About That App Fatigue…

Hey everyone! I’m back from my trip and first order of business is to say a big thank you to all of the amazing guests here on the site. If you haven’t checked out Yuvi Zalkow, Aaron Mahnke, Todd Chandler, Gini Dietrich and Mike Vardy’s posts yet, please do. Speaking of Mike Vardy, I figured the best way to “thank him” by writing my own post refuting his. We have a very complicated relationship…

While there is little doubt that many of us tech-minded, productivity-loving folks could use to take a step back from the tools, we also have to accept who we are and act accordingly. This means finding and using the right technology to do our work without getting lost while searching for it. The right tool, used well helps me get more done. This often requires upfront time and occasionally over-experimenting with apps, but the payoff continues to be there.

I manage to make this app obsession a net positive by sticking to a few key rules. The biggest being that if I’m mostly happy with what I have, I won’t consider changing for one or two shiny new features. As my system matures I’ll only consider a new app if it falls into one of three categories:

It fills a hole in my system

When you’ve created your system from the ground up, you know exactly where things are weak. Sometimes you haven’t found a tool you like; sometimes the right tool doesn’t exist. Identify these weak points and keep an eye out for potential solutions. One major hole in mine has been easy encryption for sending things up to the cloud. While I haven’t found the right thing yet, this omission was exactly why I recently gave Dropkey a shot (sadly, it seems more geared towards email than solo encryption in the cloud).

I have a problem with a tool

Sometimes things break. Sometimes your tool doesn’t scale (as I learned all too well with Simplenote). Sometimes, it just doesn’t work for you. When something goes wrong, you inevitably have to go looking for a new, workable solution. The wrong tool can often cause a lot of pain, so the sooner you deal with it, the better. The temptation will be to make a fast decision and to get back to work, but the short-term time and pain spent finding the right tool often pays long-term dividends.

I’m trying something different

This is the trickiest of the three, it’s where you can easily start down a rabbit hole. Occasionally you will want to test a hunch or a new tool will spark an idea on how you can work better. Now this is something that you can easily waste far too much time with, but if you eliminate it completely, you can miss out on breakthroughs that can have a big impact on the way you work.

Vardy’s example of Threadnote is a perfect one. In his post, Vardy lumped together full-blown text editing apps like Writing Kit and Byword alongside quick capture apps like Drafts and Pop. I’ve always done this as well, historically using Simplenote to hold everything from quotes and thoughts to full blown writing projects (some larger projects are also in Scrivener) In light of my need to abandon Simplenote and in consideration of a plain text file library that is now over 800 notes, I’ve been wonder if I need to break apart my idea capture from my writing. So when Bryan from Threadnote reached out, I was impressed by the way it organized notes and decided to experiment with it. The app, while great, isn’t quite there for me just yet, but I do think it’s an amazing app for quick capture. Also, knowing a little bit about where they are heading, I think has the potential to make the way I work far more efficient. And that is well worth any potential fatigue.

There is always going to be a new app to take you away from your work. The trick is to be selective and only take calculated chances. When I find the right tool, I never get sick of it. I don’t have app fatigue, because I’m not flitting around looking for something better. Once I see how something makes my work better, I’m stubborn about changing it (just ask anyone who had to put up with me on Twitter while I was switching away from Simplenote). This way I see apps as something lasting, rather than disposable.

How do you avoid app fatigue? Or going app overboard for that matter…

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