Are Productivity Tools Making You Less Productive?

Updated: 25 Sep, 2014 | Eric Taussig

There are only 24 hours in a day, yet everyone seems to be trying to do more in less time. As we grow more dependent on technology, we’re continuously searching for the next best app or tool to boost our productivity and make our lives easier. But do all these tools really make you more efficient and effective? Or do they serve as just one more thing getting in the way of becoming more productive?

Let’s explore how too many tools can turn a planned productive day into fruitless time wasted.

1. More tools may mean more distractions - When you’re in the groove, the zone or the flow of work and you suddenly hear a notification urging you to open an app to check a message or view an update, it becomes very difficult for you to jump right back into that state of flow and get things done. If tools are more likely to distract you from the more important tasks that you've set for yourself, you have to question whether they truly contribute to improving your work or are simply wasting your time. Evaluate the tools you have and uninstall or temporarily block those that tend to be counterproductive.

2. Some tools may require a learning curve – A new tool that you're just getting acclimated to can become a huge time suck, especially for more complex applications that have a different user interface than you’re used to. You may end up spending more time and energy learning how to use a new software than actually getting something done with it.

3. No tool is perfect – If you’re on the hunt for that one perfect tool that will change the way you work forever, it probably doesn’t exist. This quest may be long and arduous, and your time would be better spent on completing a task using the current tools you have and are familiar with. Trying out a number of different tools when you've already found one that works for you may be a waste of time because of the great effort you put into searching the web and reading reviews on the latest technology. What's more, downloading all these tools takes up storage space and may even cost a few bucks to get your hands on.

If you find yourself adopting new tools on a regular basis rather than bending your current tools to better support your workflow, you likely are caught in a cycle of unfulfilled productivity promises. The key is picking a few tools that really work for you and managing how you use them. Ultimately, you must have a single-minded focus on the tasks you have to complete and anything that distracts from that needs to go. Whenever you’re thinking of getting a new tool for the sake of trying the latest craze, be sure to first evaluate the tools you have and establish a good reason why you need to improve upon them, and then proceed with caution.

The one caveat here is if you simply enjoy the process of trying new tools. In this case, go ahead and try whatever tools look interesting when they come to your attention. But do this only during what might otherwise be your television time and consider it infotainment analogous to watching the Cooking Channel. It will be more interesting and informative than “vegging” on banal sitcoms, but it is unlikely to make you any more productive.


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