In this industry, "Productivity" has been our god for several years. Designers new to the industry have been raised on this religion. Others have built their entire career on productivity: recycling advice, jumping from product to product, and creating countless Twitter threads and YouTube videos on the subject.
We are a generation obsessed with getting things done. How could we not be, with all the internet has to offer us? We have endless apps and tools at our disposal, free guides and workflows, tips and hacks – on top of a never-ending todo list. Thank goodness we have our high-tech tools to manage it.
So we build our gantt charts. We assign tasks. We add comments. We create workflows. We put things in folders. We assign ourselves. We assign someone else. We filter, we sort, we label, we check off tasks, we add more. We have meetings. We schedule new ones. We finish a day with an uneasy sense of satisfaction. Just look at our beautiful project management tool with all its checkmarks and comments. It feels as though we've accomplished something. But what exactly... was it?
Our tools have done us a disservice, and we've paid for them to do it.
Instead of helping us accomplish our end goal, they've become the end goal itself. We go to work, we move boxes around, reschedule events and reassign tasks in order to appease our tools. We lay sacrifices in front of them: Color-coded labeling systems. Intricate layers of folders. Charts and diagrams that put the royal family tree to shame. And the productivity gods are pleased with us. At least until tomorrow morning at 9am, when they ask us to do it all again.
We've praised the apostles of productivity on Twitter and YouTube for years. Envied their perfect workflows. Considered their tips and recommendations our bible. Many of them were getting paid to promote these tools and apps. Others did it only for the YouTube views. A majority of them, surely, believed what they were preaching. A majority of them abandoned their holy tools and moved on to another one within a week. Trying new tools is a full-time job itself.
"The reality was, I wasn't getting shit done because of these apps. I was getting it done, somehow, in spite of them."
What we've created for ourselves is a false sense of productivity. And worse, an unsettling feeling that we should be doing more, should be doing it differently, should be attending to that beautiful system we set up months ago, should have this all figured out by now.
After years of this disappointing cycle, it appears we're slowly getting fed up. Exhausted by our tools, we're turning back to the antiquated, simple systems we'd left behind. A common sticky note. A reminder emailed to ourselves. A paper todo list sitting on our desk. Slowly, we're waking up and realizing "Productivity" is not our god. At best, it's a cult.
People have asked me for years to share how I "get so much done." I've tried every productivity tool that launched over the years. Fell prey to apps and organizational systems. Went from robust project management tools to my native notes app on my computer. The reality was, I wasn't getting shit done because of these apps. I was getting it done, somehow, in spite of them.
Creating my own tool, mymind.com, was my out from the cult of Productivity. No systems, no scattered tools, no folders. Just everything in one place where I can instantly find it later. Dead simple notes, inspired by the common sticky note. Todo lists without reminders or assignments or color coded labels. While many are already disillusioned with the old way and ready for a change like I was, some people have a hard time warming up to it. We get support requests often that say something like, "I love mymind, but please add folders." It's hard to shake off a belief system you've been raised on.
Yet I believe Productivity with a capital P is soon to be a distant memory.
Instead of worshiping our tools, we're going back to our tools serving us.