Why Productivity Extensions Don’t Make You More Productive

Minute Read

In todays culture, we’re obsessed with productivity. Whether it’s getting more done or simply being more focused. It’s all about output. The less distracted we can be in a world that is constantly vying for our attention, the better.


So what is one of the most popular ways to increase our productivity? Using Productivity tools and techniques.


With techniques like the Pomodori Technique and the Getting Things Done method, there is a host of ways we can learn to be more productive throughout our lives. With this though comes distraction, an infinite amount of that.


I’m not a fan of using my MacBook for anything other than work. I compare it to the idea set forth with a multitude of studies done about using gadgets in our bed. Our bedroom should be utilized for just Sex and Sleep. Anything beyond that is going to wreak havoc on our ability to effectively sleep. This is why we need to create certain areas where only certain types of work should be performed.


So I have a fancy Gaming PC where I do all my gaming, and Media PC where I do all my web browsing and YouTube watching.


By separating the areas and devices it’s much easier to stay on track because you’re not in the situation where your brain is constantly nagging you to go do something more rewarding than working on that essay due in a few days.


Apart from that, many developers have recognized this problem and have tried to develop ways around this. We have seen an emergency of productivity tools for our computers to help block out distractions and help us remain more focused.


Let’s be honest though, we have more fun trying different tools than we do with actually using them.


There are tools like Concentrate and Vitamin-R for mac, which attempt to block websites and close distracting programs. Furthermore, we have extensions like StayFocused for Google Chrome which will limit the amount of time you can spend on a site every day. For the hardcore users out there, exists a program called Freedom for mac which will literally kill your internet connection for a specified amount of time. No amount of rebooting or uninstalling the program will fix it.


So all these neat programs seem really cool, right? After-all they stop that small little distraction or that roadblock we hit when trying to figure something out and remind us to get back on track.


The problem lies in the retention rate of these programs. While I have no data other than my own personal experience and interviews with other people to back this up. I don’t feel like these programs properly address the issue at hand.


They’re really more of a band-aid to our inattention. It’s like taking Prozac for being depressed. Sure it might work, but only as long as you use it.


Naturally, we don’t like things that restrict us, especially if we have an ability to prevent the restriction from occurring in the first place. If we are going to use a program that will block our internet access, the next time we might not use it. Or say StayFocused blocked our time on a website in a day and then we maxed it out – but we still feel like we got a lot of work done and want to gain access to the site. So then we have to disable or uninstall the program to get that access back.


Really all these programs are trying to do is simply be more or less of a mental reminder. Some developers try to make it difficult to uninstall or disable when it’s activated but that increases the likelihood the user is going to try and find a way around that limitation. Eventually, this leads to the user disabling, uninstalling and never using the app again. Inevitably this causes people to jump ship from one productivity program to the next, not realizing they simply like trying the programs and not actually doing the work.


When it comes down to it, these programs are trying to remind us that we’re off task by visiting this site or using this program. It should not be the job of the program though, to restrict us in what we can and cannot do.


If I set a focus time of 60 minutes, and 30 minutes in I open up youtube, programs should serve only to serve as a brief barrier so that we can ensure that if we decide to continue on YouTube that we’re making a conscious decision and we’re not on auto-pilot haphazardly opening it up to waste the next 2 hours.


Alternatively, I’ve found a great program called Focus for Mac which still gives you the flexibility to unblock access to a website and simply serves as a mental reminder to help you stay on track.