of it - a bit like wikipedia, but with many version of the truth.


Really what I’m doing here is outlining the idea, I’d love some input on whether you think that it is a good one, or if you have any ideas on how to make it happen.

  1. or at least that is how it seems to me from my voyeuristic perspective as a semi-pretender 

  2. or not, more on learning/procrastinating in another post 

  3. better is a tricky way to think of things, I prefer ‘less badly’ as a way to think about things. They are essentially the same, but it feels less teleological. 

  4. As a data structure it can start life as a tree, although I think it’ll end up as a lattice eventually. 

  5. you could give it a clever Icelandic TLD - if you felt so inclined! 

  6. I’ve been using a recipe to put my foursquare checkins into my google calendar so that I can keep tabs on where I’ve been. 

  7. learning a stack would be hard, and probably expensive to buy all the equipment involved all in one go. I think that people would probably just pick off bits and add them slowly. 

  8. maybe some celebrity stacks, the Obama stack, or the Tim Ferris, Ben Greenfield or Alan Sugar stacks. If you can think of someone who is worth understanding and copying I could interview them and pull a stack out of their life. 

  9. there’s a pretty strong similarity here with Linux and its distros.