The Novelty Effect Explains Why A New App Makes You More Productive

The Novelty Effect Explains Why a New App Makes You More Productive

Let's say you get a new app. For the first couple of weeks, that app seriously boosts your productivity. You like using it. You have fun using it. You make all kinds of great things. But you stop using it over time. Psychologists call this the novelty effect. Although it sounds like a negative, writer Clive Thompson explains why it's useful.

The novelty effect is pretty simple: When we're exposed to a new system or environment, we get a short term performance boost. We've all been there. As stupid as it is, a new calendar app might get us excited to organise our calendars again, or a new notes app might invigorate our writing. Thompson explains why this isn't a bad thing:

But when it comes to technologies we use for thinking, socializing, creating, or just plain doing? For experiencing the world?

In those cases, the novelty effect isn't an illusion. We often really do experience a fun little jolt to our everyday behaviour. The novelty effect in high-tech tools is, I'd argue, often delightful and good...

Calendars and productivity apps have the same effect, as many people I've interviewed have told me. They learn about some new to-do app on Lifehacker, give it a whirl, and boom: They become much more organised  --  for weeks, and if they're lucky, for months. The new way of viewing their tasks seems to sharpen their focus (or perhaps their desire to focus) on work. But after the new app stops feeling unusual and fresh, the focus goes away, the tasks pile up, and disorganization creeps back in.

The point is: The novelty effect isn't a sham. It's not an illusion. We really do experience genuine bursts of creativity or productivity from trying out some new tool. It's just that the burst cannot sustain itself, because novelty cannot sustain itself.

When you find a productivity system, app or tool that works for you, you should stick with it, but Thompson offers a good counterpoint that switching things up is worthwhile too. Head over to Medium for his full post.

The Novelty Effect [Medium]


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