Building Systems You Won't Use

Sep 16, 2016
Joe Buhlig
~1 min

I’m always looking for a way to automate a process or develop a structure that removes steps from a frequently repeated task. That’s to be expected since I enjoy the world of productivity and do a fair amount of development.

But building new systems to increase efficiency and accomplish new actions used to be relegated to the Mac or PC. You can write scripts and code there that do really sophisticated tasks. The only limit is your imagination and time devoted to it.

With the creation of apps such as Workflow, Launch Center Pro, and Editorial, the system building process has more or less made its way onto iOS. And I leverage these heavily in my daily iPhone use.

Although this ability comes with a plethora of benefits, it also comes with a very large downside: time consumption.

My general rule of thumb for development and systems building is “if you can think it, you can build it.” If you have an idea for a script or a new system, you can generally make it happen given enough time and resources. Yes, there are occasions that this assumption falls down, but in my experience it generally holds true.

If you combine this assumption with the flexibility, ease, and novelty of an app like Workflow, it’s easy to find yourself looking for ways to use it. “It has so much power, I should use it for ____.” And new workflows are fun to build, so you get to “work” on a new process that will help you later.

The trouble is that it’s time-consuming to build these new systems and since we utilize an app just because we can, we end up building things that serve no real purpose in our daily activities. It’s cool that you can turn a series of pictures into a GIF but how often do you need to do that? Is it really necessary to spend time building these out if you’re only going to use it a couple times, if ever?

My point is this: don’t waste time building new systems just because you can or you think there might be a use for it. Determine the need up front and then get to work. Make sure it has a necessary and legitimate use before you spend time creating it.