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Escaping the app-edemic”

My unhealthy obsession over apps is directly tied to my own insecurities about how much I work, how long I work, and how productive I am when I work. Over the past few years, I’ve cycled through apps at a breakneck pace, barely stopping to make the proper adjustments in my workflow to maximize their usage. There it is again, the word maximize”. My obsession with maximizing, getting every single shred of perceived value has turned what was once a novel curiosity into a destructive behavior born of my own worries. I’ve called this my self-contained app-edemic” (derived from epidemic), because of how easily I get infected” and am compelled to use new apps and platforms, all the time.

Stock app moment

Fantastical

My toxic relationship to Fantastical is one example of this behavior. I initially found this app through YouTuber Ali Abdaal, as the perfect digital companion to those who live out of their calendar (like me), and marveled at every single integration and feature that was sent my way in exchange for $5 a month.

Despite my initial enthusiasm for paying a subscription for the novelties of natural language processing, built-in todos, and many more features, I wasn’t happy. I didn’t feel like I was doing, planning for, and scheduling enough. In retrospect, it’s laughable that I was paying to struggle at what others can do 10 times more effectively than I can on a single sheet of paper. (If this sounds cynical, it’s because it is). I was using my calendar system as my todo-list in addition to being my calendar, which was unnecessarily stressing me out.

This addictive micromanaging behavior got much worse when I discovered time-blocking. While it’s a great strategy that I’ve cautiously brought back into my life, Fantastical enabled me to planning my day down to the minute. In line with my stubborn personality, my frustration mounted when I missed a deadline, or didn’t adapt to a specific change in my schedule. I didn’t schedule meals, and my breaks were unrealistically short. In hindsight, this lifestyle was comparable to adding grains of sand to a scale. Each incident or missed deadline felt trivial, but the number of times it happened was enough to change the balance. In which direction did the scales tip, you ask? They tipped towards burnout.

Burnout

Burnout sucks. It feels like holding an empty kettle over a flame— you’re wasting energy and getting nowhere, and if you hold on for too long, you’ll get a serious burn. After half a year using Fantastical, I started to notice a pattern:

  • As I would miss more deadlines, I would get increasingly frustrated.
  • As I became increasingly frustrated, my willpower and enthusiasm towards my work declined.
  • As my will to work declined, the number of deadlines I missed increased.
  • Repeat.

Parting thoughts

I repeated this cycle for a while, and after thinking through the options, I ultimately forced myself to switch back to the stock Apple Calendar and Reminders app. The stock features that I had to work with were significantly reduced, which I think significantly reduced the decision fatigue and anticipated frustration I experienced when planning my days. I think that I had to journey to the other side” of hyper complicated applications jam-packed with features to come back and appreciate the powerful simplicity of the stock app. This is a fight I’m still fighting, so stay tuned as I add more to this stock app manifesto” series.


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