by Emily Duncan
It feels like, lately, everyone has a different app or platform they want you to use. As a freelancer, worker, or business owner, if you’re dealing with a wide variety of clients or departments, these can build up pretty quickly. All these apps are taking up space in your brain and on your devices. At least, I know that’s certainly been the case for me.
As A Freelancer
I’m on Slack, Google Docs, Trello, Skype, Skype for Business, and on and on and on. I think I’ve attended meetings on 7 or 8 different video chat platforms alone. Frankly, it can be exhausting checking all my different workspaces, remembering where I need to go and how to get on for each job, and making sure nothing falls through the cracks.
All these productivity apps are starting to feel, well, unproductive, and that’s the brand new problem that’s been showing up in workforces and human brains lately. It’s being called app fatigue– the malaise that comes with an endless slew of apps. App fatigue is the switch that’s happening among users all over. We’re switching from a general sense of excitement over a new tool – remember feeling that? – to that new sensation that says, “Why can’t we just use the old tool? I was just starting to like the old tool.”
And it’s bad for business.
The worst part emotionally is the necessity of it all – there’s a sense that you need this new app to stay up on what’s going on with your projects or teams, when in fact, it’s slowing you down. (This is not to mention all the apps you might have for fun. We’re just talking business right now, but if I get one more push notification from Words with Friends…)
The worst part, from a business standpoint? All these apps actually are slowing you down.
Here are the hidden problems of too many apps:
You’re all spread out.
With documents and conversations and project management hiding in different electronic cubbies, your information is being separated out across platforms. This means, when you need something, you may have to check every platform you’re working on before you find it. And some of the tools out there are designed for ease of use for their primary function but aren’t so easy to use when you need something else.
For example, people chat but they also share documents on Slack. But if you need a document on the free version of the platform, it’s a real pain in the patoot to find it. And most teams are still also separately using email and other tools to communicate. I have jobs where I have to look through my texts, emails, chat channels, Google Drive, and Facebook messages before I can be sure I haven’t missed something. And, if you’re a freelancer like me, you might be doing that several times a day for a variety of jobs. Even office workers, studies say, whose work is typically focused on one or two primary jobs, spend around 9 hours a week just looking for documents, emails, and other content.
You’re always available.
With all these apps moving into your phone, you’re suddenly even more available to your bosses than before. You either risk missing something by turning off notifications or make yourself constantly available. While, before the last few years, a boss would email at night to your work account or text only in an absolute emergency, suddenly you’re available the way you would be by text but under the guise of a working app. This sense of ‘always being on’ contributes to user burnout on apps and worker burnout in jobs.
Your information is less secure.
Beyond all that, having your work and documents spread across a million different accounts puts that information more at risk. This is especially true for those with small IT departments and freelancers who don’t have an IT team to make sure they’re up to date and their content is secure.
Not to mention, it’s flippin’ annoying. All the notifications interrupting your work can feel grating and keep you from getting into a groove. And who wants that?
So, what’s the solution?
Well, you can’t very well just say no to clients who want to use a particular system, but there are things you can do to lessen the dings and bleeps and related potential troubles.
Solving the app problem tip #1: Organization is king
Combat the feeling that you can’t get a handle on everything that’s happening with thorough to-do lists for each job or project. Making sure you have one dedicated place to track tasks and information for each chunk of work will help you feel like you can see the big picture, even when the information feels muddy and spread out.
Solving the app problem tip #2: Press the mute button
Use distraction-free apps like Focus Writer and turn off desktop notifications (not just when you’re screen-sharing, though you should do that too.) There is a bundle of apps out there to tell you when you’ve been on Facebook too long and things like that – though I suspect another app might not do the trick here. Instead, go into your device’s settings and turn off push notifications, and just keep diligent track of your spaces. When you log on for a job, check everything you need to check, know when the pigeon discard might hit the fan and plan accordingly for high-stress periods, and remember that your job does not equal your whole life.
Solving the app problem tip #3: Simplify
If you’re going to have to use all these collaboration tools (and it looks like you will), take the time to get yourself set-up with a dashboard that integrates tools or, better yet, move new gigs and your own work onto a collaboration platform like Zillable that has all the tools you’ll need to minimize separate apps. A good collaboration platform has chat, project management boards, video chat, and document storage and organization. I like Zillable because it even lets you integrate it with your email so you can forward emails into it, knocking off even one more place you might need to look when trying to get your work done. That way, you can sit down and get straight to work.
Use these tips and you just might be able to stop feeling less, “AAH!” and more, “ahhh,” with your apps. Think less busy work, more productivity – if you want it. And if not? Just a little more zen in your downtime, which I think we all deserve.
Do you find that you’re constantly on green due to the number of work apps on your phone? Tell us your story below!
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