Are you susceptible to the ‘any benefit’ trap? Something new comes along, and you can only focus on a single alluring feature, completely ignoring the trade-offs (negatives) that may come along with it.

The Any-Benefit Approach to Network Tool Selection: You’re justified in using a network tool if you can identify any possible benefit to its use, or anything you might possibly miss out on if you don’t use it. – Deep Work

In Deep Work, author Cal Newport is talking about social media sites and other network tools, but this concept doesn’t only apply to network tools and social media sites.

Personally, I fall into this mindset when I look at backpacks. I look and look for hours sometimes and analyze different bags to see if there is any-benefit to owning a new one over the six I currently own.

You do this when you read through endless reviews of software to see if there is any benefit to changing tools. Just like there is likely no benefit to changing productivity systems outside of a short-lived desire to have a better productivity practice, there is likely no net benefit to researching writing tools for days before trying something new.

If you’re not writing regularly now, you won’t get to it by purchasing a new piece of software.

If you’re not using your project management system now, you’re likely not going to use a new project management software.

Stop reading about new tools. You could be ruining your business — for these two reasons.

1. Takes up your time.

The first and most obvious reason researching new tools looking for any-benefit is a bad idea is that it takes up your time. I know when I get interested in a new bag, I’ll easily kill an entire work day looking at new options on the market and doing comparisons between them.

It doesn’t stop there, I’ll narrow it down and then over weeks spend time looking at the top 2-3 options and digging deeper into each of them. While I don’t do all of this in my office, I do waste time that I should be working on client projects.

[Tweet “Clients aren’t paying you to research; they’re paying you to work. “]

While for me it’s bags, for others it’s their productivity tools or shoes or…whatever. Your clients aren’t paying you to research — they’re paying you to write code or push pixels or write words.

Do it.

2. Makes you think you’re making progress.

While it may be obvious that my time researching backpacks is not getting work done, taking time out to look up a new project management system is a bit different.


I mean you’re going to use it for work so you need to use the best tools which is going to help you get more work done. It may be a sound theory, but that’s all it is, a theory.

If you took all that time spent searching for some new tool and channeled it into actually doing the work, you’d realize that you’re never going to make up all the time lost.

Here is where the search for any-benefit tricks you though, since it feels like progress to look for a tool. And looking for that tool is so much more exciting than doing the work you’re getting paid to do.

So you stick with searching for tools and then wonder why projects are late and clients are mad. You shouldn’t, but you do because you’ve fallen into that fool’s trap of thinking you were working on the business when you were really doing nothing more than shuffling deck chairs around.

Stop getting fooled into looking for any-benefit. Stick with the tools you have, and make yourself and your processes better. If you’re not sure how, get in touch, I’d love to help.

photo credit: s3a cc

3 responses to “How looking for benefits harms your business”

  1. Athlone Avatar

    Couldn’t agree more. I’ve researched and tried so many PM’s, support systems i.e. ticketing systems and productivity software that is wasted earning time, putting all that time together I could have earned a lot of money. I now have a very hard approach to anything in this area not only with respect to the ticket price but also the time I spend researching.

  2. Curtis McHale Avatar
    Curtis McHale

    I’ve done the same. If only we could have learned the lesson before all that time was wasted.

  3. John Locke Avatar

    I have a simple rule for this. The pain of inaction has to be greater then the benefit of seeking a new system or tool. If the benefits outweigh staying put, then it’s best to learn the new tool.

    As technologists, we have to stay up-to-date with the constantly changing environment. That’s a given. But switching from tool to tool takes a lot of time, not only to research, but to learn the uses of each tool.

    It’s hard to know if jumping ship to a new tool in your system is going to be worth it before researching. One method I use to judge whether I should check something out is how much because there is around it. If there’s talk around something, that sustains for a period of time, then it might be worth checking out. Other times, jumping on the bandwagon is a waste of time or won’t allow you to make measurable gains. (Ello,, Blab, along with million to-do and time tracking apps). But sometimes it’s difficult to know what will be a waste of time before you make that jump.