Why productivity tools may be hurting you

And the tools you should be using instead.

One of my fellow Fellows (… ☺) at Venture for Canada mentioned last night that “there should be a consultant who recommends the tools and apps you should use.”

With literally thousands of productivity tools to choose from, a tool-selector would help solve a problem: option overload. But why the hype about productivity tools in the first place?

Why do you use productivity tools?

Before I get into why I think people use them — ask yourself:

  • Why did you just download that new email hacking tool?
  • Why do you have a list of tools saved to your bookmarks?
  • Why are you spending time syncing all your productivity tools to one another?

It’s tough to answer honestly. While there are some great reasons for using productivity tools (like actually being more productive…), there are some hidden causes too.

“There’s too much to do! Help… please?”

The regular 9 to 5 is changing. Many companies are introducing remote positions, unlimited vacation time, and 24/7 office availability. While these changes are great — providing more autonomy and flexibility to employees — they need to be managed. With these changes comes the need for a new way to work. If people continue to operate as they did in a 9 to 5 environment, they will likely experience information & work overload.

Despite hours at work decreasing in Canada and the US over the past few years, the average number of hours worked remains quite high.


To manage this increase in “work” to do, many people seem to resort to productivity tools. I’ve done it myself. When I feel overwhelmed, I often go searching for a new tool that will manage all this “work”. Searching has taken me hours: finding potential tools, looking up reviews, comparing tools… and then finally selecting one. I’ve even made a spreadsheet to do this before (a huge time soak). Once you select that perfect app, you have to cross your fingers and hope it syncs with all of your other tools and wish for the best.

You may invest over 6 hours into making yourself “more productive.”

While this process is sometimes necessary (and can result in increased productivity), you first need to take a step back.

Ok… what do I do first then?

Before jumping in and using one of these tools, ask yourself:

  1. Do I really need to aim to complete all of these tasks?
  2. Which tasks are going to significantly impact my life / business / family / career / society?
  3. How can I complete those significant tasks?

It’s the 80/20 rule applied to your daily life. To put it into action, check out Tim Ferriss’ tips from this Interview:

  • Think instead of react
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Strive to constantly eliminate instead of organize
  • Create not-to-do lists
“If you remove all the static and distraction, priorities become clear, execution becomes a one-item to-do list, and time management isn’t even necessary.
Honestly, this is the holy grail. It took me a long time to figure out that, in a digital world of infinite distraction and minutiae, he who has the least number of programs running in mental RAM wins. Every time.” — Tim Ferriss

It’s tough. But worth it.

So maybe you don’t need that new email tool! Maybe you need to invest in a good, old-fashioned pencil… and some noise-cancelling headphones ☺

Please share how you make yourself more productive in the comments below!


Check out my blog posts on mindfulness, self-development, startups, and education here.


Find me on Twitter, LinkedIn, or follow my blog.