If you’re anything like the average American smartphone owner, you use between 6 and 10 apps each week. Chances are, you’re well above average. But how many of the mobile, physical, and virtual tools you interface with actually help you get more done? Are top productivity tools secretly time-wasters in disguise?
Dr. Alexandra Samuel is a tech journalist and self-proclaimed “super adopter” who samples hundreds of apps, networks, and devices on a yearly basis. Despite her “thousand-app lifestyle,” she’s a firm believer that less is more. “For most people,” Samuel says, “the goal is to adopt the smallest number of tools necessary to work efficiently.”
Despite IT pros’ love of gadgets and apps, there’s a point where technology can distract instead of enhance (crazy, we know). Do you really need an app to blow out birthday candles for you? Or a $28.00 notebook to take notes in meetings? You may want it, but you most likely don’t need it.
In the spirit of getting more done, we’ve curated a list of four productivity tools that might actually create more work.
Phree recently raised $1,000,000 via a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign for the world’s first “unrestricted, high-resolution, write-virtually-anywhere mobile input device.” In plain English, Phree is a Bluetooth-enabled pen that allows you to scribble notes on your desk, your wall, or even your arm. OK—it’s a pen without ink.
This innovation certainly has some cool applications, especially for artists. Notes you take from anywhere can be instantly transferred to any Bluetooth-connected device. However, could it really help you get more done? We’re excited to see how this product is received in the real world, but we can’t say it’ll be more efficient than voice-to-text note recording directly into your mobile device. Either way, it’s cool, and that’s the whole point.
2. Moleskine Pro
About a year ago, the cult-favorite notebook brand Moleskine announced a new notebook designed specifically for productivity. The Mokeskine Pro offers both notebook and paper-based planner features, a blank table of contents, adhesive sticky tabs, and much more. There’s even blank sections formatted for common work-based applications, including meeting minutes and brainstorms.
Unfortunately, reverting to paper-based note taking can represent a step backward for most of us. Even if you’re dedicated enough to painstakingly fill out the table of contents in your new notebook, is it more efficient than dumping meeting agendas in your company’s cloud? Paper notes have a magical way of going missing, especially when they’re most needed. And the last thing any of us need is something else to keep track of.
An “adorable, yet creepy” robot that wants to be your best friend? With a single, giant blinking eye that rotates to maintain unbroken eye contact at all times? For some artificial intelligence (AI) enthusiasts, the Moorebot sounds like a dream come true. For the rest of us, it sounds super scary.
This robotic personal assistant won’t officially begin to ship until November—its IndieGogo campaign is still live, though it’s exceeded financial goals. For some people, a small robotic device that can respond to directions, record memos, and snap pictures could be a great acquisition. While it remains to be seen exactly how this tool could integrate into the workplace (as it’s advertised), there are a few productivity red flags. Moorebot offers zero integration with other devices, meaning you’ll need to tuck it under your arm and take it on the train to retrieve your recorded notes after you leave work.
For some people, team chat and file-sharing software are among the most important collaborative tools of the 21st century. It allows some people to achieve inbox zero on a near-regular basis. For others, chat software is a mess of distractions and a major annoyance. Chris J. Batts is one IT pro who openly loathes this innovation, stating it’s actually increased the volume of missed notifications, emails, cross-application effort, and general work in his life.
You may not be able to convince your boss to pull the plug on Slack, even if you’re in the same camp as Batts. However, if you feel like it’s a drain on your focus, you’re not alone. Some studies suggest it can take 25 minutes to resume productive work after a single interruption. If you’re stuck with real-time notifications, like the vast majority of us, the trick may be to turn down your volume, minimize the window, and check your messages on a periodic basis.
Some top productivity tools are game changers. Others could just be massive distractions disguised as innovation. While some IT pros may find that the Phree and other tools allow them to get more done than ever before, most of us are likely to discover that keeping our devices and apps to a minimum is the wisest path.