I’m not big on apps. That may sound like an odd statement coming from a Silicon Valley techie, but it’s true. Why? It mostly comes down to two things: I only need a few apps to do my job and, beyond that, I have better things to do with my life.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking about necessities like browsing, email, messaging, contacts and calendar. We all depend on a handful of critical apps, which is why they’re usually built-in. And in my line of work, much of my computer time is spent using Microsoft Office for Mac, particularly Word and PowerPoint.
Beyond that, my usage of apps for work sort of falls off a cliff and lands in the place where productivity goes to die, social media. Granted, if you’re in the media, you’ve got to be there. But owing to an addictive personality and the need to actually earn a living and pay the bills, I severely limit my use of the online opiate of the masses.
Your key apps will obviously differ by what you do for a living, but I seriously doubt if you really need more than a handful to effectively do your job.
And since I spend long days and sometimes nights working on a computer, the last thing I want to do when I’m not working is waste my life screwing around with another gadget or software I really don’t want or need. There are exceptions, but they’re few and far between.
I enjoy competing with Scrabble’s expert computer and listening to music. It’s nice to know what the weather’s going to be like and Sunday’s NFL schedule. And when I’m stuck in traffic, the California Highway Patrol Traffic app tells me what’s going on, although it is ironic that you can get busted for actually using it that way.
And that’s about it. As for the gazillions of gaming, entertainment, health and fitness, social networking and productivity apps, I honestly and truly have no use for any of them.
Except for Scrabble and poker (with real people, mind you), I prefer games that involve running around outdoors. And I don’t need any gadgets or apps to tell me how to exercise, sleep or eat right. Honestly, nobody does and, if you do, I guarantee you’re doing it wrong. And I definitely don’t need an app to tell me how to enjoy things I love.
Case in point, there are actually apps for wine enthusiasts. What a way to screw up one of life’s great pleasures. You want to know the best way to experience wine? Spend time in wine country. Visit lots of wineries. Read books and check out ratings if you must, but what makes wine so amazing – besides the people who make it – is drinking it with good friends and good food. It’s wine. You drink it. Period.
Speaking of which, I prefer to spend my social life with real family and friends and, beyond the occasional text or email, I prefer that to be face-to-face or voice-to-voice. And get this: We even watch TV and movies together. That’s right, we really do. On the big screen in the living room, the way it’s meant to be.
Now let’s talk productivity. The personal productivity and self-improvement craze that’s swept our culture has got to be the single biggest waste of time on Earth. It doesn’t get any more ironic than that. If you want to be more productive, set goals, prioritize and focus. Quit screwing around and get to work. That’s really all there is to it.
Maybe there is something wrong with me – wait, let me rephrase that – I’m sure there’s something wrong with me, but when I look around at this great big beautiful world we live in and compare it to a tiny 5” screen, the choice is easy. I choose the world.
Look, I’ll let you all in on a little secret about life. You don’t own possessions; they own you. The fewer things you have, the fewer things you have to take care of. The less time you spend thinking and doing, the more time you spend feeling and being.
No, I’m not some sort of Buddhist monk but I didn’t just make that stuff up, either. It’s just my take on some powerful insights from Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, aka the I Ching. Technology is a wonderful thing. But as a user, you’ve got to maintain perspective and make sure you’re not the one being used.
You know the old adage that no one on their deathbed ever wished they’d spent more time at work? Instead of “at work,” substitute “online” or “using apps.” You don’t want to wake up one day and realize, too late, that you’ve squandered your one and only shot at life.