On Tools and Methods
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the different ways we approach improving ourselves, our life and how we do things, these days there are many apps that promise to help you with such tasks, some in simple ways like tracking your progress in working out and others in more complex matters like managing your personal knowledge and project management with plenty of todo apps and web apps.
What I’ve seen though is that people are confusing the Method for the Tool, These applications are only as useful as their usability may permit, and we find ourselves moulding to that application but has anyone asked “What if I want to do things my own way?” what if we need a small feature or we want to use the app in another way, here we do another jump and find another tool, maybe look up “Top X apps of 2022” and repeat this every year. We have been conditioned to seek out the newest and assume that new means better, unfortunately there’s no guarantee that the new app will address your problems with the previous one, this is because this way of going about improving our livelihood using technology is flawed, we are using tools to solve a methodology issue.
What I call a method (I’ve seen others refer to it as a framework) is a set of ideas that guide a process, a method for note-taking for example describes how one organizes their notes, a method for project management describes how we go about organizing what we should be putting our time into. A tool is merely a way of executing these methods, we often find ourselves using tools from others and thus adhering to how they think a problem should be solved, I think this in itself leads to another problem; for an app to be successful (where reach indicates success) is has to be popular to some degree, now ask yourself do you think an application meant for the masses would be able to adhere to specific methodologies? Or would it simply itself and generalize its assets to a great extent, the other option is to of course pick a niche and target their methods (e.g. GTD) but this runs into a problem in itself, what if you do not like the $popularMethodOfTheYear? I think that what can be used for everyone is meant for no one.
This isn’t always bad, when the tool allows you to wield it and change it, like Sheets in google docs to some extent, it allows you to use the spreadsheet however you want, but some applications limit your creativity and thus lock you in to use the app their way, and their way only.
My advice here is that next time you are seeking a solution, think if what you want is a tool because you have a method in mind, or a method because the problem you are encountering is new to you?