Whether it’s as simple as finally getting that Dropbox account set up for everyone on a team or as complicated as starting a completely new productivity method, the barrier of entry for getting started with a new productivity tool can be tough when you’re set it your ways. It’s not impossible to teach an old dog new tricks and with a little patience you can try a new tool without disrupting your workflow.
Finding a use for productivity apps and tools can be hard, especially when so many great options exist. In a lot of ways working new ideas into your workflow is like forming a new habit where you have to force yourself into it for a while, but the benefits certainly outweigh those uncomfortable first weeks. The first step is to vet a new tool to make sure it’s really worth your time.
The Vetting Period: The First 10 Minutes
The first ten minutes with a new app or idea is the most important. This is when you’re getting your bearings and learning what, if anything, this new tool will add to your current workflow. Ask yourself a few questions right off the bat:
Is this something I could see helping me in the long run?
Is this just a variation on a tool I already use? If so, does it offer anything new?
After 10 minutes do I understand the core functionality and purpose of this?
It might seem trite, but your initial reaction to a new tool is important. With so many options it’s easy to judge a book by its cover and make a decision as to whether it’s worth your time in the long run. After all, you can always return to it later if it improves or you think of a new use for it. Once you’ve decided it’s worth your time you can start implementing it into your workflow. Photo by Aine.
Start Small for the First Week
With a lot of tools the initial reaction is to just start dumping everything you have into it. In some cases this is fine. Smaller tools like Google Drive or Dropbox are simple to start using right away, but others, like the far more complicated Wunderkit (which we put together a full guide for) are better suited for the toe-dipping approach.
Instead of moving your entire back catalog of ideas, notes, or to-dos into a new service, start new ones and see how it works. When you import old data you’re also importing the idea of an old productivity tool attached to them. This isn’t a steadfast rule. If you play around with a new service for a day or two and you’re immediately sold on it then feel free to import away. However, as a general rule it’s easier to get a feel for a new tool if you’re using it for new ideas. Productivity blog Stepcase Lifehack recommends you concentrate on how a productivity tool supports you instead of finding ways to force it into your workflow.
Remember, the first few days with any new tool are going to be less productive for you because you’re still learning how to use it. Don’t give up for the first week unless you notice a fatal flaw in the system.
Step it Up After the First Week
After a week you should have a pretty good idea as to whether you’re going to use a new tool or not. Now the trick is to stick with it for at least 21 days so you can really integrate it into your routine and start playing around with new ideas. Working a new element into your workflow is essentially forming a new habit, which research suggest takes around 21 days to do.
Remember, productivity or not, this is supposed to be a more enjoyable experience—maybe even a little fun. So let yourself use software and webapps in ways you’re not supposed to if it fits their need. If it’s missing something you liked from your old tool, start hunting around for ways to add it in or consider emailing a developer a feature request if you think it would help more people than just you.