Maslow’s Hammer — The all-in-one (Productivity) tool

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.

Sakthitharan S
3 min readFeb 23, 2023

Maslow’s Hammer is a psychological state where you rely more on a familiar tool for solving (almost) every problem.

aka law of the instrument, the law of the hammer, golden hammer.

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.

Abraham Maslow

Every tool is there to solve a unique problem. Maybe some tools can solve a few more issues but not more than that.

Once you’re familiar with a tool (in our case, a productivity app) we want to use it for multiple purposes. Like it or not, the tool is designed to solve a unique problem (some feature-rich apps can solve a few more than intended). But never all.

The type or nature of the problem determines the tool that needs to be used. Not the other way around.

A shovel is a shovel, a spade is a spade. Maybe we don’t have to be that strict in selecting tools. But definitely, you can’t replace a hammer with a shovel. (Yes you can, but it’s not a wise decision).

You can have a tool kit for certain similar tasks, and a bag of tool kits. You must if you want to play at the professional level. Only amateurs use one tool for everything.

Distinctive tools for distinctive categories and distinctive areas (of life). If you use multiple tools for the same category of needs, then you may worry about having plenty of apps/tools in your tool bag.

It may deem a little more effort to switch tools, yet if you focus on the quality of the product (outcome) you wouldn’t mind the extra switches in your process.

The process determines the outcome’s quality as long as your process is defined by having the outcome in mind.

Amateurs posing as professionals. There’s no shortage of people (on Youtube, and Twitter) who use Notion, Logseq, Evernote, and Noteplan for everything. That may feel awesome until you’re in the process of building your system. Once you put it into the work to extract output from the system, you’ll find its shortfalls.

Most people using one tool for everything are just having fun with the process of building the (ideal) setup in that tool. I bet they rarely produce something out of it except the built system.

Chefs don’t use a knife for everything, a good carpenter never uses a hammer for everything, only amateurs do.

A good start to pick your tools.

Check my comprehensive list of tools → Tools Repo (edited, updated every week)

For a better understanding,

Distinctive tool for distinctive categories. I use Things 3 for task management and RoamResearch for knowledge management.

Distinctive tool for distinctive areas. I use Things 3 for personal task management, while Notion and Google Workspace tasks are for collaborative task management at work. Logseq to manage work-related knowledge and for my academic research.

To break it down further, I use Screenshots to capture a single window, Loom to capture a process in the video, and Scribe to create a step by step guides to explain the process to my colleagues, students, and my site readers.

Over-relying on a familiar tool is just a comfort and a lie you telling yourself. And you need to know that fact is a fact. No single tool can replace everything.