Review

Simpleology productivity tool – a review

Bloody hell they make it hard to start. I’d not have carried on if it hadn’t been for a promise I made to someone to try it out on my facebook AIR group! (Hello Michelle!) The problem is that there’s no way to get the free trial without going through the process of a month’s trial at the top level. That’s not a problem, except that:

  • you have to provide you debit card details in advance – which always makes me fear that their real business model is like gyms who sell too many places in January, in the knowledge that many people will drop away by the middle of February but carry on paying by direct debit, because they’ve forgotten to cancel it
  • to cancel you have to actually talk to someone. Now, setting aside the fact that I don’t like doing that, I recent the fact that there’s no automatic button.
Not the best welcome. I get where they’re coming from, but a sales pitch before I’ve even seen the software? Give me a break!
I’ve only shown the bottom third of the page here, too!

In short, it feels grubby. Given that one of the key criteria for using a productivity system is how nice it feels to use, we’re off to a bad start. Still, I persevered.

Signing up

When I bit the bullet and surrendered my charging info, I get taken straight to a sales page. A big, ugly, horribly brash sales page that just makes me regret things straight away: if this is what I’m going to be bombarded with all the time, I’m off! It feels like I’m on a first date and my partner is already asking about my underwear and how to get it off.

Next comes a ‘customisation’ page where I duly tell them I’m a business owner so they can ‘customise’ my experience. And following that comes… yes, you guessed it, another sales page. To be fair, this one has a paragraph or two of sensible advice at the top too, about the software just being a tool, not a magic bullet, but even so…

And once you’re passed the glitch (I presume it was a glitch) have having to log in again, you’re in! Yippee! Except you’re not. Now it’s a welcome video. That isn’t so bad, but as they’ve asking for a lot of my money per month the quality of the video doesn’t inspire confidence. Would it really have hurt to have a real microphone, folks?

By now I’m begging to feel that the gains in my productivity will need to be huge to justify this!

On to the training videos then, and now things are getting better! They’re tedious but workman-like and certainly give you a thorough forced-march introduction to the software. No excuses for not being able to use the software once you’ve ploughed through all this!  My real problem at this point is that any software that takes longer to learn than to use is, well… a bit of a problem for me. But I’m into investing my time, and quite a few people said it was helpful… and besides I might just be not being fair here, because I’m still so irritated about the sign up process. 🙂

So… onwards.

Oh, and for God’s sake, don’t accidentally close the videos. If you re-open them you have to start again. And given that the videos interact with you using the platform itself, it can get itself very screwed up, very quickly – and of course, there’s the need to bang your head on the desk as you have to listen to the same thing over again. (You can, at least, drag the play point forward to where you left off manually – but you can’t expect that to work.  I’m using Chrome on a Mac; it might work for other people, I guess.)


Side note: so far, on day one, any time I might have gained by using Simpleology has been more than used up dealing with the flood of spam emails they’re sending me to try and get me to download other stuff.  I hope the rest of the system isn’t as un-customer-centric!

 

Getting going

Capturing thoughts on the road is verrrrry easy. No slacking off your productivity as the App is designed to capture thoughts seamlessly.

Now, here’s where it starts to get interesting. The simple guts of Simpleology is that

  1. you use their Dreamcatcher section to capture tasks as and when they occur to you. (To help you, there’s a handy App that makes it remarkably easy to add things. There’s a bit of a delay between adding an item on my App and it appearing on the screen of my computer, but not much, and certainly not anything that’s going to affect your use of the system if you add an item to Dreamcatcher from your favourite cafe etc.)
  2. you sit down and do a very sensible, structured sequences of decisions about what to do with that list of jobs. Your options are things like the obvious Delete, Delegate, Diarise (that is, schedule it in your diary).

There’s an “expert option” but I found the step-by-step option perfectly sensible.

Once you’ve decided what you’re going to do with each task, you’re taken to the next step in the process. Firstly, for those tasks you’ve decided to Delegate, the next stage is deciding who to delegate to, and how you’re going to tell them. If they’ve got a Simplology account they get told directly. If not, you have to note it manually in whatever system you’re using (there are no integrations at this point) and you have to tell Simpleology that you’ve done that. As far as it goes it’s fine, but the overhead of recording that you’ve delegated, and then doing the delegation in your other systems is painful. With a very small team it makes sense and if you’re working on your own it’s fine though.

I’d been enjoying this element of the system so far (once I got past the hideous sign-up process) but this started me getting the jitters again. Why? Because whatever other task management system you’re using to do your Delegation will also include a way of capturing tasks in the same way as Simpleology’s Dreamcatcher does in any case. Let’s face it, Dreamcatcher is just a silly (but cute) name for a ToDo list.

