Everybody wants to do more. As we normalize hustle culture, people all over the world are looking for ways to spend all of their waking hours getting things done. Naturally, there has been an onslaught of complex “productivity” tools whose shiny marketing copy promises you the moon.
Call it whatever you want — project management tools, collaboration tools, Kanban boards, scheduling applications, task management tools, or time management tools, but the bottomline remains the same — it is going to be a tool with an assortment of features, a steep learning curve, and a fat chance that you would end up abandoning it.
Do these tools really work?
Let’s find out —
Do productivity tools actually work?
Here is a short test you can run on yourself to see whether your current productivity app is helping you get more done.
To know if your productivity tool works, start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Do I feel relaxed after my days are over?
- Am I able to do what I planned to do every day?
- Do I look forward to planning my days?
- Do I end my days on time?
- Do I feel fulfilled with my progress?
If you answered each of the questions above with a no, it means the app isn’t working for you. If your answer to all the above questions is a resounding “yes”, then the productivity tool you are using is adding value to your life.
However, if your answers are “maybe”, or “sometimes”, you can run a short experiment to know for sure. Replace the tool for a week (or at least a few days) with a notepad and a pencil and answer the three questions we asked above again.
If you can replace it with a notepad and a pencil, it is not a productivity app.
Chances are, it is having a negative effect on your productivity. Let’s take a look at how.
How productivity tools decrease productivity (and how to fix it)
A productivity tool can help you in many ways — streamlining communication, making remote collaboration smoother, and simplification of process tracking are some of the undeniable advantages of using a productivity tool.
However, it also decreases your productivity at work in the following four ways.
1. Showing unnecessary information that may distract you
Consider this — you are working on a report that needs all of your attention, and is due today. Then you open up your productivity app to see if you can devote all of today to it. However, you see a big read bell against a little event marked this week —a client meeting, three days from now. You’ve been rudely interrupted by this big red bell on your calendar and it has now triggered your anxiety. Now two days would have normally been enough for you to prepare for a routine meeting, but that red bell makes you believe that it is urgent and it is important.
This has now shifted your focus from an important task at hand to something you can tend to later. Productivity apps can slow down your rate of progress by showing you information not necessarily needed at the moment.
Not only that, but it has also made it difficult for you to find information that you actually need to do your job effectively.
69% of employees reported in a survey that too many productivity apps make it time-consuming for them to find the right information.
How to solve this problem:
It will be hard to not constantly check your productivity app as you go through the day. The best solution is to hide the tasks for upcoming days so that your attention is focused on today.
Here is how Sunsama solves it for you with just one click.
When you are going through your day, all you need to do is click on “Focus” and the schedules for the remainder of your week will be hidden. Take a look.
2. Yet another app to check for updates
Let’s face it — we’re using too many apps at work and it is becoming an added chore to keep an eye on all of them. Email, team messaging tools, task management tools, Kanban boards, calendar apps, project management apps — you name it and there’s an app for it. The point is, these apps consume time that could have been spent on productive tasks.
Adding a productivity app to that list could make your day even longer. Unfortunately, productivity tools have now become yet another application that you have to update after the completion of a task.
The irony here is that updating the same thing in multiple places is not productive at all. Imagine having to maintain a checklist of apps that you need to update after you complete a task.
A 2021 survey proved this by showing that 45% of employees feel their productivity decreases while switching back and forth between multiple applications.
How to solve this problem:
The challenge here is that all these different applications are actually necessary for efficient asynchronous communication. Each of these collaboration apps serves a unique purpose which makes them hard to eliminate.
The ideal solution, in this case, is to use a productivity assistant that will get all of it in one place.
Sunsama acts as a daily planner and time management software for professionals, and offers integrations to all of the major team collaboration and task management tools. Take a look at the available integrations.
3. Don’t really help with time management
Most so-called “productivity tools” can be replaced by a notepad and a pencil.
There, we said it.
A lot of the productivity tools are fancy sticky notes where you can list your day’s tasks and tick them off as you complete them. Some of them have gone the extra mile to send you push notifications and that is as good as they can get.
Very few of them capture the real essence of productivity: completing tasks within time while not burning yourself out.
How to solve this problem:
You cannot become truly productive until you manage your time by assigning time blocks to your tasks. This will help you complete all tasks without stressing yourself out or sprinting through the day.
Sunsama helps professionals solve this problem through two features.
First, when planning your day, you can set how much time you might need to complete a particular task. By setting a deadline you make the existence of that task finite. Take a look.
Second, you can visually attest time blocks to specific tasks for faster completion. As you have already set the time you might need to complete a task, all you need to do is drag the task and drop it onto your calendar at an appropriate slot.
4. Burnout from an unrealistic workload
Burnout from overwork is becoming more prevalent.
A survey of more than 10,000 employees across eight countries concluded that 42% of employees experience burnout and imposter syndrome at the same time. Furthermore, 40% of them think that burnout is an inevitable price for success.
Read More: How Not to Burnout From Overwork: Signs and Symptoms of Overwork, What to Do About It, and How to Avoid It
A productivity app is designed to help you plan days that are easy to repeat and keep your stress levels low.
You are not using a productivity app if:
- It is leaving you exhausted at the end of each day
- You are desperately looking forward to the weekend
- It makes you hate your job
You can still continue with popular productivity and task management apps, but that will only make your days full of anxiety thinking of the next task on the list while you are working on one.
How to solve this problem:
There is no escaping the fact that some days will be hard and long but you can ensure that it doesn’t become the norm. Since 40-hour work weeks are standard, you should work no more than 8 hours per day.
High-performing professionals are at risk of burning themselves out as they forget to keep that in mind while planning their days.
Sunsama helps them by showing them a warning when they are about to overwork themselves. Take a look at what happens when the workload becomes more than eight hours a day.
If you see this message, you can remove some tasks from your day’s to-do list or defer some tasks to the next day with the click of a button.
Productivity tools can reduce your productivity by showing you unnecessary information, adding yet another app to your tech stack, not helping with time management, and burying you with work. We aren’t saying you shouldn’t use any productivity tools at all. In fact, if a pen and paper based to-do list keeps you productive, go for it. We’re just saying, don’t give in to the hype of productivity tools that are designed for complex project management, rather than daily planning.
But more than anything, we’ll leave you with a quote that sums up what we mean.
“A good tool improves the way you work. A great tool improves the way you think.” – Jeff Duntemannt
Sunsama is the right productivity tool for you if you wish to plan sustainable days that will keep you productive and healthy.
Start your 14-day free trial now.