Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Thoughts About Tool Fetishism

There’s a lot of tool fetishism in the technical writing world

— Adam Hyde

And it’s not just the technical writing world, either. In the sphere of productivity, there seems to be an arms race around tools. Far too many people (and, in my opinion, one is too many) are constantly investigating new tools. Constantly twiddling and twerning the tools they have. Constantly trying to push the boundaries, or trying to make a tool do something it wasn’t designed to do.

Productivity tools are a dime a dozen (or whatever unit of currency you use) these days. But they’ve become an end in themselves, not a means to an end. That does no one, that does you, no good.

Tools can be great things. They can help you work more efficiently. They can help you stay on track. They can help stay organized. Notice I wrote can. The tools that you use — to-do lists, calendars, note taking applications, and the like — are only tools. They’re an extension of you, nothing more.

Tools don’t make you a more productive person. Tools don’t do the work for you. Tools don’t shape your information into a more usable form.

Don’t expect any tool to work miracles. A tool won’t change your life. It won’t magically turn the chaos in your world into order.

Focusing on tools for the sake of focusing on tools isn’t productive. Neither is constantly searching for the perfect tool — it doesn’t exist. Newer isn’t always better — what you already use is probably more than adequate for your needs. What some productivity guru or another recommends might not be the best choice for you.

Instead of focusing on tools, focus on what you need to do. Then, look at how the tools can help you do what you need to do. Mold your tools to your needs.

In your drive to be more productive, your tools aren’t important. They’re definitely not the most important piece of the puzzle. That most important piece of the puzzle is you. Your determination. Your focus. Your effort. Your tools support all of that. They don’t, and can’t, replace it.

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