Step AWAY From The App

When people ask me “What app should I use to help me be more productive?”

I have a simple answer. “I don’t know.”

They will look at me quizzically and remind me that I’m someone that should know what app they should use. “You’re the expert,” they’ll say.

But here’s the thing. Everyone’s work style is different. Everyone’s proficiency with apps is different. Everyone’s needs are different.

So in order to even begin to recommend an app, I need to know more about the person asking the question.

Sometimes a simple to-do list app will do the trick. Sometimes a habit tracking app is enough because they tend to trust their paper-based workflow for their tasks. Sometimes a paper planner is the “app” they will be able to use best.

I can’t possibly suggest what app they use until they give me more to go on. And even then, I’ll exercise caution.

The only time I’ll really suggest a radical change is when the person is using email to manage their tasks (and even then I need to look at a solution that will work best for them as they shift on that front) or when they use a calendar to manage their tasks (and again, I need to treat them with kid gloves as well).

If you’re stuck and not moving things forward as much as you’d like (or perhaps not moving the right things forward), you need to step away from the app you’re using to get some perspective. That doesn’t mean abandon the app altogether. It means you need to evaluate it from a vantage point that doesn’t have you immersed in it.

I’ve gone through stages of using different apps. If you look at my task app history, it is lengthy:

  1. iGTD
  2. OmniFocus
  3. Flow
  4. Asana
  5. Todoist
  6. Todoist and Flow
  7. Todoist and Asana

(I’ve even thrown Trello into the mix because my podcast producer uses it. It seems to work best for us collectively, so I’ve stuck with it. How do I keep tabs on my Trello tasks? By keeping a task in Todoist called “Review Trello” that prompts every Wednesday — my Audio/Video Day.)

Every time I’ve shifted away from an app, I’ve used paper in the interim. I still use paper as a “gateway” app of sorts. When you decide to step away from your app — whether you’re changing apps or not — I suggest you step away for no more than a week. Like me, use paper in the interim (or something simple like the notes apps included with most computers and mobile devices). Make note of what gets done and what doesn’t. Then make a point of really figuring out your needs and looking at what solutions will help you propel things forward better.

Not sure what to ask? Try these questions:

  • What platform or device do I use the most to achieve objectives? A computer? A mobile device? Paper?
  • Do I need something that needs to be connected to the internet all the time or only occasionally?
  • Do I need something that will grow with me as I become more proficient and deal with more complex projects?

No app alone can help you with your efficiency and effectiveness. Sometimes you need to step away from the app you’re using to see if you can go without it and still make things happen. In other cases, you need to find something more suitable to do your work even better than before.

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