Third Places for Thinking

Third Places for Thinking

As I’ve been practicing first steps and being comfortable with partial progress this week, I’m starting to have more projects to keep moving. I’m not flipping out about the number of them yet, as I’m also actively putting negative speculative thoughts out of my mind as categorically unhelpful. Still, I find myself craving a solution where I can keep all my threads of project progress and life status in one place. This might be a new form, maybe spending time on software, or even an existing product. I basically want to track everything easily…and by “everything” I mean:

NBC's Community Yes yes, I know about Evernote, but it just hasn’t grabbed me. So in the meantime, I figure I can keep track of everything on my own blog, fragment by fragment. At least it is accessible from everywhere.

First thoughts follow

The Third Place, Revisited

There’s a concept in community planning called The Third Place, which I first heard of in some article about Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. The Starbucks mission is to create a comfortable “third place” between the HOME and WORK. The image that come to mind is one of sanctuary and respite. I’d like to have a mental version of that for my head, a “place” where I can assess what’s going on without loads of stress.

I don’t know exactly how I would implement it, but I can list elements that I think will contribute to it. And then I can come back to the problem later when I have more time. I just want to get the thought out of my head right now!


  • A reminder of who I am and what’s important to me
  • A place to keep track of recent projects that I’ve worked on, and how frequently
  • A place to access notes, and keep adding to notes
  • A big pile of tasks that have been rendered dormant
  • A task meter that tells you if you’re spending too much / too little time on something
  • A day tracker that reminds you what you were doing

I’d like this to be some kind of software that I design and implement, as making software is on the list of “things I’d like to be able to do” for 2014. I can start to tackle some of the design elements for each of these items in upcoming posts.


  1. Larry Yudelson 7 years ago

    There are two pieces of software I use for that purpose, though only with partial success:

    ecco, an ancient outliner/calendar that is now freeware and would run in a win95 virtual box on your mac.

  2. Corinne Claypool 7 years ago

    I am in a very similar situation…

    I have taken the Priacta TRO training ( and found it quite helpful for getting stuff out of my head, but I kept falling down on the volume of stuff and the overwhelming list that kept showing up.

    However, recently I found IQTell ( and OMG it is a life saver…. I does take some setting up to fit and a willingness to think through the “flow-chart” of when and how I want to be re-exposed to this information piece again (is this an “ought-to, but don’t need to?” then I put it in a tickler to show up again a some point later for me to do a check-in again “has it now become a need to?” etc) But for the first time in awhile, I have a place to put ALL of the inputs in my life and hook them together (5 emails about WordPress Security are really the same thought, I can hook them together to consider all at the same time and it doesn’t show up as an overwhelming mess of thoughts) and also, I can hook them to a calendar event (I am going to talk to a client about WordPress plugins — I can hook all the various thoughts and notes to that meeting to review just before the meeting)

    If you are interested, I would be happy to write out a little more detail about how I have it set up

  3. Rita 7 years ago

    David, this is my kind of thinking. I loved this post today. Thank you for sharing your insight and wisdom.

  4. Audie 7 years ago

    Thanks to Corinne’s post above, I have begun experimenting with IQTell. It does require some setup time — contemplating/experimenting with how you want to set things up and track things — but it seems to have a lot of potential and also seems like a strong candidate for providing that “one place” where you can go and access any of your projects and have all the various emails, documents, links, journaling, etc. associated with each tied together. Of course, this may not be as good as designing/writing your own program to do this, but if procrastination is an issue….

    What if there were a *highly customizable” software program that served a similar purpose — one with a really easy user interface. For example, the program asks the user things such as: “What would you like me to do?” And maybe there’s a menu of answers to choose from, such as “Manage my email,” for one. And the program says, “OK, what is your email address and password?” Etc. And sets it up. Then maybe: “What other programs do you use to do your work?” Another menu. “How would you link to the different documents, emails, images, etc. together?” Another menu, with “folders,” “tags,” or “projects,” for example, as choices. “What calendar do you use?” Google, Outlook, etc., as choices. “Choose a template for how you would like your desktop to look when you open this program.” Maybe this could be open-sourced, so users could create and upload their own additional format creations, that other users could then choose and use.

    I dunno. This is all just half-baked. But, as I have begun using IQTell, and Evernote (which, like you, I find to be a nice step in the right direction but still I’m not compelled to go right to it as often as it seems I should), it occurs to me that, in their effort to be everything to all people, they are overly complex or “busy” or just-user-unfriendly-enough to impede easy adoption — whereas, if each user got to highly customize it, through a super-easy user interface, to be just what they needed it to be, and to have it look just the way (or pretty close to) the way such a program looks like in their head, then maybe there’s a rich and valuable idea there….

    Oh well…. Just some thoughts. I enjoy your blog.

  5. Audie 7 years ago

    “How would you link to the different documents, emails, images, etc. together?”

    Should be: “How would you like to link the different documents, emails, images, etc. together?”

  6. Corinne Claypool 7 years ago

    @audie … I guess that maybe your ideas of the guided questions might be more a service that would set up a program like IQTell? I think I would find it frustrating if your (as the programmer) decided you knew how I wanted to set up my email. For example, it is not standard functionality to be able to move a project from the project category to the someday category. You couldn’t know that in order to quiet the chatter in my brain, I need to acknowledge the project nature of a group of items before I can tuck it away and not worry about it. I also have some other quirks that because IQTell exposed the relational data aspect of the service, I was able to create something that I wouldn’t have thought of if I had been led through a series of questions. That being said, a service (maybe even premium) to set up the program based on your answers to questions would be really cool.

  7. Corinne Claypool 7 years ago

    There are also ideas that came to mind after I started using it … so maybe a “review” after a couple of week of using it?

  8. Author
    Dave Seah 7 years ago

    Corrinne, Audie Thanks for mentioning IQTell. Checking it out! My first impression is that it seems very “managed” and process-oriented, from watching the video. I think I want a tool that allows me to be messier, moodier, and still somehow keep me on track. Just thinking out loud, not necessarily thinking well :-)

  9. Corinne Claypool 7 years ago

    If you ignore the Action aspect for a moment, you can link almost anything you want into a project … an email (with all the links still active) and evernote note, a reference item, a someday item and all of those things can be linked to multiple projects. This means it can become one big “messy” pile of stuff that you don’t even have to decide exactly how it all fits together.