The Productivity App Trap

I’ve definitely felt more than a bit overwhelmed lately. I’m in a season where there are lots of areas that I’m trying to learn things that seem brand new to me in development from Objective-C to CSS to MultiMarkdown and general scripting. I’ve found lots of new resources for productivity tips and tricks and scripts, ways to tweak my workflows and be “more efficient.” There is a downside to all of this, though: my brain has felt really cluttered over the past few months.

I start digging in on a problem that leads to other things I don’t know and pretty soon I’m 3 layers deep and trying to figure out regluar expressions. That doesn’t seem like a recipe for success to me. Another thing that is problematic is my proclivity to try out new apps. My default is to at least look into most of the new apps that cross my way.

Instead of figuring out what I want my end result to be and working backwards to the apps that will help me best accomplish those things, I see how everyone else does it and lose sight of what I’m trying to do.

The newest example of this is text editors. At work, I started using a text editor for doing code on our website when I took that job over. Then I moved to Coda which is phenominal but then also wanted to start using plain text instead of Evernote for my note taking. So I started using TextMate (partly the fault of listening to Build and Analyze), and then tried both Sublime Text 2 and Chocolat before settling on Chocolat. The maddening thing is that I don’t even know all of what a full text-editor can do. I really want to learn because I’m enjoying it very much, but I also think that I’m wasting the capabilities of such a full app.

All this as a setup for a post that I loved on Michael Schechter’s wonderful A Better Mess site. The post is called The Error of The App Mentality, and part that struck me was right here:

The right applications can help you mitigate several of your own shortcomings or enhance your strengths, but their potential will only ever be realized if they are coupled with the right systems and methodologies. Sadly, finding the right tools is a process that takes time and often includes several wrong turns, but when the endgame is a unified workflow, I believe that any time wasted is time well spent.

As much as I love tinkering and using new things I often lose sight of the bigger reason of why I’m investigating any given new thing. If it’s merely because it’s new and shiny then I’m just going to muddy up the waters of reasoning in my mind. If it’s something that could tie in with my end goals and help me accomplish them, then pursuing the new thing is worthwhile.