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The perfect note-taking app won’t solve all your problems

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. Lately it feels like everyone is on vacation, going on vacation or recovering from vacation. If you’re one of those who’s about to go, consider upgrading your out-of-office message. Today, how to be a superorganizer, stop before you send that survey and workers are still feeling discouraged about discussing pay at work.

— Meg Morrone, senior editor (email | twitter)

It’s a mindset, bro

It’s my job to keep up with the latest tools claiming to help you reach maximum productivity. But behind the tools, productivity is about, for lack of a better term, mindset. It’s about your own behavioral psychology and motivation to do the things that need to get done.

I caught up with Dan Shipper, co-founder and CEO of media company Every and author of the “Superorganizers” newsletter. After selling his enterprise software startup Firefly in 2014, Shipper eventually decided to develop a productivity tool. But his research involved interviewing experts about their productivity stack, which turned into Superorganizers and ultimately Every.

Shipper is interested in the psychology behind productivity. He’s always been obsessed with software and trying out new tools and systems. But he realized that his obsession with productivity was really about regulating his emotions.

  • “I have this deep fear of letting things fall through the cracks,” Shipper said. “I needed to figure out ways to work around that fear.”
  • Finding the perfect to-do list or note-taking app might help mitigate that fear. But there are other ways of working through that fear, too. Therapy, for one! Shipper is also a fan of meditation. Reflecting on where your anxiety or desire to be productive comes from is an important step, he says.
  • “To some degree, software can help with it,” Shipper said. “But I think largely people don't really examine [their fears]. So they keep trying the same kinds of things over and over again without getting different results.”

There is a productivity system or set of tools out there that will help you, Shipper said. But it will most likely be very simple, and unlikely to solve all of your problems. In fact, Shipper and Every co-founder Nathan Baschez think there’s a “productivity backlash” happening right now.

  • Shipper referenced tweets poking fun at the struggles of people building ridiculously complex productivity stacks.
  • One tweet: “every mid guy on the internet seems to have a custom built note taking stack several layers deep with some charlie day conspiracy theory level of interlinking meanwhile every high powered tech ceo i meet seems to be using iphone notes app.”
  • This holds true for Shipper, who uses Apple Notes for note-taking after abandoning Roam Research, a paper notebook for journaling and Muse for vision boarding.
  • But, he pointed out that CEOs tend to have other folks who take notes and organize busy work for them. Executives have the luxury of avoiding the admin work that might require an interlocking set of tools.

The return to simplicity may also be a reckoning with the idea that no productivity system will ever be perfect. There have been cycles of devotion to tools like Evernote or Roam, but neither of these tools are the complete answer to note-taking and organizational bliss. “Every time there’s a wave like that, we’re like, this will finally solve it,” Shipper said. “It doesn't, and then we get upset about it, which makes sense. But it’s going to be hard for a note app to ever do the thing that people hope it will on its own. A lot of it is what you bring to it.”

— Lizzy Lawrence, reporter (email| twitter)

Enough with the surveys already

Be honest: How many surveys have your employees taken this year? If it’s more than you can count, that may be a problem. Protocol reporter Sarah Roach spoke with DigitalOcean’s chief people officer, Matt Norman, about the dangers of causing survey fatigue.

Response rates will drop if employees are being pinged too frequently, so keep an eye on different departments’ plans to send out surveys. One tip from Norman: Try to schedule surveys around a long weekend, allowing employees to respond “when they’re having their cup of coffee in the morning and not worried about getting on their first Zoom call.”

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By the numbers

How’s your org doing on pay transparency? A new LinkedIn Market Research survey of 23,609 U.S. professionals found that women (53%) are significantly more likely than men (42%) to agree that pay equality will improve if more workers reveal what they make.

Just under half of respondents said they’re discouraged from discussing pay at work, and around 40% said they felt anxious revealing how much they make. Women (43%) were more likely to report anxiety around this than men (39%), and men (52%) were more likely than women (47%) to say they feel they are paid well for their work.

— Allison Levitsky, reporter (email | twitter)

Some personnel news

Anyone else having a bad case of Great Resignation whiplash? It’s hard to keep up with which tech companies are growing, shrinking, floating or sinking. We’re here to help.

⬇️ DataRobot is cutting 26% of its staff and another 7% are choosing to leave, The Information reported.

⬇️T ier Mobility is laying off 180 employees, according to TechCrunch.

For more news on hiring, firing and rewiring, see our tech company tracker.

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Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

Laid-off workers are getting new jobs quickly, it turns out. (WSJ)

Who gets to fail up? (Vox)

Insight Partners-backed Sanas got a critical write-up for its “accent translation” technology targeting call center workers. (SFGate)

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