Feeling Distressed? It May Be Your Productivity Apps

Trello, Asana, Todoist, Slack, Omnifocus, email—there are 101 productivity apps out there promising you greater productivity and organization. These apps aren’t bad, but more often than not, we use them in a way that compounds the problem instead of helping. 

Why? Well, does the following sound familiar? I’m sure you can relate.

To figure out what to do today, you check in with your calendar. And then your email inbox. And Slack. And Monday.com for the work stuff. And then Todoist for the personal stuff. Maybe a bullet journal, a paper planner, and/or a paper to-do list to top it off. By the time you’re done scanning all the things, you need to check email and Slack again for updates. 

Daily Mom Parent Portal Productivity Apps
Read More: Coming Soon to an App Store Near You: Organized Chaos

Ping-ponging between all of these productivity apps is time-consuming. It also muddies up your clarity about what actually is on your plate, taxing your brain to figure out how it all fits together and what is the true priority of the to-dos across these platforms. As a result, you live in a constant state of confusion, stress that something will fall through the cracks, and worry that you won’t be able to get it all done. 

It’s maddening and exhausting. In short, these productivity apps are compounding your overwhelm.

That’s why simplicity is queen when it comes to productivity. Simplicity allows you to have a clear view of everything on your plate, a clear understanding of how you’ll get it all done over time, and a better understanding of what to prioritize.

Here’s why overcomplicated systems break down and how to resolve the issue with a simpler approach. 

The freak out over the red sea of overdues

How many times have you spent (too much) time learning about and perfectly setting up productivity apps like Todoist or Monday.com only to forget about it for a couple of days, suddenly remember it, open it up, and have that warm flush go throughout your body, the back of your neck prick, and your chest tighten because you’re confronted with a red sea of OVERDUEs? 

First, let me say—this is common. In our culture of “more is better” and a strong preference for the quick fix, we’re all looking for the magic productivity app that’ll solve all our productivity challenges – and, gosh dangit, we’ll keep adding apps to the system until we find it! And then, because we’re managing multiple apps, we understandably forget about one of them. 

If you’ve gone through the above, you’re not alone. There’s nothing wrong with you. In fact, if you’ve been struggling to manage everything on your plate, causing you guilt or shame, it’s time to let that go. No one taught us how to do this. Whether you’ve relied on your brain to hold all of the details, projects, and to-dos or you have an overcomplicated system, these are system failures – not character flaws. When you can let go of those self-judging feelings, it makes implementing a simpler system much easier and it can help you get more control over how you operate

Now, that we’ve addressed that, let’s get to the part where you learn how to simplify. 

Simplifying your productivity apps system to actually address your productivity needs

In order for you to be productive, end the negative time management cycles you’ve been experiencing, and actually be able to take a break, you need to understand two things: how your time operates and how you operate within your time. 

First, let’s get really clear on this point:

Everything comes back to time. Every task scattered across your email, Slack, Todoist, Monday.com, and on those paper to-do lists—they all require time and they all draw on the same bank of time: your awake hours.

To give you clarity on how all those tasks can get done and what to prioritize, we need to understand if and how they can all get done within your awake hours. We need to understand when we’ll do each task, how long each will take, and whether they fit with everything else you have going on that day/week/month. Your productivity apps may be the culprit here.

Daily Mom Parent Portal Productivity Apps

This is where most productivity apps fail. They don’t help you truly understand what day and time you’ll do each task or how long each will take you. Moreover, because they prevent you from having a central place to see every task on your plate in one view (personal and professional), they don’t help you understand how the tasks interact with the to-do’s and activities housed in other platforms. 

But, you know what does allow this? A simple digital calendar. While it’s not as sexy as a lot of apps (not a ton of bells and whistles), a digital calendar is the best tool out there to let you see all of the professional and personal events, tasks, and activities on your plate in one place. It helps you understand when you’ll turn to each task, protect time for how long each task will take, and see if and how all the tasks/activities fit together within your awake hours. Simple elegance, my friend.

In addition, as mentioned above, we not only want to figure out how all these tasks fit within your time. We also need to figure out how you operate within your time. Your productivity system isn’t just about cramming tasks into time. It’s about mastering your flow of energy

This comes down to understanding your energy: how your energy functions throughout your day and how you feel after doing particular tasks. For example, do you get into the flow of work better from 9-11 a.m. or 1-4 p.m.? If you have a big presentation at the beginning of your day that eats up your energy, what tasks should you schedule for the afternoon that don’t require you to think as hard or talk as much?

Productivity apps don’t help you plan for these energy ebbs and flows. But because a digital calendar helps you tie tasks to specific windows of time and see how all the activities and tasks interact, it can plan for your energy spend.

Read More: New Hybrid Work Products Make You More Productive at Home and in the Office

The Takeaways: Productivity apps are not the be-all, end-all

When it comes to productivity, simplicity is queen. If you can, ditch as many productivity apps as possible and instead use your digital calendar to manage it all. This will allow you to see all of your tasks and activities together in one place, protect time for all of them, and see how they interact with each other. This increased clarity around what’s on your plate and how it’ll all get done will greatly reduce your stress. 

If you can’t ditch some of your productivity apps, like email and company-used project management tools, bridge the tasks that live in those systems to your calendar. And no, this doesn’t just mean importing the project management tool’s deadlines into your calendar. While deadlines are important, protecting the time for when you’ll actually do the work to hit those deadlines is critical.

Daily Mom Parent Portal Productivity Apps

For example, remind yourself to once a week (or a day, if necessary) to go into the company-used project management tool to check for updates and assign time in your calendar to when you’ll actually do the work. Not only does this prevent you from going days without checking the system (goodbye, panic-inducing red sea of overdues), but it also will help you get clear on when you’re actually going to do all of those tasks. This will up your clarity and reduce your stress. 

All in all, take advantage of the beautiful simplicity of a digital calendar to eliminate the time-consuming hodge-podge of apps to get a better understanding of how you’ll get it all done over time.

Productivity apps are not the be-all, end-all. Try 13 Tips for Planning An Awesome Vacation with Grandparents instead.



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Distressed It May Be Your Productivity Apps

Photo credits: Elisa Ventur |Patrick Perkins | Thiago Cerqueira

Kelly Nolan
Kelly Nolan
I’m Kelly Nolan, an attorney-turned-time management strategist and mom. Using realistic time management strategies, I help modern working women (especially moms) manage everything on their plate with less stress and more calm clarity.

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