We live in an ever changing world. Not 100% for the good, but some of the solutions being produced by the big players in the tech world are pretty impressive. And there are a lof of them, especially in the ‘3rd party’ market. Plenty to keep the likes of Apple, Microsoft and Google on their toes. I have tried many of them and wasted my time.
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE wasting time on trying a new app or solution. And now I’m in the IT Solution Training and Consultant industry, I am essentially paid to do just that. However, they weren’t my most my most effective hours. Ok, you caught me, they weren’t my most effective days.
Productivity apps can have a negative effect on our productivity…when we spend so long trying to find the right set up in order to save us time. This is why I like the all in one solutions that the ‘3 Giants’ offer. They have built an ecosystem that allows for amazing collaboration, and allows for most integration to happen like clockwork. Apple even gave it a slogan. ‘It just works’.
Until it doesn’t. These solutions require you to buy in 100%, and when you want to use a service that doesn’t integrate, you feel that you might be missing out on something another app or solution has.
A good app is an app that does what it does well and doesn’t try to be what it doesn’t need to be.
One thing I like about Microsofts offering is that where there isn’t integration, there is Flow. Microsoft Flow allows you to automate these integrations which actually save you time where you need to – which is the whole point of productivity apps; to be more productive. Spending time exploring all the possible solutions can leave no time at all to actually do the work you should be doing.
This is why I love the apps like Teams or even Slack, which pull everything together and allow processes to be automated in the same place you can have conversations about projects, access to meeting recordings and live editing of that big presentation, while in the next channel you can switch to another conversation about the other large project. All the information is in one place.
The time I ‘wasted’ I know I have gained back, probably three-fold, but I had to know when to stop tinkering and get on with putting the solution to the test.
I have put together 5 tips to helps you minimise the time spent trying to be productive, and maximise the time that you actually can be effective at work and at home. I am not here to recommend any particular solution (despite having already talked about some of my favourites), I’ll leave that to you. My point is to try and help you focus on finding the right solution for you situation.
Use apps that work together.
This one almost goes without saying, almost. There are many apps that are just beautiful because they are just pretty to use. But how does you data get in and out? How easy is it to synchronise those notes with another servicd you use, or will they still try and open up the stock email app that you never use.
Automate what you can, when you can.
There are some great automation and work flow services out here. Microsoft has Flow, Apple has Workflow, then there are other solutions such as IFTTT and Zapier that work well across most other independent platforms like Slack.
Don’t waste time.
Don’t get caught up in the productivity system so much that you don’t have time to get the work done. Sounds simple, but those of us that are perfectionists have the potential to spend all our time getting the right system to realise that there is no time to actually meet put deadlines. Limit maybe an hour a week to planning, and an hour at the end to reflect on how the week went in terms or productivity.
New apps will appear, your current solution will most likely be developed. Don’t get stuck in how you do something to find that big updates will make the app more (or sometimes less) usable. It will open up to new integrations. Pay attention to the services blogs, or road-maps. Perhaps something you are looking for is just around the corner. Or perhaps that amazing cheap/free app has just become a service you are not willing to pay for. Effectivity is the goal, not the app itself.
Learn from your experience.
Your currently level of effectivity is and has always been dependent on your own life experience. Despite most of this post promoting an open minded attitude to productivity and technology, it would be stupid to ignore the experience you have had in the past. It might be with giving an old solution a go to see if those improvements have been made, but at the same time it can be just as valuable to turn away completely and go all-in on a complete ecosystem.
I think the best apps are those that integrate with other services, and we arriving at a time when an app or solution that is serious about finding the millions of users should be opening up to as many integrations as possible. A good app is an app that does what it does well and doesn’t try to be what it doesn’t need to be.
One vital question you can ask about your current set-up. Are you spending more time making it work than you have time for? If so, it might be time to see if there is something else out there.