Too Many Tools / by Joseph Palumbo

It’s difficult enough being a creative person. First you have to come up with an idea, then synthesize it, work it into a functional concept, and then you have to capture and communicate that idea to increasingly wide and diverse audience. Inertia can be a powerful opponent in the struggle for creative accomplishments. It’s easy to list a number of reasons why something is too difficult to do. But I was surprised when I hit an unlikely stumbling block recently.

Tool Paralysis.

I had too many tools, too many options to start working with and I was spending too much time figuring out which application I should use. Like, way too much time. I started making a “slidument” in PowerPoint, but when I thought about the diagrams that I wanted to add, I switched to Keynote. But then I started getting too involved with the design of the document before I had the content all sorted out, so I decided to write it all out. But then I debated writing long hand vs using a word processor. I switched to Word for a while but remembered that I know more keyboard commands for Evernote, and that could save me time in the long run. So I switched to Evernote. And on. And on.

The catch is that I had a valid reason why each application could have served my purpose, each had a strength to lend, but ultimately I needed to pick one and stick with it.

The answer, at least for me, is to consciously limit the number of “tools” that I allow myself to work with and to remind myself that its about the output, the work, not about the tools. The Internet, with all of it’s life hacking and productivity engineering, is way too good at filling up your tool box with must have apps and widgets, but not so effective at helping you get your work finished.

So what am I using now? After a lot of internal struggle I decided to, at least initially, limit myself to Microsoft Office tools. Why? While I’m a power user of the iWork suite, not everybody uses a Mac and converting Keynote files to PowerPoint for mass distribution typically leaves me with a less than presentable presentation. And if I’m not able to distribute my message to the widest audience, I’m ultimately limiting the potential effectiveness of my work before I’m finished.

It’s worth noting that the only other app that I’m still using is ByWord for my personal writing (like this blog post), simply because I love the simplicity of it.