Advertising
Advertising

Minimal vs. Maximal Productivity Tools

Minimal vs. Maximal Productivity Tools

If you aren’t new to productivity blogs, web productivity tools, and other things that have a productive spin or “GTD” in them, then you have certainly heard of the concept of being “minimalist”. The idea is using the absolute least amount of stuff to get something done or live life. Basically, all the extra stuff that you “don’t need” is just clogging up your productive nature and needs to be removed.

But, what if you want all the bells and whistles of productivity tools and the minimalist way feels somewhat restricted? This is where the idea of “maximal” productivity tools come in; tools that provide the user with a ton of functionality and settings that allows them to customize the tool in any way they see fit.

    The case for minimalist tools

    One of the largest complaints about complicated productivity tools is that they tend to get in your way rather than help you get things done. This is definitely the case with some tools that throw in every feature that comes to mind and don’t have a clear way to just “jump in” and start using the tool.

    For example, the web app Toodledo is an extremely powerful task management application (not to mention one of my favorites), but can be somewhat daunting to look at and use at first. This is because of Toodledo’s mass of user options, filters, search, etc. Contrast this with a “simpler” tool like Remember the Milk. It is obvious how to add tasks with RTM and the user interface is clean and easy on the eyes. This isn’t to say that RTM isn’t powerful, it definitely is with the addition of Smart Lists and Locations; it is saying that sometimes when giving a user too many options can confuse and distract them from actually using the tool to get things done.

    Advertising

    Minimal productivity tools have been extremely popular in the recent years because of the want of users to have something simple that gets out of the way. Some of the tools that come to mind are Simplenote, Ta-da List, SimpleGTD, pen and paper, and Remember the Milk.

    The case for “maximalist” tools

    On the opposite side of the coin, the largest complaints about simple and minimal productivity tools is that they aren’t customizable enough and they lack needed features like tagging, saved searches, different lists styles, cross-platform support, etc. Some users feel that without these enhanced set features that the productivity tools aren’t good enough.

    When Mr. Allen, the GTD guy himself, speaks of systems and productivity tools, he steals a good quote from Albert Einstein:

    “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

    This could of course back up the idea of minimalist tools, but it makes me think that it takes somewhat complicated tools to work with and help control complicated things like project planning, email handling, etc. As mentioned before, Toodledo is quite the task management application and it has a ton of functionality that you may never use. But, the idea of providing the user with extra features is appealing in that you can “grow into” a tool.

      Toodledo's complicated filters and Views

      For instance, I am currently using OmniFocus (even though it is pricey as hell) and there is a sweet feature that allows you to relate a location with a context. When you are out and about and check your iPhone for actions you could complete, you can check the location listing and OmniFocus uses your GPS to give you actions that can be finished in your vicinity. At first I thought this feature was nifty, but sort of overkill, that is until I found that I travel quite a bit during a day and can utilize my location to find tasks that can be completed around me. Try to do that with Ta-da List.

      Some of the more popular maximal productivity tools include OmniFocus, Evernote, Toodledo, Outlook, and OneNote.

      Advertising

      Minimal vs. Maximal: Fight!

      The last thing that I want to do is take one side or the other when it comes to feature-rich tools vs. simple tools. What I can do however, is make some recommendations to those out there that don’t know exactly which camp to settle down in: minimal or maximal?

      1. The best advice that I can ever give is to love the tools you use. What does it matter if there are a million settings or ten settings if you don’t love the tool that you are using?

      2. No tools will make you more productive. Just because you can make a list of actions and relate them to a project and have the system tell you what your next actions are doesn’t mean that you will actually do them. Tools don’t make you productive; you make you productive.

      3. There is no perfect tool. Trust me, I have been down the road and it is long and arduous. There is no perfect GTD tool; never will be. So stop Googling now.

      Advertising

      4. Make a list of features you need and a list of features you want in a productivity tool. Then when you are looking for a new or better tool, compare your list to the tool’s feature set. If it’s close, then you may not totally hate it.

      5. Once you find a tool that works, stick with it. If your tools are hitting the sweet spot and helping you become more productive, consider adopting them for a year so you don’t fall into the trap of changing task-managers every time you hear of a shiny new one.

      Which side of the camp do you choose when it comes to productivity tools? Do you want to keep things simple or provide yourself with a powerful set of features that are at your disposal?

