One of the most common questions I get as a productivity coach is, ‘which productivity tools or apps will help me get more done?’
My reply is usually something that most people don’t see coming, ‘pen and paper.’ Obviously, there are a ton of better productivity tools out there.
However, the reason why I give this weird answer is that, for 99 out of 100 people, focusing on finding new productivity apps is pretty much a waste of time.
Instead, improving your productivity is much more about mastering some of the fundamental principles and much less about the apps or tools you use.
Productivity Apps Trigger ‘Shiny Object’ Syndrome
If you want to get more done and be more productive, productivity apps should be the least of your problems because they contribute the least to your overall productivity.
Yet, most people looking to become more effective spend about 90% of their time researching productivity apps — even though it only contributes to roughly 5-10% of productivity.
Why? Because of ‘shiny object syndrome.’
The shiny object syndrome is the continual pursuit of new, exciting tools, ideas, or trends because they seem more promising. Since these things ‘shine’ brighter (aka, look cooler) than most other things, they draw people’s attention.
Productivity apps are precisely that — they are shiny objects which seem like they’re going to fix all your productivity problems. Unfortunately, this is a false promise.
Nevertheless, a lot of people continually look for these new, shiny apps because of the hope that somewhere out there is an app that magically improves their productivity.
Over the years, I realized that most people aren’t really looking for useful productivity apps, they are looking for a magic pill that can cheat them out of doing hard work. Unfortunately, this magic pill doesn’t exist.
My Productivity Only Improved When I Stopped Looking For Apps
In the past, my productivity ‘research’ consisted of hours and hours seeking this one magic productivity app. Secretly, I hoped with each productivity app I’d download that it would somehow fix my lack of consistency. For months, I was looking for the magic pill that didn’t exist.
In reality, the pursuit of finding the best productivity apps only served as a distraction from focusing on what really mattered — prioritizing the essentials, planning, creating systems, forming good habits, and mastering my own psychology.
It was only when I began focusing on mastering the fundamental productivity principles that I started getting more done, being more focused, and reaching productivity levels that I hoped shiny new apps would provide.
As I’ve learned after many wasted hours — productivity apps aren’t the answer when you struggle with getting things done. It’s much more about mastering fundamental principles and techniques instead.
What Matters Much More Than Productivity Apps
One of the frameworks I teach is the ‘Productivity Pyramid.’ This is my personal productivity system that has allowed me to get much more done daily, weekly, and monthly than I ever thought was possible in the past — when I was still unfocused, unstructured, and unproductive.
As you can see, productivity apps are at the top of the pyramid because they have the least overall impact on your productivity.
Instead, it’s the fundamental productivity principles we should focus on because they have a much bigger impact on our performance and efficiency:
- Create a clear vision for your future life.
- Use an effective, streamlined goal-setting system.
- Prioritize the essentials and eliminating the non-essentials.
- Plan your days and weeks for optimal productivity.
- Upgrade your health and energy (sleep, exercise, nutrition).
- Master your own psychology, so you stop procrastinating and avoid wasting time.
- Do deep work and eliminate distractions.
It’s these productivity principles that matter most — not the apps you use to follow these principles.
As author and entrepreneur Ramit Sethi said about productivity apps, “This is where people spend 90% of their time, when in reality (…) you should spend less than 10% here. It’s like writing a college paper: If you master the material and create a detailed outline, the type of pencil you use really doesn’t matter.”
Therefore, if you want to boost your productivity exponentially, I’d recommend spending less time researching productivity apps and spending more time on mastering these powerful productivity principles instead.
Of course, productivity apps can support these practices, but no app will automatically fix your problems or magically make you super productive.
No app fixes unclear goals and priorities…
No app fixes your mindset and determination to succeed…
No app prevents you from habitually procrastinating on your goals…
And no app magically boosts your health or long-term energy levels…
This all has to come from within. You have to put in the effort and work on these things yourself. And the more time and energy you put towards mastering these essential productivity principles (instead of looking for the next productivity app), the more effective you become.
Now Do It
Nowadays, the only three productivity apps I use in my daily routine are Google Calendar, Grammarly, and Todoist. But, these apps support the productivity principles that I follow — they don’t magically make me more productive.
If I’d use a pen and paper instead of these apps, I would still get the job done. It would only lead to a 1–2% decrease in daily productivity, nothing more.
Remember, it’s the productivity principles that matter most — not the apps you use to follow these principles. These principles have a far more positive effect on your productivity than any app could ever provide.
Therefore, I’ve stopped looking for new, shiny productivity apps and instead spend more of my time setting clear priorities, mastering my mind, improving my health & energy, eliminating the non-essentials, and creating positive habits.
Want to be more productive? Download the free ’27 Productivity Hacks For Superhuman Performance’ guide!