Wed Jul 11 2012

Our obsession with tools

In the last few years, as technology progressed and our inboxes filled up, we’ve struggled to find ways to cope with information overload. For the most part, we’ve been unsuccessful. So we’ve all become obsessed with processes and tools, grabbing books on getting things done, buying new productivity apps, finding the right fonts to write on our favorite flavor of a distraction free writing environment. In trying to fix an overload problem, we’re creating another.

I’m writing this post in full screen, because I seem to get distracted by everything else happening inside the computer, pushed from the internet to my face. The font I’m using had to be carefully selected because it shouldn’t be too small or too large. The background of the window itself shouldn’t be too dark or too light. To start writing, I had to tick a box in a task management system, and there will be a second box to tick when I’m done so I can remember to edit the post too. When you’re obsessed with the process, everything can suddenly become a chore.

A fine line

The irony here is that process and tools are both helpful if selected correctly and allowed to become invisible. Who cares if there’s a 10 step way to process your life/inbox/workload that someone wrote a book - or ten - about. The other day I tweeted:

“Someone better install a few seat belts on the GTD bandwagon, because I keep falling off.”

Funny because it was true. The most important realization I came to when it comes to productivity was that what worked for me might not work for most people (or anyone, really). Also, that not following a method down to a tee might turn out best for me. So I took note of the things that worked, and those that did not. Then I improved the former and scrapped the latter.

I got rid of most things. I now have one text editor (not three) I’m comfortable with; a task management app to dump the things I need to do into; a relatively loose process of trying to plan out ahead; a utility to help me not write as much repetitive stuff. Names for these tools are omitted because again, what works for me might not work for you.

So the next time a shiny tool/process pops on your radar, and all the familiar faces talk about it, use your own judgement to figure out whether you really need it. If what you do and use allows you to be productive and get your work done - great. If your life is in order, stick to what you’re doing. If you’re constantly looking for new tools to improve your work (as I frequently was), that work will never get done.