Let’s Talk About App Fatigue

Mike Vardy. Mike, my podcasting co-host and friend, puts up with quite a lot of grief (trust me, I know, I give it to him). Today, he gives it all back as he puts my recent struggles with Simplenote through the ringer. Mike offers incredibly useful words of wisdom on his personal blog, as the editor of Lifehack and as the upcoming author of The Back Nine. Enjoy as Vardy calls me out on some of my crap for the sake of your own self improvement…Note: While I’m away this week toiling away in the desert (read: I’m working and playing in Las Vegas) I’ve asked a few friends to step in and take over for me. Today’s guest is

As someone who spends a lot of time using their iOS devices — especially for work — I have come across a huge problem on many occasions. A problem that is challenging to face… let alone overcome. The problem I have is that I like to try out new apps. It’s part of what I do for Lifehack, what I did for The Next Web and for Cult of Mac. Whether I pursue a new app or am given a promo code for another, I end up putting a lot of apps through the paces.

Soon enough, I’m spending more time playing (or fiddling) with apps than I am making use of them in a productive way. Instead of writing with text editor apps, I’m testing them. Instead of being productive with task management apps, I’m “doing” productive with them. I’ve even written a series that discusses my decluttering process on my iPhone and iPad when things get out of hand with my app inventory.

The thing about the constant addition of apps is that they are appealing, with some offering one or two things that another simply doesn’t, but the end result is that what the app is meant to do doesn’t get accomplished as well as it could be because I’ve not mastered it. When you realize that you’ve got a lot of apps on your devices and you see that several (or most) of them rarely get opened, that’s when you discover that “app fatigue” has set in.

I had this realization earlier this week when the proprietor of this very site sent me an email asking me to give another text editor a look. Now Mr. Schechter has never sent me an email asking me to do this, so I went in and downloaded it. And that’s all I’ve done with it so far. I have yet to even open it. Why? Because I still have the following text editors on my iPhone:

  • Writing Kit
  • Byword
  • Drafts
  • Simplenote
  • PlainText
  • Pop

What’s more, I seldom write on my iPhone anyway. I tend to use my iPad for that sort of thing (which, by the way, also has several text editors installed even though I only use Writing Kit). I can say with utmost certainty that out of those apps mentioned above that I have only opened half of them in the past few months — and I haven’t opened Drafts yet, either.

(And before I settled on Asana as my task manager of choice, I had even more “productivity-type” apps installed — and a few of them still are.)

We’re always trying to do our work faster and better. As writers, we want the best tools to do the job, as any craftsperson would. But if you’re someone who builds homes and you have a hammer instead of a nail gun, are you simply going to stop building until you have that nail gun? Not a chance. Better still, will you refuse to build if you don’t have the highest quality nails if you have nails that will do the job? I highly doubt it.

As a writer, I need to write. I’m called to it…each and every day. So whether I use the app I’m used to — the one I have chosen — or the latest that has that “one more thing” factor, I still am using them to write. If I don’t write because I’m missing that “one more thing” then I’m really not missing that thing at all. I’m simply missing the point of being a writer.

Mr. Schechter took to Twitter to talk of his disdain with Simplenote last week, basically looking to move into an app that will do what Simplenote does — but will do it more reliably. Something told me that he wasn’t going to stop writing until he found that replacement (which seems to be Notesy). Until he did replace the app, he’d find a way to keep writing… because that’s why he has the tool in the first place. That’s what you’re supposed to do.

As I said before, it’s not just text editors that have caused app fatigue to set in for me. It’s all kinds of apps. Evernote vs. Pear Note. Sparrow vs. Mail. Instacast vs. Downcast. The list is endless and the competition is growing. Thankfully we’ve got some great online writers that can help point us in the right direction when it comes to avoiding app fatigue. Federico Vittici of MacStories offered up his thoughts on text editors on the iPad in a very comprehensive post. Brett Terpstra has put together a stellar roundup that breaks down the features of text editors for iOS as well — a great resource for anyone looking for the right fit for them. We see frequent battles between Twitter clients played out in what can only be coined as “app smackdowns”. Basically, if we want to get a good idea of what we’d like to have before we install/buy, there are ways to figure that out so that we can avoid app fatigue.

(That said, I’m going to give Threadnote a go because I trust Mr. Schechter. After all, he is a better mess than I.)

Apps are accessible. Apps are inexpensive. Apps are always at our fingertips. But apps don’t do the work…we do. If you wind up working for apps rather than having apps working for you, then you’re doing it wrong.

In fact, you’re actually not doing anything at all.

One Response to Let’s Talk About App Fatigue

Leave a reply