There are no shortage of apps out there – and that can be a problem.
That’s because for every new app that comes out, one has the potential to usurp an app that we already own and use. Every time we add a new app to our devices, we need to spend time learning how to use it to its fullest. We also need to adjust any settings it has active by default (such as notifications and location services).
The bottom line is that every new app we download is capable of costing us more than money – these apps can cost us time.
Take Springpad for example. Touted as an alternative to Evernote, Springpad launched with much fanfare, and several folks in the productivity space started to dedicate time (and even develop products) spotlighting the app. Then in June of 2014, it shut down. It just couldn’t beat Evernote – even though it had some compelling features that Evernote didn’t offer. As the shutdown date approached, the Springpad team developed a tool that would allow its users to migrate their notes to Evernote before the shutdown. A small consolation to ardent Springpad users, but it demonstrates the fragility of an app – even one that had been around for a number of years – in the wake of the flooding of the productivity app marketplace.
Nielsen published findings regarding smartphone and app usage in July of 2014, and it illustrates how much apps have become a key part of our lives:
”New data from Nielsen shows that U.S. Android and iPhone users age 18 and over spend 65 percent more time each month using apps than they did just two years ago. In Q4 2013, they spent 30 hours, 15 minutes using apps, a full half-day more than 18 hours, 18 minutes in Q4 2011.” – Smartphones: So Many Apps, So Much Time
Those numbers are staggering. We are spending more time on apps than ever before, but are we using them as effectively as we could be? That’s the more important question – especially when you are trying to measure productivity.
Further to that, when you’re trying to improve your effectiveness with your apps, you need to be familiar with them first. And with so many apps hitting the market every day, the temptation to pick up the latest shiny new app is hard to resist. When you do grab that new app, the familiarization process begins again. Which means effectiveness drops dramatically (at least at first).
The question you need to ask yourself before downloading an app isn’t simple. “Do you really need that app?” doesn’t quite cut it because it doesn’t prompt any sort of critical thought. So if you’re struggling with excessive downloading of apps (which costs you more time than you really need to be offering) you need to tap into willpower. The four questions listed below will help you curate the apps you add to your devices and ultimately help you foster a more productive workflow.
As you’ll see, the questions form the acronym WILL, which is what you need to have in order to add the right ones and subtract the wrong ones.
- W = What: What need does it fill? Do you already have another app that covers some (or most) of what it offers? For example, if you’re already using Instapaper and have heard a lot of fanfare about Pocket, why are you going to make the shift?
- I = Integration: Does the app have the capabilities to work in conjunction with other apps, as well as with your existing workflow? Apps like Drafts 4 and CloudMagic integrate exceedingly well with other apps, as does Evernote and 1Password through browser extensions. Integration is key as you can build a solid “productivity path” with the right tools, each of which does the one thing it does very well.
- L = Leverage: Does the app help you leverage your time, as opposed to losing it over the long haul? This is the toughest question to ask yourself and get a concrete answer – unless you are honest with yourself about how well you can adapt to change and how much time you’re willing to put into making the app work for you. One of the best ways to answer this question is to read reputable blogs that can help you make an informed choice.
- L = Lasting Impact: How much of a lasting impact will the app offer? Is it positive or negative? That second question is critical. It’s one of the reasons I don’t have games on my iPad and why I limit the apps I’ve installed on my Samsung Galaxy Note 3: I want the impact of what is on those devices to work for me rather than against me.
So the next time you’re tempted by the latest app to enter the App Store or Google Play, ask yourself the questions above. Doing so might not only save you money, but a whole lot of time as well.