The scheduling part of Simpleology’s productivity system

After delegation comes the point when you put things you’ve decided to Do into your diary. Again, the lack of integration is a PITA if you don’t have an online calendar, even if it’s electronic. Sure, you can download ICS files for when you’ve put things in your diary, but then you have to manually add them to your diary. It’s not hard, I grant you, but it’s effort. And then you have to jump through the hoop of telling Simpleology that you’ve done it.

The google calendar confirmation tab – just click save.

However, if you do have an online calendar (let’s face it, that means Google) you can put things into your diary much more easily. The integration is almost seamless: just click a few sliders to give date and time information and the confirmation option pops up in another tab. Click that you’re happy and it’s magically into google calendar!

Other systems integrate just as well, of course, so let’s not get too carried away, but it’s certainly a big plus.

Where the magic begins – apparently.

That’s not my phrase, it’s theirs. Once you’ve done your scheduling you’re into the Daily Targets section. But right now, as you can see from the screenshot, I need to go and collect the vacuum from the repair shop! 🙂

Ticking off your daily targets as done has the usual sense of achievement that any system uses. Somehow I wanted more – a fanfare, perhaps.  I know that’s silly but given that the rest of the system is, to be blunt, a computer-based, step-by-step way of doing what you don’t actually need a computer to do (because you can do it yourself with a bit of common sense and self-discipline) I kinda wanted something sexy that only the computer could do for me.

My most-used productivity tool

Instead I settled for a cup of tea.

A big cup, to be fair!

So where are we? What Simpleology offers is a structured way of collating your to-do list, doing a bit of triage, and then keeping track of how you’re doing (that latter bit very uninspiringly). For me, the magic lay not where I was told it would, but in the hand-held process of triage. Being faced with the stark choices of whether I want to defer a task, give it to someone else or put it in my diary had a lot going for it, because it helped me to become more intentional about my choices.

But… There’s a lot of other software out there that does stuff that’s very similar.

The killer question then, is whether Simpleology does what it does well enough to justify a whopping price. Now, to be fair, I’ve not gone into any of the ‘fluffy’ things that Simpleology does around the side, such as a vision board because well, life. Pinterest does that better. And cheaper. So we’re back to the question of whether the convenience of having everything in one place and having your hand held is worth the money.

There’s also a Project Management tool that looks like Asana. But Asana does it better. And free. So we’re back to the same question.

Over and over again.

 

How much does it cost?

As I write – early 2018 – the top of the products screen looks like this. The 30 day free trial automatically drops you into the Elite program but scrolling down the list of features (I’ve not shown the full page in this screen shot, just the top bit) it looks like the main difference between the levels lies in how much content you can include. 5GB is a lot of data, but the free version’s mean 1 MB isn’t. In fact I’d venture to say that a one Meg limit could make the system unusable pretty quickly.

In my circumstances, the $57 per month looks like an unrealistically high charge. It’s not worth paying that just to have a bunch of tools that I can get for free elsewhere in one place. In the time it takes me to learn Simpleology I could have learned the free alternatives, integrated them using something like IFTTT and had time to drink more tea!

That only leaves the Pro version as a viable option. $7 a month isn’t much, so maybe it’s worth a punt!

But here’s where it all goes wrong!

I’ve used the app for a bit now and I think that for most of what I said above, all I’ve done is become more convinced that my initial thoughts were right.

But (and it’s a big but) I’ve stopped using the App, mainly because I just didn’t like the attitude. It just set my teeth on edge every morning. Yes, I know, you can say I should just have sucked it up, but to be frank, if my spam filter wasn’t as good as it is, I’d have drowned under the number of emails they send me. I still like the idea but somehow it didn’t sit right with me. And then I tried to cancel… and it all went wrong!

Tumbleweed. Not the most productive response I’ve ever had 🙂

I mentioned earlier on that there’s no way to take the free trial without giving your card details. (Not nice.) What I didn’t realise then was that there’s no easy way to cancel. Yup, that’s right, there’s no ‘unjoin’ button. In fact anything to do with your account has to be done by sending them an email from a form-field page on their website.  Come on guys! What century are you in?

The first time I tried it… tumbleweed. So I tried tweeting…. tumbleweed (in fact their entire twitter stream is random broadcast bursts with no humanity behind it). So I tried again by email, this time strongly worded. And this time I did get a response, including a copy of the email they sent me the first time. I can’t say what happened to it, except that it didn’t appear in my in-box and I very carefully checked my spam folder before trying a second time. Maybe it vanished into the black hole of random emails before it got to me.

With this last bit in mind I think I have to come down (somewhat reluctantly) on the side of “don’t do it, folks”.

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