The Two-Device Productivity Solution

The Two-Device Productivity Solution

I’m Catholic and ‘tis the season of Lent. Cue the jokes about fish and priests. It’s common for Catholics to sacrifice something during the time of Lent. So when you are jonesing for a fix of what you sacrificed, you can reflect upon the life of Jesus. Along with the snooze button, I gave up Reddit and Hacker News.

I spent *a lot* of time on these sites. At least one to two hours a day. Did I come out a better person after looking at these sites? In mosts cases, I’d say yes. Although, I know that there were a number of times when I’d click “compile” or “run tests” and if it took more than 5 seconds or so, I’d head over to those sites after I had already visited them for the day and look for articles to read. Doing this ended up becoming an excuse to waste time. Hence the need to break my addiction.

After a few days I started to really miss the quality content on Hacker News. The content that I actually felt that caused me to learn. Fortunately, Seth Godin wrote an intriguing article titled: Are You Making Something?

Making something is work. Let’s define work, for a moment, as something you create that has a lasting value in the market.

More and more, we’re finding it easy to get engaged with activities that feel like work, but aren’t. I can appear just as engaged (and probably enjoy some of the same endorphins) when I beat someone in Words With Friends as I do when I’m writing the chapter for a new book. The challenge is that the pleasure from winning a game fades fast, but writing a book contributes to readers (and to me) for years to come.

One reason for this confusion is that we’re often using precisely the same device to do our work as we are to distract ourselves from our work. The distractions come along with the productivity. The boss (and even our honest selves) would probably freak out if we took hours of ping pong breaks while at the office, but spending the same amount of time engaged with others online is easier to rationalize. Hence this proposal:

The two-device solution

Simple but bold: Only use your computer for work. Real work. The work of making something.Have a second device, perhaps an iPad, and use it for games, web commenting, online shopping, networking… anything that doesn’t directly create valued output (no need to have an argument here about which is which, which is work and which is not… draw a line, any line, and separate the two of them. If you don’t like the results from that line, draw a new line).

Now, when you pick up the iPad, you can say to yourself, “break time.” And if you find yourself taking a lot of that break time, you’ve just learned something important.

TL;DR: We trick ourselves into thinking that browsing the internet is real work since we often use the computer for real work. Solution: find another device to do your browsing.

I’ve since done this. I use my iPad for iPhone for Facebook, Hacker News, CNN, etc. Essentially anything that could be considered consumption. My laptop is now used for only production and real work. The only exceptions are research or browsing APIs which constitutes research.

The image for this blog post is of my hosts file. I have set my favorite sites to point to localhost so that I can’t access them. This protects me if I were to slip up. All major operating systems use the same syntax, use this Wikipedia page) to find the location of your hosts file for your OS so that you can protect you from yourself.

Let me know how this goes for you.

You might also enjoy:

  1. What the Successful Will Do that You Won’t
  2. Don’t Let the Brain Prevent You From Your Goals
  3. Large Iterations Slow Momentum
  4. Changing Schedules can Force Productivity

You should follow me on Twitter: @jprichardson


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