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

The Case for One Tool

A photo of a cup of coffee, a phone, and a laptop

Productivity can sometimes degenerate into an arms race. So many of us spend time looking for that perfect tool, that perfect app. We chase the digital bunny rabbits that so many productivity gurus dangle in front of us.

In doing that, we wind up with several tools, many of which do similar things. I know a few people who use multiple to-do list apps, a pair of calendars, two or three note taking tools, and I don’t how many tools for writing.

I don’t think that’s the best approach to take. Instead, take a page from the Unix philosophy and consider using one tool for a particular task.

Why use one tool? Simplicity. With one tool, you don’t need to worry about jumping between similar applications to keep them in sync. You don’t need to worry about the cognitive overhead of trying to maintain and keep track of information in several places.

With one tool, you have a single source of truth. There’s no duplication. There’s no overlap. There’s a smaller chance that something will slip through the cracks.

When you search for that tool, make sure that there are at least web and mobile versions of it. A desktop version is a bonus. The reason for that is simple: most of us these days use multiple devices. Web, mobile, and desktop apps are our conduits for information on those devices. They offer a fairly seamless experience as you move from laptop to tablet to smartphone.

As well, try to find tools that work with the other tools you use. Let’s say you use Google Calendar. It integrates quite nicely with Google Tasks. Even if one of the tools doesn’t work with another one out of the box, you might be able to link them using a service like IFTTT.

Make sure that you can easily get your information out of the tools that you choose. The maker could discontinue the tool or go out of business. You might also decide you need to move to a tool or service that has more features (or fewer features). You definitely don’t want to lose your information.

Some people think that using one tool for one task is limiting. It isn’t. One tool lets you focus what you need to do. It lets you go back to basics. It lets you strip away all the unneeded trappings and actually get things done.

Isn’t that what choosing the right tool is all about?

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