I get asked a lot what my number 1 recommendation is for a productivity app. My answer is always, “Do you really need one?”.
This might tick some of the people who make productivity apps off, but what I see happening so often is people getting sucked into wanting to have an app to solve all their problems. The goal of productivity apps are not solve your problems but to help guide you to plan the best use of your time.
Then they end up spending waaaaaay too much time working the apps and not enough time actually doing what those apps are supposed to help them to do.
In fact, apps can get in the way of helping us to be productive.
3 Ways Apps Interfere with Productivity
Awareness isn’t change – Research by Eun Kyoung Choe at Penn State suggests that while the negative feedback from some apps, such as TimeAware, can help us be more productive. However, that same negative feedback leads to higher levels of stress. We know that over time stress can lead us to be less productive.
We need to be able to take the information we learn from apps and actually apply the info to making changes in our life. If we aren’t able to get a good description of how we are using our time or we don’t pay attention to the big picture of what needs to change, the app isn’t really doing us any good.
Not letting the app help – We’ve all that alarm that goes off and we hit snooze on. Maybe you’ve used an app to get you off social media but you can easily bypass it with a couple clicks of a button. Knowing that we are wasting time is only the very beginning of changing how we actually take steps to change.
When we decide we are going to use an app we have to let it work for us. By finding ways around the app or ignoring it altogether it obviously won’t work the way it was intended. This may lead us to find another app that we also won’t use to help us.
Apps can distract – You are sitting there working and you get a notification. You get distracted for a moment and then dive back into work. But that one split second of lost focus causes you to miss a step and your whole project goes out of whack. We may not think that the distraction led to the error, but distractions are a leading cause in making mistakes.
When we get distracted by notifications and messages we are more likely to make a mistake. Research from the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance suggests that we are three times more likely to make a mistake after a notification on our cell phones – even if the phone was picked up or not. Think of all the mistakes bundled up after notifications from numerous apps. Limit the notifications you get from your apps.
If you use an app to help you get more done, don’t just ignore the output. Use it to create action steps to be more productive. Turn off notifications from apps that you absolutely don’t need (text, FB messenger) and if you can’t go without notifications make sure that you are using the information they provide you.
I’m not saying that the apps in and of themselves are bad. They can be very helpful if used appropriately. But an app isn’t going to solve all your problems of being able to cross things off your to-do list.