Seth Godin, always the pithy-but-deep thinker, proposes that everyone use two devices, with a thick line between the two:
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.
I like this idea, actually, but I’m convinced it’s practical. Even when we’re at work, “work” is interspersed with brief periods of Twitter, email, reading, surfing, and whatever other things we do to keep us from burning out working all day every day. To be switching devices every eight minutes isn’t exactly productive.
But I do like the idea of having one machine that’s primarily for work, and another that’s for play. That differentiation has happened for me, too, but kind of by accident: I rarely do things like read or play games on my laptop, but I rarely do real work on my iPad. It’s made my iPad a much more relaxing experience, because there’s no work lingering for me to do when I’m using it.
If you’re having trouble with the same thing Seth is (opening your computer to be useful, and instead spending nineteen hours playing Scrabble on Facebook), this is a clever solution. Learn to see your iPad, phone or whatever as your “for play” device and your computer as “for work.” It’s a subtle shift, and the divide doesn’t have to be complete, but it makes both the work and the play better.