• Darcy Williamson

Why I Started NaskMe

In August 2016, I had left it all on the field, spending the previous six years helping to build a consulting firm with some wonderful colleagues who became great friends. Man, it was non-stop. I felt I had done good work, couldn’t work any harder and knew it was time for a change. Plus, I had two girls in travel soccer and a wife who worked full-time. Things were always busy.

That same month was also a year after I had my stroke.

It was my stroke because people who have one experience it in their own way. I didn’t have all the symptoms you hear about: droopy face, weak arms, speech difficulty. Sure, the left side of my body was totally numb, but I’d just run 14 miles that morning, gone to church and carpooled my daughter and her friend around that day. I wasn’t exactly making total sense when I talked, but, hey, it was hot out, and I was tired. My lips were numb, too.

I woke up the next morning, still numb, and went to work. After somehow giving a presentation, leading a meeting and dealing with typical Monday morning fire drills, I headed off to the doctor to check out what probably was a pinched nerve (not that I’d ever had one). “I’ll probably see you later today,” I said as I walked out of the office.

I’ll just take Uber

I hadn’t had a physical in two years, but I thought I was in great health. I ran long distances, ate what I wanted and had a good checkup a few years ago.

This was the first time I would meet my new doctor. I described my symptoms to her nurse, who ran me through the usual vitals checks. The nurse calmly excused herself, and my doctor returned. “Nice to meet you,” we both said, as she repeated some of the vitals, blood pressure a few times.

That’s when she told me I had blood pressure of 240, and she was calling an ambulance to take me to the ER. “What???” I said. “That’s not happening.” Soon followed by, “That’s crazy, my car’s here, I’ll just drive.” She was polite, but firm, explaining it had to be this way. “This is really not necessary,” I said. “I’ll just take Uber.”

Turns out the ambulance was already on its way, this was serious, and my protests went nowhere, especially when four guys (who were fantastic) rolled in with a stretcher. This can’t be happening, I thought. But there I was, being rolled out on my way to the hospital. If you’ve never experienced that before, it’s surreal.

It’s a strange feeling, knowing something’s wrong, really wrong, but not knowing what it is or wanting to admit it – while you’re being whisked away on a gurney. Hospital intake was a blur, more tests, a CT, lots of questions. No one really saying what was going on.

I knew it was serious when my wife Kathy showed up at the ER.

“You had a stroke”

I moved from the ER to a real room. There were more tests – a lot more tests – the first of several MRIs I would have. Soon a doctor came by with my MRI results. “You had a stroke,” she said, matter-of-factly, perhaps assuming I already knew. The look on my face, and Kathy’s, told her she was breaking news. She apologized for having to tell us. We had a lot of questions, most of her answers were vague and unsatisfying. That’s not her fault; there were plenty of unknowns.

I lost it when a volunteer stopped by to pray for me shortly thereafter. This was the first time I was coming to grips with the reality that something really, really bad had happened. I have a family, two kids… how will I care for them? What next?

A week in the hospital, that’s what was next. More tests, a lot more tests, more meds, more doctors (all of whom were wonderful), but few satisfying answers, just the reality of it all.

I was lucky

Looking back on it, I was lucky. I am lucky. Yes, I had a stroke that sidelined me, that caused me to question a lot about myself, but it wouldn’t keep me off the field. I returned to work, eventually returning to long distance running, and I have what caused the stroke under control. And I have a wonderful family that keeps me going – and grounded.

My perspective’s entirely different, much healthier, and I never miss a doctor’s appointment. I’m also aware of how precious time really is.

And, I also learned that, if you have an idea, a passion, a goal, a dream, but are simply sitting around waiting for someone to make it happen for you, you’ll be waiting a long, long time. Don’t wait, just get started. And that’s just what I did. I started with an idea and a list.

Where the word Nask came from

Before any of this happened, Kathy and my two daughters were what kept me going.

And, I mean going: To and from soccer practice and games; going to buy groceries, cleats, clothes, yard stuff, home stuff, kid stuff; or going to book a plane ticket, a hotel, a ride to the airport. You get the idea. Luckily, my wife was there to help.

Wow did she help! She sent me tasks in texts, reminders via email, calendar invites for the big stuff and, on occasion, she even asked me to do a task – IN PERSON.

All those to-do’s required a status update, a check-in to see if it was done and a reminder just in case. “Did you call the HVAC company?” Or, “Did you buy new cleats?” Or, “Did you pick up the spinach?”

The result? Frustration, and poor outcomes. Minor repairs or maintenance not done on time. Kathy asking for an update, followed by me asking for details to be re-sent.

I can’t emphasize how much frustration there was for Kathy and me. It got to the point where the only way for us to deal with the situation was to diffuse it. How? We created a word for all the questions: “Nask,” which combines “nag” and “ask”. If the back and forth became too much, we joked that Kathy was Nasking me.

Eventually, Nasks gave way to Nagminders, which occurred just before – or just after – something was needed.

Nasks and Nagminders kept me diving into texts, checking emails and scouring my calendar. Maybe there was a voicemail? I needed details about what I had to do or buy, a picture, a link, some address, where to buy it. I mean, this was a lot of work, just to find what I had to do, even before I did the actual task. But, I wasn’t alone. After all, whose task list is short and sweet?

There ought to be an app for this

We had a long to-do list. Any given week might include:

Soccer practices and games

Gutters cleaned

Doctor appointments

Getting the dryer vent snaked (this is a thing?)

Field trips, report cards signed and returned

Piano, gymnastics, carpools

Helping with and checking homework

We laughed about it, even over drinks… especially over drinks. One night Kathy and I were sharing with friends the word Nask and how funny it was.

And I just said, “There ought to be an app for this.” And I really meant it. That’s when NaskMe started.

I did some research. I learned there are other task management apps, although none were quite what I had in mind. I wanted an app that really knew me and helped me handle all of my tasks. And I learned from a 2016 Google report that:

65% of people walk around checking their phones when they need to make a decision

82% consult their phones when they buy products

90% don’t know what brand they want

91% consult their phones in the middle of a task

It turns out we’re all walking around with a long task list, across multiple devices – or on the refrigerator, or in our head – checking our phones before we act.

All you need is your thumb

The idea is to make it easy for you to: Ask for help, agree to help, check status, send a message, get addresses, send and remember the details. And to have all the tools you need in one place, like being able to make purchases that take care of certain tasks, where all you need is your thumb. Plus, get reminded you need to do something before it’s too late. And, make it simple, satisfying and even fun.

Task lists don’t stop at the front door. We all plan trips, tailgates, concerts and cookouts. We volunteer for field trips and in the community, too. We buy birthday and Christmas presents, we need addresses and dates and details, and we help our parents and siblings as they get older, too.

When I told people about NaskMe, I found they got pretty excited and had multiple “use cases” to share. They also had stories about how it could help their relationships. Some were fun, others more serious, all left an impression on me.

All that energy translated into a lot of ideas for NaskMe, and future teammates jumped on board to help. We even used NaskMe to build NaskMe. Collaboration among teammates was easy, we assigned and completed tasks on time, suggested ideas to one another that turned into to-do’s later. There wasn’t anything that involved a list, communication and a due date that we couldn’t do in NaskMe.

And there’s isn’t anything you can’t do, either.