If you’ve ever been backpacking, weight is one of the biggest issues. You want to take as little as possible to make your load as light as possible. Nobody wants to lug half their kitchen and bathroom on their back for a week. The Swiss Army Knife was a nice little solution. A pocket-sized tool that was competent enough to satisfy a whole bunch of different needs. Need to open a can? Done. Cut some tape or rope? Done. Remove a splinter? Done.
It didn’t take long for technology to follow the same approach. Computers use to be for computing: if you needed to add up a bunch of numbers, or run numbers through a formula, the computer was your friend, but that was about all it did. Then people started to use them to let you write documents and manipulate images. Now, I have a phone in my pocket that can I can use to live video chat with anyone, anywhere in the world, send emails and documents, watch full length movies, listen to music, and play immersive video games. Fantastic, right? Nobody wants to carry around a phone, a video camera, a satellite dish, and a computer to accomplish the same thing.
It is fantastic, but it leads to a fundamental problem: it’s too easy to get distracted. When I use one device that can do all of these things, distraction is just a mouse-click away. I can draft this memo, or I can click over and play World of Warcraft. Or video chat with my wife. Or watch last night’s episode of Mad Men. Or Whatever. The choices are infinite.
Dedicated devices. If Tiger Woods had the Blackberry Infidel, he’s still be winning majors today. Likewise, if you have a computer that you only do work on, you’d already be finished with that memo. Dedicate all of your non-productive stuff to the other computer or device. All your game playing, shopping, blog reading, facebook stalking, etc., move it to your iPad, or laptop, or whatever second device you want to use. But don’t do those things on your productive machine.
This works. I started doing this a few months ago, somewhat inadvertently. I have a play laptop on my desk next to my workstation screens. When I want to surf the web or read a blog, I use the laptop. Physically tearing away from the main screens and moving to the laptop makes me think about what I’m doing. If I’ve spent an hour on the laptop, it’s a serious wakeup call. Because it’s just a bit harder to switch back and forth between that memo and Amazon, there’s now barrier to wasting time.
HT: Seth Godin (whose article just made me realize why this month old habit increased my productivity)