The New App Glut

There's a new app floating around the productivity world. It's marketed as a "note-taking tool for networked thought" that's meant to help you see the relationships among your various disparate notes.

It's called Roam Research and when I first saw it, my eyes perked up. It's like mind-mapping software and Drafts were thrown into a blender by a small, yet vocal cult of self-help-book-reading, minimalist-Mac-setup-Instagramming productivity enthusiasts.

Seriously—even the company's executives refer to Roam's users as the "#roamcult."

Then I saw the price: $165 per year.

Yikes.

So, I started looking around at alternatives. I found a free, nice-looking Mac alternative called Obsidian that did most of what Roam promised to do. Once I downloaded and installed it, I opened the app and…had no idea what to do with it.

Unlike Notion, which spoke to me immediately and gave me all kinds of ideas on how to organize my life and my writing, Obsidian left me feeling empty. I asked myself, "Do I really need another app?"

I've written six complete novels and several short stories and every time I write one, I find a new way to reinvent the wheel. I might write a draft in pencil or pen. I might use a typewriter. On rare occasions, I just dive into Scrivener and get to work. One book I might "pants" while the next one I'll outline within an inch of its life.

I'm always looking for the next big/great/easy/efficient way of getting the words on the page. But sometimes, all I need to do is remember that Scrivener isn't going to write my book for me. Notion isn't going to organize my day for me. I have to do those things and nine times out of ten, they can be accomplished using the tools I already know and love.

You don't need to join an app's "cult" to be more productive. You probably don't even need the app. Running to the store? Write your list down on a sheet of paper and tuck it into your pocket. Already write all your books in Microsoft Word without fail? Maybe you don't need Scrivener like that guy in your writing group said you did.

If you're under a deadline or struggling with procrastination/time management, then the time you spend trying to wrap your head around a new application is only going to make things worse. It can be fun to learn something new, but only when it's not going to set you back.

So, don't worry about integrating the hottest, newest services and apps into your life just yet. Embrace the ones you already use and if they're giving you problems or making your job harder, then it might be time to look for an alternative.

Otherwise, get back to work. Playtime is over.

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