When Productivity Apps Go Wrong on callsprout.com

A productivity tool isn’t productive if all it does is show you how busy you are.

Everybody’s got a system. If you follow their advice, you will exponentially increase your productivity. Oh, yeah … and there’s an app for it, too. It turns out—according to them—that you’re going about it all wrong. If you want to do it the right way, you’ve got to throw out everything and adopt the app’s new way of approaching how to get things done.

The idea that you’re doing it all wrong is debatable. The suggestion that you can improve the way you approach productivity is a probability. There’s also an app for that. But it’s important to remember that apps are tools—not solutions. If you’re not careful, the app you’ve selected to increase your productivity can do exactly the opposite. Here’s what to watch out for:

Why productive people are seldom busy

Color coding an impossible number of tasks that must be accomplished before the end of the day isn’t going to make you more productive. Before you migrate to a new productivity app, spend some quality time using the one that shipped with you—your brain—to determine if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Here’s how highly productive people succeed.

  • They do not allow themselves to become too busy.
  • They say “no,” to tasks that will overwhelm their day.
  • They do not multitask.
  • They don’t dwell on details.

Not possible, you say? Your job is all about details? That’s often the case with highly productive people. Listen to the way they describe their days, though. You’ll find they hardly ever complain they don’t have enough time. They learned that what made them too busy was trying to measure the amount of time they spent to get things done.

So, before you download that app—start with what you must accomplish, and then be critical about how the app will help you do this. It’s not a productivity tool if it’s simply measuring time spent working on things.

Square pegs for round holes

Many productivity apps are nothing more than reminder lists on steroids. Free or paid, they present you with a multitude of depressing information about all of the things on your plate. While it’s important to know what must be accomplished today, is there really such thing as a revolutionary new way to looking at them?

There might be. So, make sure you do your research and select the app that’ll help you with perspective. Most people are appreciative of the sense of accomplishment that comes with listing everything they need to get done. They find an app for that.

The next day, it presents them with an impossible list. All those tasks won’t be accomplished. To add insult to injury, there’s the loss of several hours from the previous day that were spent inputting all those tasks. Maybe you don’t need an app that lists your tasks. Perhaps you need an app that helps you visualize the amount of time it’ll take to do the tasks.

“Productivity app” is a generic term, and it’s crucial to get past it. What specific part of productivity do you need help with? Find the app for that.


Bingo. You’ve found what looks like the perfect productivity app. Well, it’s almost perfect. It will be perfect after you’ve customized it. And the high production value video on the app’s homepage assures you that customization is the top value proposition.

Customization offers two things:

  1. Comfort
  2. Optimization

Is selecting a color appropriate to a task going to make you more productive? Will tweaking the interface to make it aesthetically pleasing help you get more things done, or just more comfortable with the app? An oyster creates a pearl because a single grain of sand gives it a slight aggravation. How much productivity will you sacrifice for the sake of comfort—and how much time gets wasted making all those tweaks?

Those questions aren’t meant to make you stop looking for productivity apps. If you find one you think will be helpful, take it for a test drive, making as little customization as possible. See if it actually optimizes your productivity first.

Nature will castigate those who don’t integrate

The cool productivity app you found would be perfect, if only you didn’t have to re-input the tasks that show up from email requests, which also really do need to show up on your calendar. Cut. Paste. Repeat.

Stop and consider how a productivity app can possibly be productive if what it’s really doing is increasing the amount of data entry required to use it. Put integration high on your list of must-haves as you search for productivity apps.

The good news is that many of the top productivity apps offer integration with the most common things you use at the office. You shouldn’t have any problem getting these apps to talk to your Outlook Calendar, for example. Otherwise, you may end up spending more time pushing tasks around instead of actually getting them done.

Which, is sort of like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Of course, communication is essential to your productivity … and we’ve, ahem, got that covered.

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