Simpler tools. Lesser tools.

If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you know I can get nerd about productivity and tools at ends. It’s an exciting topic that has profoundly affected the way I work and live.

Over the years, however, I have also realized that productivity tools, routines, and tips can only take you so far. You’ve got to do the work to be effective at any level. And that’s when most people realize that they’ve got more tools they can handle or ever use!

I know exactly how it feels as for years, I’ve stuck with using a Mac simply because its writing apps (Ulysses, iA Writer, and other focus apps) were far too excellent compared to the options I had in Windows. I might have also used countless apps to keep track of my to-do lists, projects, journaling, ideas, and whatnot. It wasn’t until a few years back I realized I was wasting so much time and energy switching back and forth between these apps.

So, I started to declutter. Instead of having five different writing apps, I chose Scrivener (for writing books and research papers) and Microsoft Word (for everything else). I don’t experiment with to-do lists anymore; they are indispensable tools to get things done. I use Microsoft To-do for work and Evernote to keep track of my stuff and use it for journaling and research notes.

I used a similar approach to cut down on online services and subscriptions. I had about 19 of them, payable each month! That’s a lot of money for things I don’t even have the time to use. So, I cancelled most of the services and settled for the absolute essentials (10, and my family uses 3).

Was the exercise simple? Heck, no! It took me close to two weeks to evaluate each service/subscription, take notes of the actual usage, and reflect (or discuss with my family) on the value I’m getting out of them. But I felt so light after the whole exercise.

You see, right now, I have so little to get lost or distracted. My energy and focus levels are high. I’m a whole less irritated. And I might even be a whole lot richer — the nine services I cancelled now save me about $170 each month, which I now reinvest in my retirement fund.

The big idea is this — the want for shiny new tools, gadgets, or services can distract you from playing your A-game. The sooner you realize this and start proactively pruning away the non-essentials, the saner you will be now and over the long term.

Our life’s too short to be distracted with the non-essentials.

P.S. Close to 10 years back, I realized that I was spending a lot of money on self-help books, and upon closer evaluation, I realized that I was barely able to apply the principles and concepts in my life. Also, most of the ideas were repeated, repurposed, and regurgitated in different shapes and forms by the authors, so it didn’t make any sense to keep investing in so many other books when they’re all talking about the same things. That was one of the best decisions I have ever made in life.

I’m not averse to the self-help genre; I think they’re overrated and that, at times, all that pop-wisdom can get on your nerves. I still have two self-help books that I try going back to once in two years: The Laws of Success in 16 Lessons by Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich is said to be the condensed version of this book) and The 7 Habits Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

I think those two books are a must-read and should be the only self-help books on your shelf.

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