Weekly Poll: Does Trying Out New Apps Kill Productivity?

I’ve read a few interesting articles this week about whether apps that help you achieve better productivity or a “distraction free” environment are really a good thing (e.g. WriteRoom). On the face of it, this type of software does help you get more done and avoid a cluttered workflow. But is it that simple?

Another argument could be that the process of trying out all these new “productivity enhancing” applications is actually just a way of putting off work that needs to be done! Wouldn’t it be better if you just settled on a single app and got to work?

I’m really interested to hear your thoughts on this. How do you view this process of searching for and trying out new apps? Does it ultimately lead to the “ultimate” set of software for a productive workflow, or is it just another way of procrastinating?

As a side note; if you want to read something slightly more in-depth about this topic, try this recent article by Merlin Mann. Lengthy and detailed, but fascinating nonetheless.


  • http://allmymarketing.com William

    Wow, what an interesting issue!
    I recently jailbroke my Iphone and spent an entire weekend looking up apps and all the crazy mods I could do on it… only to look in the mirror at 5 am sunday morning thinking “what have I done… or not done!” – Aside from the Iphone situation, I definitely can relate to the “just settle on one and move on” argument as well.

    Only after you’ve had experience working with a particular piece of software, will you truely appreciate the benefits of it or another software. The grass always seems greener on the other side – but if you haven’t picked a side to begin with, you have no right to waste your time (and your clients’) flip floping for hours or days.

    • ChrisM

      I also recently jailbroke my phone. Why?
      1. To see that it could be done.
      2. To see what newly enabled ‘features’ could do to increase my productivity with my phone.
      3. Because I like testing new software. Jailbroken apps might not be new to the scene, but they are new to me.

      • Nathan

        “1. To see that it could be done.”

        Yes because everyone else before you can’t possibly be trusted :)

  • Kelvin

    Does reading this blog kill productivity?

  • http://trishacupra.com Trisha Cupra

    1. It’s fun and enjoyable, to the point of addiction, so it counts as a legitimate hobby.

    2. Like painting a masterpiece, you need to know when it’s time to stop. When you find something that covers your criteria of what you need the app to do, you can stop and settle in with it.

    3. Continual improvement is a must, so if you find something that could make it easier/faster for you to get things done, you should give it a go.

    4. Sometimes there is that one elusive feature you need in an app, and it feels like searching for the Holy Grail. When you do find it, it’s a relief and you end the search.

    5. If you use an app daily, if it doesn’t fit your personality, it can become a real pain. So it pays to try new things until you find something that fits better.

    6. A change is as good as a vacation. Variety is the spice of life. If you aren’t just procrastinating, why not mix things up a bit?

    7. If you are just procrastinating, at least it’s better than some other time-wasters.

    • http://davidappleyard.net David Appleyard

      Great points Trisha. At the end of the day, it’s probably more productive to mess around with different software than switch on a games console…

      Knowing when to stop is important. There are a few areas of my software search that I know – at least for a long time – have come to an end. It’s unlikely that anyone will release a text editor that impresses me more than TextMate, or a spreadsheet app that works smoother than Numbers.

      It’s a great feeling when you know you’ve discovered something fantastic, that will last for years to come as a default choice.

      • http://trishacupra.com Trisha Cupra

        I think continually trying to do things better is preferable to being one of those ‘normal’ people who are still happily using, say, IE6 because it never occurred to them that there may be a better alternative out there. ;-)

  • David Ferguson

    I think it depends on whether or not you are actually trying an app that will help you be more productive/efficient. If your just messing around with some new app just to do it, its definitely killing productivity. On the other hand, if it’s something that could help you out, that’s something different. You may try it for 5 minutes and end up saving 10+ minutes for the day afterward because of it.

  • DixHuit

    No put weekly polls do.

    • http://davidappleyard.net David Appleyard

      Sorry :-)

      We don’t make you vote!

  • ChrisM

    Not if you are a Software Tester – Mobile Phone junkie!

  • http://blog.inkaudio.com David O.

    That’s why I read this blog, it saves time when you let others find the most useful apps that you can try. Eliminates the need to try so many to find the right one.

  • http://joeltucker4.com Joel

    I have write room and it is a great app if you can resist the urge to close it and check your email, twitter, etc. I think its just a matter of being able to get the things out of your head that would distract you. So if you believe the app helps, it helps. But then there’s some apps that you have to take the time to figure out how to work so then it does slow down productivity.

  • James

    I think it depends on what you are trying and why. I wouldn’t mind keeping around some infrequently used stand alone apps but I would steer clear of anything that changes standard OS behavior and anything that uses private APIs and hacks. I used to try all sorts of shareware and install all sorts of add-ons, but I’ve found most of them tend to get in my way and add extra work at the end. Now I lean more toward “Less Mass.” Less software the better, and simpler the better.

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