Your Apps Are Worthless

The thesis that I have to repeatedly remind myself: technology should help you. Whatever you’re using needs to make your life easier. As the saying goes: if you can’t control it, it’s only a matter of time before it controls you. And when it comes to productivity apps, everyone wants to sell me a solution even though their solutions end up being problems in and of themselves.

I have never had a knack for organizing anything. Or, if I manage to take the time to organize something I certainly won’t keep up with it. If I discover a new system for getting all of my laundry done in an efficient way, I will likely never use that system again. With my ADHD, I get targeted for all kinds of ads for apps that promise to help keep me organized, on track, and on task (I’m looking at you, I’ve tried them all and the worst of my issues still persist.

Of course, these are just tools. A tool is only as good as how you use it. When it comes to apps on the phone my default is always “notifications off” – not terribly useful when the app is supposed to remind me to take my vitamins or take out the trash. If it does notify, I might not see it until hours later. Things have died in my notifications bar, I refuse to hold myself liable.

It’s not just the apps – the productivity bros who want to sell me a lifestyle of streamlined existence isn’t helping. Who the hell can manage to keep a bullet journal without it going to hot hell within a few days? Is there truly value in keeping endless notes about the books one reads through – and, frankly, haven’t enough people taken notes on certain books they could all be collected into a companion guide? Isn’t this what happened with sparknotes? I’ll have to write about this more in the future, alongside my gripes about book-length explorations of ideas that could, at best, justify about three pages of text.

This anxious struggle with tech comes at me two-fold as I usually feel the need to have my work and my personal stuff separated, even though what I do for my job and what I consider “personal” usually end up being one in the same. Over the years this has resulted in numerous to-do list apps, calendars, inboxes, accounts, and whatever other junk folks want me to sign up for and buy into. And I present all of this with just a glossing over of the fact that every new app or account with a platform means a new login, a new password, and a new data source that could eventually get hacked and compromise everything.

The more technology we adopt, the more we think we can do. But is all of this collective technology really helping our brains do more? Is an app that reminds me to do something any more effective than a handful of sticky notes on the refrigerator? Furthermore, do our brains have the capacity to perform on the level that productivity apps make available?

Probably not. Because technology is still tech and our smartphones are attached to the internet and that’s a whole mess of distraction.

And while an app may automate something that opens up my time to theoretically serve more clients, my brain/ motivation/ ADHD doesn’t really want to expend that kind of energy.

In a way, NOT having all of the productivity apps and hacks may be a way for me to prevent “burning out” because I’m not trying to accomplish more than I can reasonably handle.

At this point I have to turn the question around. It’s not so much about what a certain app can do for me, but rather what do I need done, and is there something that can help me with it? I know I tend to get stuck in places where I want one app to talk to another so I can theoretically push one button and make a dozen things fall into place. This is leftover from my days as a Salesforce administrator for a team who was famously technophobic – the more I could make the software do, the more they could potentially sell.

The things I know I need:

  • A place to keep reminders for the stuff that has deadlines (and, ideally, bothers me with these reminders). Stuff like getting the dog to take her heartworm tablet or to call up CVS for a refill of the medication they never have in stock.
  • Apparently I need a calendar because time is construct we are all prisoners to.
  • A place to write, keep drafts, and store said drafts in such a way where I can routinely revisit them so they become not-drafts (and get published).
  • A thing that I can capture ideas and stuff as they come to me when I’m out walking around.
  • Photo storage and archiving.
  • Something for collecting RSS readers and saving webpages (not just bookmarks. When I find something insightful, I want to save the entire page/ text as a PDF so I can have it forever). Also, a place to store web clips and paper scans.
  • Some kind of email distribution thing. Like Mailchimp. Mostly for OutWord, but I guess for me.

The number of apps I have in play for these relatively few things is astonishing, not to mention how many of them I pay for when there is a free-ish version sitting right there in front of me.

The more apps I use, the more things I need to tend, the less energy I have to write/ read/ nap/ think/ whatever.

Think of it like “app zero.”

And it all begins with a notebook and pencil.

More to come.