You’re in the passenger’s seat. Your friend is driving. He speeds through a stop sign, swerves at the last second narrowly missing a little girl on a bike, and finally hits the brakes before almost rear-ending a Mercedes. Fuming, you scream for him to pull into a nearby parking lot so you can drive.
Once the car is safely parked, you grab his shoulders and ask him if he’s on drugs. He says no. Alcohol? No. After a few more questions he finally tells you to calm down. It’s all good. It’s just that he’s nearsighted and can’t see clearly beyond the length of his outstretched arm. He usually sees the stop signs just before he passes them, and he was lucky enough to barely miss that little girl and the Mercedes.
Your friend is clinically nearsighted, but he says he has no intentions of seeing an optometrist because “there are other people who are good at seeing things that are far off. That’s just not my thing.”
Your mouth would drop, right? Mine would. Who says that? Who actually believes that being able to see clearly while operating a motor vehicle is an option? Nobody.
But many of us run our companies like this, not realizing just how valuable it is to pursue 20/20 vision.
Myopia means you’re able to see what’s close to you clearly, while what’s far off is blurry. If you’re ‘myopic,’ you’re nearsighted. In design, it’s the equivalent of knowing your hourly rate, but not fully understanding your client’s budget; knowing which social media icons you’d like to use on a new website, but being unsure about the art direction.
Hyperopia means the opposite: what’s far off is clear, while what’s close is blurry. If you’re ‘hyperopic,’ you’re farsighted. Meaning you understand the project’s overall budget, but can’t quite keep track of your hours; you can nail down the art direction, but quickly move on without giving any thought to the design’s individual elements.
They say the devil is in the details, and it’s the truth. Obsessing over every aspect of a project is what separates the men from the boys (or the women from the girls) in any business—especially design.
But design is about pushing millions of tiny pixels around to create one vast new ecosystem for a product. Since that’s the case, being a great designer (or functioning within a great team) requires that we be both nearsighted and farsighted. That we can think critically about the big and small issues alike, regardless of what our natural strengths are.
Luckily, we’re in the tech industry, and there are a thousand other people out there that have the same problems we do. So I’ve compiled a quick list of my favorite productivity apps. This list is designed to help you balance out the areas of “vision” you don’t naturally do well.
10,000 Feet (Myopic)
10,000ft is a time tracking and resource management app that’s designed to help you manage your projects and your team… backwards. Meaning, instead of working towards a project’s maximum budget, you start at the—ahem—10,000 foot level, and plan backwards to the day and hour after the terms are established. It’s like a sexy spreadsheet. 10,000 Feet doesn’t dabble in project management though. This is almost entirely for large-scale planning.
I’ve tried to run away from it so many times, and I tried to come up with something more original than this to post here, but I just can’t find another application that’s built this well for managing a project’s to-dos, discussions, and deadlines. The 37Signals team just understands project management, and they’ve built an app that covers everything without the bells and whistles. It’s the best app out there to give you both a micro and a macro look at your projects.
Things, by Cultured Code (Hyperopic)
I avoided Cultured Code’s Things app for a long time because it wasn’t cloud-based. But now that they’ve released a cloud version in beta, I’m back on board. Things is great because it lets you break up tasks by area of responsibility and project so you can filter down from big picture to small. If you get the Mac ($50), iPhone ($10) and iPad ($20) apps it will cost you a pretty penny, but I haven’t found another personal to-do app that’s as fun and easy to use as Things is. (If you don’t want to spend the money, give Wunderkit, or Behance’s Action Method a try.)
Let’s face it: Small changes often have big effects.
And trying—even if it’s just for a little while—to force yourself to think differently than you do naturally will help broaden your perspective, give you better vision, and (hopefully) help you avoid some major accidents.