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Why You Should Stop Fiddling with Apps

By | 8 comments

stop fiddling with apps

Let’s talk about a first world productivity problem: wasting time on apps. Every week there is a new todo list or note taking app that’s grabbing everyone’s attention and people buy them only to find out it was a huge waste of time.

Don’t be one of them. Please.

Playing and fiddling with apps is not something I do a lot. I rarely install new apps on my phone or computer. In fact, I find it a waste of time. There is a huge opportunity cost with fiddling with apps. You have to pay for it, install it, play around with it, tweak it, re-evaluate it, figure out how it works with other apps and so on. All that time spent could be directed towards more high-value activities in your life, e.g., spending time with friends or working on your business.

So why do people still go through this?

Because it feels productive.

It feels productive to install a todo list app. It feels productive tweaking a setting in your app. It feels productive to fiddle around with it.

It’s very easy to fall for this trap when you no outcome in mind. When you have no specific purpose for learning an app, anything you do with it will feel productive but it’s not pushing you forward in any way and you’re really just wasting time that’s masqueraded in a productive fashion.

Stop being productive for the sake of being productive.

It’s like going to the gym for the sake of knowing that you need to be there to be healthy. When you have no specific outcome or goal to shoot for, your time at the gym is never going to be as effective as it should be. Compare that to having a crystal clear goal of losing 10 pounds within 2 months before your wedding. Are you still going to be messing around? I don’t think so.

That’s why you should never just install the newest apps unless you have a very clear purpose for it. Just let it be out there and move on getting stuff done. Especially when you have something working already.

Every week I get companies emailing me about their latest todo list app and wanting a review. My default response? “Sorry, I have no time. I already have OmniFocus and it works just fine.” Why would I waste my time when OmniFocus does 95% of what I need? The newer app might look better. It might be faster. It might be this, or that, but what I have right now is working perfectly fine and I can continue doing my most important tasks.

So stop fiddling with apps. It’s just a waste of time. If you’re in a phase right now where you aren’t sure what your systems are and what apps to use, find someone you respect and copy what they use. At least you know it’s good and you’ll save yourself a lot of time. Here’s our list of recommendations:

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Posted by Melissa  | November 12, 2015 at 11:05AM | Reply

As a college student on an obvious budget it took me a few months to decide to use Omnifocus (since I read your site, of course) but I’m so glad I did. I also use Drafts because of AE. Your app recommendations are always on point.

I used to have an app called “Apps Gone Free” on my iPhone (paid apps that are temporarily free). Which seemed great, in theory, because I could download an app for free, uninstall, and have it on my account for free if I ever wanted to use it. But how many of those apps did I actually end up using? Not many.

The ones I do use that I got for free I’m glad I did, but those apps tend to be very cheap anyway. If I’m really going to use it, I’m not opposed to buying an app. Not anymore anyway. So I can attest to the fact that it’s more worth it to occasionally buy new apps that would be useful rather than stocking up on paid apps gone free.

The opportunity cost does not outweigh the monetary cost, honestly.

Posted by Perry  | November 6, 2013 at 12:28PM | Reply

I”m totally guilty of this.

On the other hand, I’ve been considering moving to Omnifocus since I read about it here. Not sure what the advice would be to “fiddle” with omnifocus to see if it suits my needs, or to keep chugging along with the variety of apps and systems that are already implemented.

Posted by Daniel  | November 9, 2013 at 1:57PM

This is just my two cents, but you should only move towards a new system 1) if your current system is inadequate, or 2) if your current system is inordinately time consuming.

Do systems that you have already implemented allow you to get everything done? If yes, stick with them. If you find that you are missing deadlines and forgetting stuff–and this is your app’s fault, not your fault–then move Omnifocus.

Do your current systems take a lot of time to maintain (e.g. you’re still doing GTD on index cards). If yes, move to Omnifocus, if not, stick with what you have.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | November 12, 2013 at 1:48PM

100% on the money.

Posted by Wynxz  | November 6, 2013 at 8:51AM | Reply

Totally agree.
I used to be that kind of persons who wanders from apps to apps and it did kill a lot of time.

Helpful tips here:
Make ur requirements for what u want. Find the apps that are right for u not the best ones. Stick with them for at least a year. Review ur system whether it needs any improvement. If needed, study the present apps if they can be tweaked to meet ur needs otherwise search for new apps. If not, stick with good old apps.


Posted by Oliver  | November 5, 2013 at 12:42AM | Reply

Guilty! ;-) I moved back to a simple paper journal and I haven’t looked back since. I stopped fiddling and playing and moving my stuff between apps and I can switch off my mac and phone and reflect and plan quietly on paper.

Posted by Janel Torkington  | November 27, 2013 at 6:43AM

Ditto. Before beginning any organizational task on a device, I make a point of asking myself, Would this be faster to put together on basic paper? Would it lose any functionality? Will I later need to transfer it to a digital form?

Frequently, I end up with a pen in my hands.

Posted by Dave  | November 4, 2013 at 4:56PM | Reply

A timely article. I’m guilty of this particular time waster. I’ve recently settled on Things as I found Omnifocus too cumbersome for my needs. I know you guys love Omnifocus but I found the effort vs reward balance wasn’t worthwhile for me.

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