Stop Searching Endlessly for the Best Tools

These two features are the only ones you need.

by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)
Productivity needs the right tools, not all the tools.
by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)
Productivity needs the right tools, not all the tools.

In 1992, the United States assembled the greatest men’s basketball team the world had ever seen. Fourteen NBA players and one NCAA player set their careers aside to compete in the Olympics. We still call them The Dream Team.

Most of the teams they played knew they were going to lose and they didn’t even care. They were just thrilled to meet and play against their heroes. Each of these players was, individually, one of the greatest in the world. As a team, they were unstoppable.

In sports, there are concrete metrics we can use to compare players. Even then, we disagree about who’s the “best” player.

When it comes to the tools for your trusted system, there is no objectively “best” tool. What’s best for my system may not be the tool you need.

Fun fact: you can use a hammer to put a screw into drywall. It goes right in. It also comes right back out. That doesn’t mean that hammers are bad tools. Like any tool, they have strengths and weaknesses.

When you’re selecting tools, there are two critical features you should look for:

  1. Information should be easy to capture.
  2. Information should be easy to access.

That’s it.

If a tool is hard to use, you won’t use it. You’ll try to store it in your brain instead. You’re going to forget what you need to do, and not in the good way.

Similarly, if you can’t get information back out of your trusted system, it becomes a black hole. You can’t trust it because you can never find anything you put in it.

The best tools make it easy to capture, easy to access, and easy to integrate (or at least cooperate) with other tools.

There are lots of features out there. It’s how applications differentiate themselves. Do you need to sync via a server you control? Do you need Markdown support? Sharing with other users? Sharing with non-users?

Someone does, but not everyone. Nobody needs to check all the boxes, as much as we want to. “More features must be better!” we assume.

The truth is, more isn’t always better. Sometimes more is just more complex. And more expensive.

You’re not choosing tools because of their star power. You’re choosing them because of what they can help you accomplish.

If one of your players isn’t performing, don’t reflexively cut it from the team. That might be the right call, but the problem might be you. Are you using it correctly? Are you using it to its full potential?

If it turns out the problem is the tool (you can’t put out a fire with a spray bottle), don’t hesitate to replace it.

No two trusted systems are going to look exactly the same. A system should be designed to meet your needs—what you need it to do, where you need to use it, what you need it to look like, and even how much you need it to cost.

No matter how good a tool is for someone else, if it doesn’t meet your needs, it’s not the right tool for you. If it doesn’t play well with others, it doesn’t deserve a spot on your team.

Question: What tool are you currently evaluating? What criteria are you using? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.