New isn’t necessarily better, it is only new – Path Less Pedaled
So Bear 2.0 is out, and I’m not trying to say it’s a bad application. If it works for you…use it and don’t worry about what other people say about any other tool. Keep taking notes in the app that works for you.
But prompted by a conversation on Mastodon about changing tools, let’s dive more into that idea. People come up with reasons to justify changing tools, but I think they’re almost always terrible.
The biggest problem with changing tools is that it feels like progress. You suddenly feel like you’re getting something done, but you’re not. You’re merely shuffling deck chairs, but it feels like you’re making progress.
You’re Not the Exception
Oh, but your current tool doesn’t work for you and you’re not taking notes or writing like you want to. You’re the exception.
But everyone is the exception. When people hear that using a Credit Card means you spend around 18% more than using cash, they say they’re the exception. My friend told me that 10 years ago and I was willing to believe him since he saved 60% of his salary monthly. But then he tried it and saved $1000/month for 3 months and stopped using his card for any purchase where cash could be spent instead.
In almost every case, the problem is your system. Good systems outlive tools and new a new app is not a magic bullet for productivity. I’ve used essentially the same task system for both digital tools and analogue tools for around 5-years. The only thing that changed was the medium that stored the tasks.
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I’ve used pretty much the same note system across a few note tools because the system works for me.
I haven’t coached anyone who truly had an issue with their note tool. They all had issues with their system. They figured that a new note tool would suddenly have them spending hours in thought, but that didn’t happen. After the initial rush gained from a new tool, they went back to barely making any progress.
But When Can You Change
A good time to change your tooling is when you have a decent change in your work. I recently started using Linux for a bunch of my work and that meant Things 3 was no longer a viable task manager and TickTick stepped in to replace it. The system stayed the same, but I found a tool that worked well and was available on all the platforms I’m now using.
A good time to change is when you find an insurmountable problem with your current tool that prevents you from doing your work. Even then, a new tool will have issues that you don’t see at first in the honeymoon phase but will crop up to frustrate you later.
If you’re looking for a new tool, it should solve existing problems. Sit down for a few weeks and write down the big problems with your tool. Not the minor annoyances like keyboard commands you don’t like, but things that prevent you from doing your work. At one point I used my iPad for lots of content and Obsidian wasn’t available, which prevented me from working and was a key factor in moving to Craft.
Then give yourself two weeks to test out new tools and make a decision. If you need a week of research to figure out what tool might be an option fine. Head to YouTube and search for a bunch of reviews of tools to watch while you’re doing dishes. Get a shortlist, and then you have two weeks. Don’t spend any more time than this, because it’s time you’re not making notes or doing whatever project you should be doing.
Take your list of big issues and compare that to the tools you have as options. Your goal is to eliminate tools quickly so that you have a very short list of options to actually install and try. You have a week to try tools, then make a decision and don’t look back for at least a year.
I do this every few years for stuff like my billing tool and for around 5 years I still stick with Harvest. There are things I don’t like about it, but overall it’s the best option as it has the most features that work for me with the least annoyances. I usually get through the options in a few days and realize that they’re not going to solve any issues without creating bigger ones of their own.
Even Better, Refine Your System
Instead of looking at a new tool, spend time optimizing your system so that you have more time to work on your ideas and notes. Make sure that you write a lot1. Writing productively isn’t a gift, it’s a skill2 you build through hard work.
Instead of looking for a new tool, take your list of issues and look at the workflows others use to mitigate the same types of problems. But don’t spend all your time doing that. Nothing will ever be perfect, read more, write more, think more.