Why tools don’t necessarily make you more productive

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We often seem to automatically assume that productivity tools equal productivity.

Of course some do: using Microsoft Word is a whole lot more productive than trying to use a typewriter. Sending an email is a lot more efficient than mailing a postcard.

I’ve been working in a tech-focused environment since…well, since as long as I can remember. Tools, software, programming, scripting, and plugins have been a daily part of my life since I was a lil squirt.

Either through my own desires, a company’s desires, or a client’s desires, I’ve probably gone through a thousand different productivity and communication tools. Widgets here. Plugins there. Apps here. Extensions there.

Working remotely doesn’t help this trend. As more companies are heading towards a distributed workforce, the amount of app clutter and widget bloat is skyrocketing at an exponential rate. There are apps that people hook up to their email and calendar so if they have a 30-minute meeting booked at the moment you send an email, you’ll get an auto-response saying “Sorry, I’m in a meeting for the next 27 minutes.”

The same people (I’m speaking from direct experience here) have web hooks sending data between Slack and Trello, so that if they mention something on one it auto-updates on another. They have chat bots installed all over their site that direct customer conversations over to their own personal inbox once the chat bot gets confused. They buy Tide buttons to automatically order new laundry detergent and buy smart refrigerators with screens showing expiration dates for all their items within.

That’s great and all, but it smacks of desperation.

Nobody’s – and I mean nobody’s – time is really that important.

It’s like the guy I knew who would go to Kroger’s on the way to work every morning and buy a $25 fruit tray and eat it as he worked because “fruit sugars give you more energy”.

Bacon and eggs and coffee work fine for me, but who’s counting?

The most productive people I know don’t bother about any of this. They’re organized enough to know when they need to buy more laundry detergent. No button needed. They can smell bad milk. No automatic barcode scanning needed. They remember to reply to important emails – no Zapier web hooks required – and they usually don’t forget to make an important call.

The most valuable payments and the most important projects in this world don’t happen over instant messaging or via a Chrome extension. They happen with a handshake, a few emails, a printed-out contract, and an old-fashioned phone call or two.

Productivity isn’t the issue we need fixed.

If we’re selling something important, or making something very valuable, we don’t need growth hacks or more integrations or a new Gmail plugin.

Having truly good ideas that make lots of money & create lasting value is what we should focus upon.

And then we should just do it.

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