Did you set goals for yourself this year? As we head into the final third of the year, how are you tracking towards them? Maybe it’s going well, in which case, well done! I think most people probably can’t say the same, so they might find themselves second-guessing their tools. Should they instead try out that fancy new productivity app? Chances are it won’t make much of a difference. However, there are some steps you can take to improve your productivity without forking out money for the next app you’re going to ignore.

The problem with productivity tools

The global productivity management software market size is expected to reach USD 102.98 billion by 2027, according to a report by Grand View Research, Inc., expanding at a CAGR of 13.4% over the forecast period.

This rapid growth in the market isn’t necessarily due to our need for newer or better tools. The problem is that most people expect a silver bullet. They want a new and exciting tool that will be the end to their procrastination and the start of a better version of themselves. They tinker with a tool for a bit, find out that it doesn’t magically make them productive, and then jump on to the next one.

The problem with productivity tools is that they’re not treated as tools. Tools are meant to support an existing workflow management process. Without an existing process, tools are not going to make much of a difference.

So if tools aren’t the answer, how do we focus on what really matters?

Turning your focus to systems instead

The truth is that the onus will always be on you to better yourself. No tool is going to take that responsibility away from you entirely. However, the difficulty of this process can vary wildly depending on how you approach it.

I recently wrote a blog post outlining how a goal is not a plan and how important it is to have a system to back up your goals. When you have these systems they can inform which productivity tools you end up using to help achieve your goals. For example, this is how I’ve been managing my personal goals at this stage:

1. Be specific

We often hesitate to do something when there’s uncertainty involved. A lot of people set goals that are too vague. I eliminate guesswork by being specific in terms of the goals I want to achieve and how I’m going to achieve them.

2. Divide & conquer

I divide my time up into years, quarters, months, weeks, and days and place those goals in the appropriate bracket so I know when I aim to achieve them.

3. Consistency is key

I follow a rigorous process of planning and reviewing every single stage I mentioned above. Every morning I plan the day, and every evening I review it. Every Sunday I review the week and plan the next, etc.

As for the tools I use to achieve the above, I use Notion and TickTick. Notion is good for keeping track of my overarching goals and I use TickTick for the atomic actions that progress me towards reaching them.

Conclusion / TL;DR

Spending money on yet another productivity tool isn’t going to magically make you more productive. Productivity software isn’t a silver bullet, the responsibility remains on you to achieve the goals you set out for yourself. There are plenty of productivity systems available to try out or you can come up with your own way.

Find what works for you, let this inform what tools you use, and then stick to your guns. If you find yourself straying from the plan, review your system and correct your trajectory. Good luck!