Too many apps reduce productivity

That is my summation of this article.

It explains why I have been rigorous in deleting apps and consolidating and simplifying. The fewer apps I have to get the job done the more productive I am. Fewer apps and simplified workflows equal greater productivity.


On the flip side, if your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

I think there is a place for specialization. Fewer apps means fewer tools to learn/manage, but taken to an extreme it can mean going through some odd gymnastics trying to get an app to do something it’s not really designed for.

The tricky bit is striking a balance that accounts for the additional overhead of adding an additional app as well as the benefit of using a tool more suited to the job you’re trying to do.


Corollaries for personal productivity include making do with imperfect options, to stop bouncing from one app to the next to find the One Perfect App, to stop expecting to find one app to do everything (which means sometimes using more than one app), and to stop tweakingtweakingtweaking automations/expansions that you’re bound to forget if you go away for a week’s vacation.

But that would kill off a whole category of productivity experts and be a killjoy to the tweaktweaktweakers.


I agree with everything said so far (give or take)… I experienced it for myself to fall into the “new-and-shiny-gear-trap” and wishing to use an app only for the sake of using it. I purchased Devonthink years ago because everybody talked about it and it looked so perfect for a “super productive guy like me” (:upside_down_face:)… took me several years to realize that it doesn’t meet my needs. I use my iPad all the time and DT is very limited on the iPad… still, I tried to talk myself into using/liking it. Now I’m back to folders in iCloud and Apple Notes and it all feels way more organic and natural. However, it took me the release of DT3 and its potential cost to really reflect on my use case. I guess, sometimes good things take a while.

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I agree and also with @Wolfie. How fast do we need to go? That is a proper and fair question in the first place. In my own case I have found over the last year that the bottlenecks for me in my thinking, activity and ‘production’ if you will, are no longer at the IT level. I keep saying I think we have hit some kind of plateau? In fariness I am not doing high level data crunching and so on: so I bear that in mind. My wife is running a company more or less from her iPhone…

I also think IT is even is slowing me down some: over filing stuff, over collection of papers and citations and frankly too much time spent on IT, including some stuff totally outside my remit really. I use LaTeX but that is for purely aesthetic reasons now. I am fine with that too. I barely need a filing system really now I have mastered, after 3 years mind you, DEVONthink.


I’m reminded of Gandi’s, “There’s more to life than simply increasing its speed.”


It’s easy to fall into the trap of complex workflows, which ends up sending a person into nuke-and-pave mode once said fancy workflows start Having hiccups. I rely on OmniFocus for the big project aspects and it acts as my inbox, but iCal and a Field Notes pocket notebook run my day. A bit of digital and analog, but I try to keep it as simple as possible.


Productivity isn’t necessarily about “more”. It can be about doing the same amount of work in less time, so I have more time to spend on other things that are more important to me. It’s also about doing things better and more effectively. Having the right tool for the job can help increase the quality of the work I create.

I really like the way @mikeschmitz put it on an episode of Focused, “Be effective with the things that are most important. Be efficient with everything else.”

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One problem with the research in that article is it doesn’t account for these businesses getting busier faster than they are hiring and onboarding new employees. More complex tool usage can be an attempt to deal with that, and it’s not a knock on that situation if an organization moves through a few iterations of that situation until they arrive at the fewer, more effective tools that work for them. It doesn’t always make sense to stick to fewer tools out of principle.

The best way is the one that works best for you. That said, it’s quite amazing how little may be revealed as actually important when one stops doing things with which one is typically busy, and how much time there is to do nothing when you do, and how much doing nothing can be extremely pleasurable (and affordable).


Agree with the idea of simplicity … The article stressed difficulties in the corporate environment, my take anyway.

That’s not my situation. Never the less app creep is a persistent issue for me. Following the trail of what’s new or being directed by enthusiast reviews is one cause.

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Yup. I do everything these days in Apple Notes. This with dark mode, shortcuts and reminders has eliminated virtually all productivity apps for me. I had dozens. Now use none.. I use it for outlining too with tables and so much more.


I can’t quite do that because I have large teams and many strategic initiatives so I use Asana for my professional projects. However, I use Reminders for personal projects. I have also streamlined my apps: Ulysses for all writing that does not need to be heavily formatted (I use Pages in such situations) including draft emails that I can, like Drafts, send immediately to Apple Mail without opening the app., Apple Notes for all notes, Google Docs when collaboration is essential in a doc., Keynote for slides (but I use relatively few slides at this point in presentations–I rely much more on storytelling) DevonThink as my master repository, Safari and Apple Calendar. I very seldom use any other productivity related apps at this point. Those apps cover virtually all of my professional and personal productivity needs.

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I’m somewhat the same. I dumped so much into OF and it still is a big benefit for me. But I’ve recently found that using a simple scratch pad for the day’s tasks (as well as some things in OF) is actually kinda nice. Physically scratching things off as done is nice.


How much content do you have in Notes (# of notes, words, links etc.) & have you noticed any changes in performance as you’ve scaled up?

Few hundred. No changes and the new ocr search and folder features in iOS 13 work fine. Some notes are long too. I use shortcuts to back some of them up to text occasionally.

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I am not sure I would even put Devonthink into the category of a “productivity” app. It is a personal document database with immense capacity and search features.

If your work or project involves creating or managing information on a specialized topic approaching gigabytes in size, there is no competition to Devonthink - it is the only app on either Mac or Windows that does this task anywhere near as well as Devonthink. That said, if you work on such a large information dataset, it is unlikely you do so on an iPad, nor is it practical to use the Devonthink iPad app to sync the entirety of such a database.


These are quite a few assumptions about what one would do and not. :upside_down_face:

Yep, I agree.

I have simplified my filing system just keeping one folder per client, with all their notes, files and other bits stored ithere. I also have a “Library” folder where I keep CMS plugins, notes, etc, as well as code snippets, app manuals, images etc etc,

I basically now use Sublime Text with Codekit, (currently evaluating BBEdit 13) Drafts for quick capture, OF and mail templates Omnifocus for task management, Marked for previewing md files and Pixelmator pro (highly underrated IMO) for image editing. Everything else is just done in stock Apple apps. For the small amount of video editing I get I find Lumafusion on the iPad just about perfect.

I have definitely simplified my system, siloing information in multiple similar apps was just getting out of hand for me.

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This is a cheaper, less time consuming, and more useful hobby than, say, golf… :slight_smile: