The S.O.S. Score: Your Guide to Perfecting Productivity Tool Selection

In our quest for productivity, choosing the right tools can make or break our success. However, the search for the perfect tool is not a one-size-fits-all endeavour.

That’s why The S.O.S. Score is here – to guide you towards making the best choice possible.

The S.O.S. Score is a scoring system that assesses tools based on Simplicity, Obviousness, and Scalability. In this article, I’ll explore each section in detail, using examples like paper, bullet journaling, Evernote, ClickUp, and Notion to illustrate the nuances of scoring.

You’ll need to gain a better understanding of each element of The S.O.S. Score before you can come up with you final tally. So let’s get into those elements to start.

The First Element: Simplicity

In the realm of productivity and user experience, simplicity holds immense power. It acts as the core foundation for a user-friendly environment, and its influence can be discerned through numerous everyday examples. Our focus here is to navigate through the nuances of this often-underappreciated concept, using familiar instances to punctuate our exploration.

Take for instance the traditional tool of paper. Its charm lies in its remarkable simplicity, effortlessly lending itself to a multitude of tasks without being daunting to the user. However, while paper embodies simplicity, its utility is predominantly centered around the individual. Its scalability is, thus, somewhat limited. Despite its intuitive appeal for personal endeavours, paper begins to falter when tasked with the demands of group collaborations or large-scale projects.

Transitioning from the physical to the cognitive realm, let’s explore another intriguing example – bullet journaling. At first glance, it’s the epitome of simplicity: a streamlined method for organization that many productivity enthusiasts swear by. But, like the illusion of a calm sea surface, its depths can be deceptive. As users begin to add layers of complexity, such as diverse trackers, unique collections, and detailed spreads, the apparent simplicity can slowly fade into the background. This necessitates a delicate balancing act, a constant vigilance to ensure the essence of simplicity is retained, even as enhancements are made to bolster its value to your productivity workflow.

The Second Element: Obviousness

Delving into the realm of productivity tools, there exists an intriguing concept: Obviousness. Obviousness, while admittedly a “clunky” word, is a lens through which we examine tools that are purposefully designed to cater to specific needs and deliver lucid benefits. Through the examples of habit tracking and journaling, we’ll dissect this idea to fully appreciate its significance.

The crux of obviousness is deeply intertwined with purpose and value. Habit tracking or journaling tools exemplify this point with perfection. Their single-minded design and functionality empower them with clear-cut advantages, aligning seamlessly with their intended purpose. When you select a tool carved out for a specific task, such as a habit tracker or journal, you’ve likely made an ‘obvious’ choice. Its advantages in terms of usefulness and applicability to the task at hand are immediate and, well, obvious.

Let’s extend this concept to broader, multi-purpose tools. Evernote, for instance, is a robust and versatile tool which can be effectively utilized for journaling. However, when it comes to tasks like habit tracking or task management, it might not prove as beneficial. The ‘obviousness’ of a tool like Evernote hinges on how well it aligns with your unique use case and how seamlessly it integrates into your comprehensive productivity workflow. The right tool is the one that melds into your routine, augmenting your productivity rather than acting as a hindrance. It’s all about finding the ‘obvious’ choice for you – the tool that does less, but does it better.

The Third Element: Scalability

When we talk about productivity tools, scalability stands tall as a pivotal aspect. This characteristic delves into a tool’s aptitude to grow and evolve, mirroring your expanding requirements, whether you’re charting your course alone or collaborating within a team. To illustrate this concept, let’s juxtapose the capabilities of familiar tools like paper, ClickUp, and Notion.

For the solitary user, the charm of paper remains unbeatable, with its simplicity and intuitive nature. However, when viewed through the lens of scalability, it’s limitations become evident. Its inability to stretch beyond the needs of the individual makes it a less ideal choice when expansion is on the horizon. This is where digital tools like ClickUp and Notion outshine. Armed with powerful features, they facilitate growth, fluidity, and adaptability, making them a more suitable choice for expanding projects, ambitions, and teams.

But scalability is not just about growth. It’s also about adaptability. Digital platforms like ClickUp and Notion reign supreme in this arena, offering a wealth of features and customization possibilities to cater to diverse needs. Yet, this versatility can come at the cost of simplicity. The complexity of these tools may necessitate users to invest substantial time in understanding, learning, and tailoring the tools to align with their unique needs. It’s a balancing act, between the demands of scalability and the comfort of simplicity. But when maneuvered with skill, these tools can indeed become a sturdy ladder, empowering you to reach new heights in productivity.

How Scoring Works

Before we get to your overall score, it’s important to assess each of the three elements properly. By assigning straightforward definitions to each element, you can swiftly score each criterion and obtain a more precise assessment of the tool’s suitability for your productivity needs.

You can use the following guidelines to help you score each element of The S.O.S. Score:


  1. Score of 1 – Complex: The tool is complicated, difficult to navigate, and requires significant effort to understand and use effectively.
  2. Score of 2 – Moderate: The tool has some complexity, but can be navigated with reasonable effort and provides a moderate level of user-friendliness.
  3. Score of 3 – Simple: The tool is intuitive, easy to use, and requires minimal effort to understand and navigate effectively.


  1. Score of 1 – Unclear: The tool’s purpose and benefits are unclear, and its functionality may be confusing or hard to grasp.
  2. Score of 2 – Partially Clear: The tool has some apparent benefits and functionality, but there may be areas where its purpose or usage is not immediately obvious.
  3. Score of 3 – Clear: The tool’s purpose, benefits, and functionality are evident, making it easy to understand and integrate into your workflow.


  1. Score of 1 – Limited: The tool lacks flexibility and struggles to accommodate growth, with limitations on handling expanding projects, teams, or goals.
  2. Score of 2 – Moderate: The tool offers some scalability, but there may be restrictions or challenges when it comes to scaling up or adapting to changing needs.
  3. Score of 3 – Highly Scalable: The tool is designed to easily accommodate growth, providing seamless scalability for expanding projects, teams, and ambitions.

With each element now graded, you’re equipped to calculate the overall S.O.S. Score for your productivity tool. This composite score provides a holistic understanding of the tool’s strengths and weaknesses, and a better sense of its alignment with your specific needs. The end goal is a comprehensive, objective evaluation that steers you towards the tools best suited to bolster your productivity, whether working alone or in a team.

Calculating The S.O.S. Score

Now that you’ve assessed each of the three elements of The S.O.S. Score, it’s time to calculate your final score for the tool you’re evaluating. Here’s how you do that and what each scoring range means.

To calculate The S.O.S. Score, follow these steps:

  1. Begin by scoring each element – Simplicity, Obviousness, Scalability – on a scale of 1 to 3, based on the guidelines provided.
  2. Once you’ve assigned scores for each of these categories, simply add them up. The sum of these three scores forms The S.O.S. Score for the tool in question.

Now that you’ve calculated your S.O.S. Score, it’s time to understand what it signifies:

  • A score of 3 to 5: This score suggests that the tool has significant areas of improvement. It might be complicated to use, its purpose may not be clear, and it may not scale well with your needs. You might want to reconsider using this tool or prepare for an uphill battle to get it working optimally for you.
  • A score of 6 to 7: This score indicates a tool that is moderately effective. While it may have some complexities, its benefits are reasonably apparent, and it offers some level of scalability. With some effort and time, you could mould it into a useful part of your workflow.
  • A score of 8 to 9: A tool with this score is likely a good fit for your needs. It offers an intuitive user experience, its purpose and benefits are clear, and it adapts fairly well to your evolving needs.
  • A perfect score of 9: This is a stellar tool, offering simplicity, clarity, and excellent scalability. It should be easy to use, its benefits should be evident, and it should accommodate growth and changing needs seamlessly. (Note: I’ve NEVER gotten this score with any tool I’ve tested. Maybe I’m a tough grader… or maybe there’s no such thing as the “perfect” tool. I’m leaning towards the latter.)

The S.O.S. Score is designed to help you make an informed decision about the tools you employ. It provides an objective, measurable approach to evaluating a tool’s potential fit within your productivity system. Always remember, the ultimate aim is to find a tool that supports your productivity, not one that becomes a hindrance. Use The S.O.S. Score as a guide, not an absolute measure. Your specific needs, preferences, and context should always play a vital role in your final decision.


The S.O.S. Score empowers you to select tools that perfect your processes rather than hinder them. By assessing Simplicity, Obviousness, and Scalability, you can evaluate tools in a nuanced manner. Remember, no tool is perfect, but with the S.O.S. Score, you can identify the best fit for your unique needs.

Embrace the power of the S.O.S. Score and approach tool selection with confidence. As you navigate the vast landscape of productivity tools, consider their simplicity, focus on tools that align with your specific needs, and evaluate their scalability. By doing so, you will unlock the full potential of your productivity journey.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *