You’re using too many tools

Me too, and that’s the problem here

Man I love a good app. Especially writing tools on my Mac. Oh I’ve tried (and bought) almost all of them. Give me a good Markdown editor with gorgeous UI and I’m putty in your hands. Just take my money.

Thing is, I can only use one of these tools at a time. And when I’m at the office on my PC I only have one of my favorite tools (Scrivener) and the Markdown editors on Windows just can’t compare to Mac ones. Sorry folks Ulysses has all of you beat by a country mile.

Don’t get me started on apps for taking notes or saving links. Evernote, Refind, oh maybe I should try Pocket again.

Some days I spent more time deciding which app to write in than I do writing. Am I going to start and finish here in the office or at home? Do I need to share it? Do I want people to edit it?

This is nuts and wastes time.

Spending more time wondering what the best tool is than getting work done is stupid and we all know it.

We always think there is a better way

For those of us who have a bit of an app problem, it all starts with one of two moments:

  • There has to be a better way
  • Oooohhhh that’s new and shiny

I caught myself thinking like this twice today. Twice! Today! The first was this post from Pocket about M.G. Siegler:

The next was this post from my friend Meena Sandhu:

Both of these posts started me off on the “hmm maybe I should try…” path that I’ve gone down way too many times before. And it doesn’t end well. Time for a change bucko.

What am I going to do about it

I could say I’m going to go on an app purge and get rid of all the extra apps I have. Do I need two different code editors? How many content tools can a guy use? I know myself well enough that’s not going to work. There are reasons I like to use Typora (the not-too-bad Markdown app on Windows) and Hemingway. Evernote isn’t going anywhere. Nor is Scrivener. The only solution is the one in, one out rule.

If I’m going to add a new tool to the kit, it has to take something else’s place.

And some of the apps I say I swear by, like Evernote, I’m going to take a long, hard look at. When was the last time I really used the app. Not opened. Not just saved a link to, but used. When was the last time I thought a app is so essential to my day that I can’t imagine getting through the day without it?

If I’m really honest, I have three desktop apps on a must-have-open basis: Chrome, Outlook, and Skype. Purpose-built apps like Snagit, Acrobat, and 1Password are essential when I need them. I don’t use them all the time, but when I need them, I need them.

The rest? Yeah, it’s time to let them go, or at least gather dust for a bit. Same goes for social channels. Sorry Mastodon and Twitter, there isn’t enough time in the day for either of you (still would like to hit 10,000 followers on Twitter though). Pass on Instagram and Snapchat too.

And this boils things down to what this post is really about — time.

Time is a nonrenewable resource

I’m not going to get the few minutes I spent before writing this post thinking, hmm Typora or Hemingway. Oh wait Jon from Creatomic writes his posts in Evernote, maybe there’s an Evernote to Medium tool…

That’s wasted time. Time I waste when I could have written this post sooner. Time I could have read another article that inspired me or learned from. Time to think of another post.

The problem with too many tools is that we get stuck in fish-or-cut-bait loops. We overthink what we’re doing instead of just doing it. We waste time we don’t have trying to refine things that don’t need refining.

Action step taken: The great Taskbar unpinning

While I was writing this post I took the first step to focusing my apps: I unpinned all but Outlook, Chrome, Skype, Typora, and Notepad++ from my Taskbar. Those are my apps. Evernote? Off for now. Slack? Nope. Hemingway? Scrivener? Buh-bye.

Not uninstalled, just unpinned. They aren’t sitting in front of me whispering “click me, come back to me.” If I need them (and several other important apps), I have them, but my core just got simpler. These are my apps to work with. Anything else is going to take conscious effort to call up.

Pinned tabs? Google Drive and Asana. Social tabs and web apps are opened as needed.

Is this going to fix things? Will I try and load pocket on my phone (No! Bad Tris, bad!)? I can’t say for sure, but from unpinning apps I don’t use often to letting an app go to start using a similar app, I think I might be able get a handle on things.

What do you think? Do you have too many apps? Do you need an app-tervention? How many apps are in your core kit? Let me know, I’m curious.

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