A computer with the word “hello” on it.

RIP: Death To Your Productivity Apps

Changing from one tool to another wastes more time than it saves.

A friend lamented over her business struggles. Nothing she did was working. Month after month, she was lucky if the metrics stayed the same. Often, they went down. I asked what her focus was at the moment, her goal, her most important thing. She listed off a long array of tasks. Grow her social media presence, spend more time writing articles, hire a virtual assistant, improve her search rankings, on and on and on. She had no one focus. Everything was important. Everything was mandatory. Nothing was going to be given up or abandoned.

Her first step, she explained, was to get organized. She was debating between a few different productivity apps. Once she got that up and running, the rest would be easy. I rolled my eyes while trying to remain polite.

This wasn’t the first time she had switched up her systems. Whenever we spoke it was one of her go-to topics of conversation. Not about the work she was doing, because she wasn’t doing any. But rather about the new apps she was getting used to. How she was setting up her icons, customizing the colors, getting everything just so.

A month or two later, I asked how her progress was coming along. You know, on all her important, must-do goals. I was met with excuses. How the timing didn’t quite work out with her articles, how she got caught up in her day job, etc. And, my favorite part, how next month/quarter/year would be better. She wasn’t going to do anything different. Never. But somehow next time would be exceptional. Next time she’d get it all done. She eventually set all sorts of new goals, another handful of soon-to-be unfulfilled ambitions, and started off again. That is, once she had a new productivity app in place. After that was solid, the rest would be easy. And around and around we went.


Carpenter for hire

There is nothing wrong with productivity apps. I’m sure many are great and do a wonderful job. People are the problem. Because people use them as a means of procrastination. They debate over which widget allows for a better checkbox experience, which provides better sorting, or has a better font. It doesn’t matter. It is just procrastination disguised as taking the first step. But it’s not the first step. It’s an anti-step. It’s lying to yourself; telling yourself you’re doing something when you know you aren’t.

The way around this is simple. Make a decision. Then do the actual work. Too much time is spent debating such matters when, in actuality, it is just a tool. A tool to help you get things done. It is not the work itself.

Which carpenter would you rather employ? Mind you, they both charge by the hour. Option one is someone who shows up with their hammer and saw and gets to work. Option two shows up with nothing. In fact, they’re late because they were just at Home Depot and were debating between five different saws and five different hammers. Regardless, they can’t start the job until they sort that out. However, they’ll be sure to bill you for their time.


The question to ask

If you’re asking – Should I use this app or that one? – you’re asking the wrong question. Go ahead. Spend time upfront making your decision. Then, move on with your life. Tell yourself over and over and over: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The app you’re using now isn’t broke. It works just fine. So keep using it as the tool it is. Anything more than that is just procrastination. And when it doesn’t serve you any longer, when the hammer no longer hammers, go out and get a new one. But not until that point. Anything more than that is a waste of your time.

For years I used Evernote. When it didn’t serve me anymore, I moved over to Google. Specifically, Docs and Sheets. It’s perfect for me. Minimalistic, simple, free. It does everything I need it to. So I keep using it. And I’ll keep using it until it stops hammering. But not until then.

I see the shiny new software. I am aware of the different boards and styles and colors. But when I am tempted, I promptly remind myself that apps are not the most important thing. Moving my entire system over to some new, equally capable system isn’t what will help me write more articles, read more books, or spend more time with my wife. In fact, it will likely take away from those things. The real question, the one question that matters more than anything, is: what is the most important thing that will move you forward? The answer is not: get organized.


Death to your productivity apps

It’s good to be organized. I wouldn’t get anything done if I wasn’t. But it is a tool. It is not the work. Being organized is what allows me to publish an article each day. It’s what allows me to read one book a week (on average). It’s what allows me to go on a date with my daughter every month since she was born (starting at month three). You can’t get things done if you’re not organized. However, “getting organized” can easily become a procrastinatory event. Instead of spending your one free hour in the morning on your side hustle, you spend it moving papers from one pile to another. After six months of that, your business is still just an idea and you’ve since shuffled your papers into an entirely new stack.

I say, death to your productivity apps! Death to the endless weighing of the options. To the debates. You’re not getting anything done that matters. And you’re running out of time.

Instead of wasting any more precious moments of your life, pick a hammer and start doing the actual work. Make the best decision you can with the information you have. If the selected hammer does its job, keep using it. If it doesn’t, then and only then should you consider finding a replacement. Continuously ask yourself what the most important thing is. Question what critical activity will help you move forward. Replacing your rubber-grip hammer for one that is metal won’t change how the nail goes in. Only your swing will do that. Only your work will build the house. Standing around Home Depot is just procrastination masquerading as effort.

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