Technique Over Tool

I’m an unapologetic tech geek. I’m always on the lookout for new applications that make me more productive or shave off just that one second so I can strive to do more. It took me about a year to realize that all of this was just an illusion.

No single app has made me more productive, rather it’s the techniques that I apply with those apps that has made me as efficient as I am today.

This may sound like a contradictory statement from a guy who makes YouTube videos about which app you have to use, but hear me out. I always say “technique over tool” when I recommend a certain app to study with. This is because I know, from personal experience, that all these apps do is reduce the friction of applying the technique that’ll actually make you more productive.

Let’s take the example of studying. We all know that active recall and spaced repetition are the best ways to learn (proven with evidence). When I first started implementing these techniques, I was still writing out my notes by hand. I used something called the Cornell note-taking system, which is when you write out questions beside your notes so you have something to go through while revising.

Then one day, I watched a video which said that Notion was the best tool to study with. Me being me, I jumped onto the band wagon and even ended up buying a laptop just so I could use Notion (I had an iPad only workflow until then, and Notion’s iOS app wasn’t the best way back in 2019).

As you can imagine, this cycle repeated. I found myself jumping from app to app because I wanted to maximize my learning.

But then it hit me. Focusing on the tool was the worst thing that I could’ve done. I was so caught up in moving from one app to the other (and the logistics that come along with moving from one app to the other), that I had no time left to actually DO the studying that I planned to do in the first place!

We all learn from our mistakes. So from then on, I started focusing more on applying the techniques of active recall and spaced repetition, rather than looking for the app that can enable me to do that in the easiest way possible.

As a student, I can confidently say that if you use pen and paper but apply efficient study techniques, you’ll be studying much more diligently and efficiently than someone that’s trying to figure out the best app to apply those same techniques.

This dogma can be applied to every walk of life. As long as you’re performing your best, it doesn’t matter what you have. There are probably only a handful of scenarios where I believe that the tool matters more than the technique.

So the next time you try to convince yourself you need that shiny new app, ask yourself this — “do I really need the app? or can I do what I was going to do with the app with my existing system?”. If the answer’s no, I encourage you to stick with your current system. Enforce your systems and techniques, and you’ll realize you don’t need that shiny new tool.

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