      More by this author

      CM Smith

      A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

      Design Is Important: How To Fail At Blogging 7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively 6 Unexpected Ways Journaling Every Day Will Make Your Life Better Why Getting Things Done is the Best Productivity System For You How to Beat Procrastination: 29 Ways to Beat It Once and for All To Automate or not to Automate Your Personal Productivity System

      Trending in Productivity

      1 10 Best Success Books You Need to Read to Be Great at Business 2 Is Memory Enhancement Possible? 12 Ways That Actually Work 3 How to Increase Brain Power, Boost Memory and Become 10X Smarter 4 4 Self-Help Tips You’ll Want to Avoid 5 8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising
      Advertising

      Last Updated on June 13, 2019

      10 Best Success Books You Need to Read to Be Great at Business

      10 Best Success Books You Need to Read to Be Great at Business

      Take a minute and think about some of the most successful people you know.

      I’d bet they’re great with people, are super-productive, and think differently than most. After all, that’s how they got to be where they are today.

      Jealous of them? You don’t have to be.

      You can learn these same skills by studying some of the best business and success books that can help you take your game to the next level. Here’re 10 of my favorites:

      1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

        Dale Carnegie’s best-selling book that helped to launch a personal growth empire should be required reading for everyone who wants to learn how to build and nurture relationships for a lifetime.

        Read this book and you’ll learn some simple advice than can help you build popularity points within your current network and just as important, expand it to others.

        Get the book here!

        2. Focal Point by Brian Tracy

        Advertising

          Got a lot on your to-do list? Of course you do. But what separates productive people from others is their ability to focus on a singular task at a time, and getting it done before moving on to the next one.

          Sounds simple in theory, but this can be extremely difficult in practice. In Focal Point Brian Tracy offers tips to help build discipline and organization into your day so you can get more stuff done.

          Get the book here!

          3. Purple Cow by Seth Godin

            Creating a “me-too” product can be easy at the start but can doom you to business failure. That’s why marketing maverick Seth Godin recommends creating a product that is truly different from anything already available in the marketplace.

            In essence by making the product different you’ll be building the marketing into the actual product development…which just makes your actual marketing a helluva lot easier.

            Get the book here!

            4. The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz

              If you’ve struggled with procrastination or small thinking, this is the book for you. In it Schwartz offers practical advice that can help you get inspired and motivated to create a bigger life for yourself. And with it can be a more lucrative and rewarding career.

              Advertising

              Get the book here!

              5. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankel

                It can be difficult for lots of people to keep things in perspective, especially when working on high priority and urgent projects at work.

                Man’s Search for Meaning can be a life-changing book in the sense that it can open your eyes to a first-hand experience of one of the greatest atrocities in the history of mankind, while also teaching a valuable lesson about having purpose.

                Get the book here!

                6. The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

                  Solo-entrepreneurs can learn a ton from the guy who made lifestyle design popular. But guess what? The 4HWW isn’t just for guys and girls who want to start a small online business.

                  Smart moves like outsourcing, following the 80/20 rule, and automating processes should be made by entry-level workers and established executives alike.

                  Get the book here!

                  Advertising

                  7. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

                    I remember sitting on a couch and opening this book on a Saturday morning, thinking I’d get through a chapter and then get on with my day. Instead, about 12 hours later, I was finished with the book. The concepts in it were mind-blowing to me.

                    To think that thoughts can create your reality sounded a little far-fetched at first. But after going through the book and understanding that your thoughts create your beliefs, which lead to actions, which then lead to habits….well you can get where I’m going with this.

                    If you focus your thoughts on success, achieving it will be much more likely than thinking about obstacles, failures and everything else that can get in your way.

                    Get the book here!

                    8. The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard

                      If you’re going to read one management book in your life, this should be it. It’s simple. You can read it in an afternoon. And the advice works.

                      Get the book here!

                      9. The Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries

                      Advertising

                        Before you create any sort of business you’ll want to give Lean Start-Up a read through. Doing so can save you money, time and other resources you could have potentially wasted otherwise.

                        Get the book here!

                        10. The Monk and the Riddle by Randy Komisar

                          The story Randy Komisar shares in the Monk and the Riddle offers advice about not just about how you need to think when starting a new business, but also about how to build a life you’re passionate about.

                          Understanding the technical aspects of launching a start-up is great, but if you don’t have the staying power to stick with it when the going gets tough then it’s not likely to work.

                          This book can help you understand this lesson before you spend blood, sweat and tears on a project that you’re heart isn’t into.

                          Get the book here!

                          More Inspiring Books

                          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                          Read Next