Do you really need fancy productivity apps?.

June 23, 2022

4 min read

If you look at Medium, Twitter, or any other platform where many developers hang out you will see an obsession with productivity tools, apps, etc... Everybody is praising the latest shiny apps that will make you a productivity god.

Did we ever stop and asked do we really need all of these apps? I have a busy work schedule and trying to manage that and still have some quality time with my family. So I naturally tried to be as much productive as I can. I downloaded almost all the apps that are in the talks. Tried them in the belief that they will help me with all my issues with time management, not enough time, and joggling all the tasks I need to complete.

Well, I am here to report that it does not work. You actually lose a lot of time trying to use the tools.

Take Obsidian for example. In theory, it's a very cool idea. Have all the notes in one place, interconnected with links between each other. Your second digital brain. Did somebody actually manage to keep a decent size library of all their notes with the links in all the places? When I am writing down a note I actually need to know what are my other existing notes to create a link to them. That seems stupid. Like really, really stupid. The chart showing the relationship between the notes looks impressive in the demos and videos but is it useful? What do you actually gain with it? Maybe just maybe, it's all just a bunch of fluff that will get you nothing.

For me, the best solution for note-taking is basically a bunch of text files and an easy solution in full-text search in those. Wau, that sounds great and useful. What app does that? That is the beauty of this. You do not really need an app for this. It's part of your OS. You just put a bunch of text files in a folder and use Windows search or Apple Spotlight.

Sure it's low tech. Sure it does not really work on phones. Do you really need all your work notes on the go? What is all the obsession with having everything synced and on the go? Do you really need your notes on how to restart a production server when you are grocery shopping? Do you need them on your phone at all? For productivity's sake, you should not really look at your phone when you work anyway. For the notes you need to have on the go you can use your phone notes app. What kind of notes do you need on the go? Maybe a list for your shopping, some measurements, etc... The notes app on your phone is more than capable of doing that.

Another productivity giant is Notion. I never figured out what people really see on it. It's a bunch of templates for markdown files and kanban boards. Plus it's really sluggish and slow to use. Not to mention finicky. It's the most over-engineered solution for your notes and todos. What is the real need for kanban outside of some specific work use cases (and even there it's more or less questionable)? Do you really need to know that your window cleaning is not in progress? What is wrong with just a normal to-do list? If you have that many to-dos that you need to have them organized in some other way than just a plain list, you have a problem with delivering or overcommitting, not with the organization of your tasks.

I tried a lot of different to-do list apps. Some better some worse. I always came back to just writing my todos down on paper. It forces you to keep the list small and manageable. Plus you know, it feels fancy.

In the end, you use what you are comfortable with I will stick with my pile of text files, simple notes app, and paper.

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