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Issue #37

How Many Digital Tools Does One Human Need?

John Loeppky

January 18, 2024

A cartoon/cell-shaded image of a robot who has red, gold, and black parts. There is what looks to be a crack on the figure’s right side. There is a moon-like circle behind them sitting on a navy background.
If this were to be representative of our new overlords then at least they’d have aesthetics on their side/Garik Barseghyan from Pixabay

IRobot Vibes

As I write this, I am being the definition of a hypocrite. One of my deepest crip misgivings is the productivity content ecosystem’s reliance/obsession with tools. There are helpful resources related to tools—I’m a fan of Keep Productive and their site—but there’s a deeply medical vibe to a lot of these suggestions: buy this thing and you’ll be fixed.

I’m a hypocrite because I’m downloading Notion’s new calendar tool at the same time as I layout today’s newsletter. We could pave a Canadian province’s roads with the proverbial dust of all the tools I’ve abandoned over the years. At some point, I’ll share a list of the tools that have survived that Hunger Games-style adventure, but right now I’d like to make a slightly too controversial statement about productivity to be published late into the evening:

Tools don’t mean shit if you haven’t built the foundations for them to sit on.

Those foundations don’t have to be fully built, they can be the most barely visible vapor of an ocean for them to swim in, but if you don’t know what you’re aiming to create then no tool in the world is going to technify you out of that spiral. 

The good news, and the second controversial statement of the evening, is that cripped productivity only asks that you do two things: have some vague sense of a direction you’d like to go; and, to make even the slightest move forward, or even sideways, hell, backwards in a pinch. In the most non-medicalized sense you can imagine, any movement is good movement.

When I’ve written about the foundations (there’s that word again) of my concept of cripped productivity, I’ve said that you have to take the smallest bite. One way you can do that is to identify which apps and tools you’re using and whether they have you in a holding pattern or not. Are you using your digital calendar, your alarm system, and whatever you’re using for digital notetaking? That’s our first question. Our next question is whether you enjoy the experience when you do use them. The third is how you can improve that experience.

So, I’ll give you two examples. Am I using my journal? No. Do I enjoy using the journal when I do use it? No. Can I improve that experience? I can try a new Notion template, sure.

Now for one where I am using the tool to help my life immensely. Am I using my meeting planning tool—Calendly in my case? Yes. Do I enjoy using the tool? I cannot fathom the way I used to schedule meetings and chats Can I improve that experience? Yes, for others more than me. I can do a better job of using my Calendly to scaffold and help answer frequently asked questions about my process before we’re actually sharing space.

Today’s nudge is that you ask these three questions with one of the digital tools you’re using.

Until tomorrow,


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