It’s a sure bet that you use a variety of online services. For instance, you may use something like Dropbox to share files or Google Drive. Alternatively, you might use WordPress for some of your web activity or a bespoke content management system for others. At the same time you probably write notes on paper as well as using some online system like OneNote or Evernote.

Graphic of the word alternative

But here’s the problem. When we use a variety of systems like these our brain doesn’t really know what to do. Should you share that file using Dropbox or Google Drive? Should you write your meeting notes in a Moleskine Notebook or in Evernote? Should you start that new website in WordPress or something else?

The problem of too much choice means we keep changing our minds. It also means confusion.

If you sometimes use Dropbox to share items and sometimes Google Drive you do not subconsciously know what to do, out of habit. This means you have to make a conscious decision. That takes longer – often much longer.

It also means that you do not get to know the system as well as someone who is using it as their sole method of achieving something, whether that is blogging, sharing files, sending emails or writing notes. You have to keep learning the system each time you use it because the last time you used something else.

Use the “power of one”

The “power of one” is surprisingly quite phenomenal. If you stick to one thing – whether that is writing all your notes in a single notebook, or only using Google Drive instead of the plethora of online file sharing services, you will discover that you are more productive. This arises from better knowledge of the system and more rapid decision-making.

Imagine you take notes in different ways. You might have a notebook for meetings, an Evernote system for filing away odds and ends, as well as a set of notes for personal things in a document on Google Drive. This is not unusual. But what happens when you need to look something up to gain the details? Should you look in your notebook, on Evernote or in your Google Drive? Because you have not got everything in one place, you look in all three – wasting time and reducing psychological focus. If everything was in your Evernote system, or all on Google Drive or all in a notebook you would know exactly where to look.

The same is true for email. I know some people who claim they can separate their email into GMail for personal stuff, Outlook for business and a third system for handling marketing messages. This is wasting their time and creating subconscious psychological confusion which is hitting their productivity. What they perceive as a productive system, is actually a psychological time-waster and something that reduces their ability to think, because their mental resources end up being spent on “sorting out” their systems, and not using them.

One thing boosts productivity

Online productivity is falling. People are spending more time flitting between a variety of services, simply because there is so much choice. We do not like to feel we are missing out.

However, if you stick to just one thing – such as Dropbox for all your file sharing or Google Drive – then your subconscious knows exactly what to do. Plus as you use the system more, much of it becomes habit-forming, reducing the conscious effort you need to use the system.

The same is true for your note taking. Either use Evernote or OneNote or pen and paper for everything, but don’t mix your systems.

And when it comes to email, one system for all your messages, personal, business and marketing will actually make you more productive because of the impacts this single system has on your ability to cope.

If you want to boost your online productivity, stop using so many online services. Stick to one for each task.