Is it worth it to have a dedicated device for focused productivity?

Most of us would have at least one computing device (i.e., desktop or laptop) that we used for many different tasks. These can range from productivity related tasks for study or work, leisure related activities such as browsing YouTube videos, streaming movies or your favourite drama/anime, and scrolling through social media, and transferring or sharing documents / media. Depending on the type of software we need to use and the amount of processing power required, most of us may not need the “newest and greatest” desktop or laptop out there (with the exception of gamers).

Some may actually find it hard to focus when you have “one-for-all” device. We become masters of multi-tasking. Remember those times where we are (acting) as if we are listening but actually chatting via the WhatsApp web browser during lectures or meetings. For most of time, self-control may still be intact especially when deadlines are approaching. The most effective time to be productive would be a day before the deadline. Of course, it may not always work as some of the tasks that we would like to do don’t even have a deadline to begin with. Would then be worthwhile for us to get a dedicated machine with minimal distractions to help us focus on attention intensive tasks like writing and programming?

I have tried that out recently. There’re a number of benefits that could be reaped:

  • Being more productive in writing and programming.
  • Recycling and reusing an old machine, which would be disposed otherwise.
  • Being more green by doing away with external monitors, wireless keyboard and mouse (saving just a tiny bit of energy there).
  • Trying out something new.

So far, I have enjoyed it.

What did I use?

I had installed Ubuntu to an old Thinkpad x220 and replaced the worn battery with a new one. It’s relative simple to do for someone who is not technically trained.

The reason why I chose an x220 was due to the small form factor and smaller screen size that discourages multiple windows (side-by-side) by design. It helps me to focus on one task at a time. It’s either I write or I research and learn more. One or the other.

With a simple change, I realise that the time I spent writing reports and papers significantly reduced. The inertia to reach the “flow” state of writing is generally lesser as compared to using my “all-for-one” laptop. Distraction is kept to the bare minimum where there is almost nothing else you can do with this laptop. The best thing was I didn’t need to spend much — a new battery just cost me $30.

What have I learnt from this?

Similar to the concept of segregating the space for work and personal living. Separating your work and leisure in two different devices provides the cue on the tasks that you intend to do and focus on based on the devices that you use. This cue is important when we are cultivating good habits that brings about a positive change and fulfilment to our lives. How many times did we regret not completing what we are supposed to do and procrastinating social media all day longs? The pile of outstanding work slowly creeping higher and higher till a point when we might not be able to manage anymore. A small little change might go a long way to help us to stay focus on our task at hand.

Side note: It’s easy for us to dispose what we have used previously when we have a replacement for them (especially true for our mobile phone). However, these equipment may not have reach the end-of-life yet. With some effort and creativity, it could be restore to serve a new purpose.

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