Why the path to productivity makes me unproductive? This is my thought about tools and directions

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From Apple Reminder to Things 3, Omnifocus to 2Do, I’ve tried countless productivity software one after another and researched a lot of articles about improving efficiency. When it comes to the pursuit of productivity, I would definitely say that I love to study efficiency and try to take advantage of every feature of the software. Whenever there is a new software that interests me, even if it has a minor novelty feature that I may not be likely to use, I will still consider migrating all the data over. Slowly, I started to get caught in the conflict between tools and directions. Although I had studied countless methodologies, my perception of efficiency were still more and more radical. From the original pragmatism to the final idealism, I slowly forgot the original purpose of pursuing efficiency tools: to improve efficiency itself.


Due to the reduction of marginal benefits, I felt overwhelming while using these software. Notes fragmented into several different software, the original systematic organizational system began to become more and more complex, until the synergy of each software became worse and worse, the workflow began to break down. When the problem was discovered, I still thought the problem was the choice of software, then i insisted to look for new software to join the workflow, leading to a vicious circle in the personal software ecosystem.

The initial concept of direction

The awareness of the problem came from a reflection on the methodology. Both the efficiency methodology and the functionality of the specific software are an extremely idealized way to achieve. My perception of efficiency was from an abstract method to the software that met the requirements to achieve the methodology, and then to the specific practical use.


Such an approach is not only theoretical from the starting point, but also from the developer’s point of view through the perception of tools. Although using the software according to the developer’s logic brings a high degree of theoretical organization and maintainability, for different individuals, it may not necessarily bring higher efficiency because of the very different ways of thinking.

Change of the attitude toward efficiency

Change of the attitude toward software

During the three-year-time of deeply using efficiency software, I have learned the trade-offs of software functions and the principle of starting with the actual need. This is mainly reflected in the following areas.

Limit the amount of software

The number of software directly determines the complexity of the workflow, and indirectly determines the integrity of the entire workflow. The fewer use, the more Essential software can help establish a more organized workflow: the clear workflow is regulated and established by fewer software, and the cost of switching software and learning is less. Even through the combination of url scheme, shortcut and other advanced operations can be more integrated, unfolding here for the moment.


Build complex functions with simple functions

In the past, I always pursued “All in one”of the productivity software, which means using more complex software to reduce future shortage of functions. In the using process, it led to not only more and more bloated software, but also more and more chaotic workflow. Furthermore, the fervent pursuit of “exhaustion of all the functions” further led to the above-mentioned vicious circle. However, the use of simple functions to build complex functions, such as using the Duplicate function of Notes to simulate the Template function, not only simplifies the workflow, but most importantly, reduces the redundancy of unused functions, and simplifies the burden from the thinking level.


Change of the attitude towards methodology

Essentially, methodology itself is still a subconscious attitude towards efficiency and tools, and the tools themselves are inseparable. You can’t talk about the tool without the methodology, and you can’t talk about the methodology without the tool. Just like changes in attitude towards software mentioned above, I discovered the ability to simplify and build more advanced workflows at the level of thinking in the trade-off of software functions.

Thanks for reading! Author @Cheng Ji

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