The wonderful range of apps and productivity tools available to us represents a double-edged sword. With this impressive choice comes the challenge of evaluation, selection and implementation. And none of these will do anything to put a dent in your ever-increasing todo list.
The right tool for the job – not the ‘perfect’ one
Ensuring you have the right tools for the job is obviously very important. Nobody is going to enjoy relying on a beat-up laptop from the early 2000s, with flakey wifi and a dying battery. It’s just going to slow you down and lead to frustration every time it crashes.
On the other hand, it’s possible to mix up our need for new tools with our desire for new tools – the ‘shiny shiny syndrome’, where our belief that it’s the lack of the new tool that’s stopping us from doing our best work. I’m actually writing this post using a free piece of software – Obsidian – not the latest and greatest word processing application. It would be so easy for me to waste my afternoons exploring all the possible apps that promise to make me a ‘better writer’ – but then there’d be nothing to share on this blog.
My job doesn’t require me to have the ultimate task management solution. I don’t need an AI-powered calendar. Given my role, all I need is somewhere to keep my tasks and projects, to access this on my iPhone, and get reminders of upcoming appointments. Everything else is a bonus.
Too much choice?
If you were to do an online search for ‘productivity apps’ (please don’t!) you’d immediately see the enormous range of available apps. Further reading would reveal a very noticeable lack of consensus on which apps are best. How much of your valuable and finite time could you burn through while experimenting with each of these apps? Is it really the absence of the ‘perfect’ app that’s preventing you from making a start?
A quick look through the business and management literature reveals any number of competing approaches, methods and ‘systems’. All making similar claims to boost efficiency, productivity and happiness. Again, it’s easy to fall for these claims and waste time and energy implementing them. Rather than chipping away at your real priorities.
Yes, there are so many other tools and approaches you could be using. Maybe the ideal combination is out there. But right now, in this moment, can you do good work with the tools at your disposal?
This isn’t to say you should never look to improve your systems and approaches, or explore the benefits of a new app. Just ensure your evaluation is done with your context (your role, your responsibilities, your personality) in mind. Comparing your setup with a stranger on the internet is rarely going to be helpful and won’t reflect the factors that make your situation unique.
The cost of moving between apps and adopting a new and different workflow can be quite high. But if you like novelty and you’re knee-deep in ‘shiny shiny syndrome’, then you might not notice this. Until you get an unwelcome reminder of your lack of progress via your todo list.
The bottom line: when management of your tools is taking more time and attention that the completion of your actual work, it’s time to take a fresh look at your priorities. Do you really need a complex, brand new app to manage your projects and tasks? Or will the reminders app that came pre-installed do the job quite nicely? Is the new productivity craze actually going to help you address your procrastination? Or is it, in fact, serving as the perfect distraction from the very real and necessary tasks right in front of you?