See 3 ways that working across devices boosts productivity
By: Chris Bailey, Microsoft Guest Author
Technology exists to support our work, not get in the way of it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen, even for a self-proclaimed productivity expert like myself. I’m just as prone to spending countless hours bouncing in autopilot from one social media app to another. These distractions are depressingly normal: a study done by Gloria Mark in collaboration with Microsoft found we can work for an average of just 40 seconds in front of a computer before we’re distracted or interrupted. Pair that with the fact that the average person owns 3.64 connected devices, and we’ve got ourselves a problem.
That’s why it may seem a bit strange that I’m advocating for how working across more devices will actually boost your offline productivity. But bear with me.
Here are three ways in which working across devices can help us lead more productive, creative, and meaningful lives.
1. Keep track of intentions on-the-go. One of my greatest personal productivity hacks is defining a list of three daily intentions. Before bed each night I list the meaningful professional and personal things I want to accomplish the following day. This lets me choose what’s important (and what isn’t, since I’m forced to pick just three), and work with greater intention throughout the day. I also set three weekly priorities.
But a pesky thing about intentions is that it’s not always easy to keep them top-of-mind. You can be focused one moment and then “wham!” a tweetstorm erupts online and you’re sucked into a vortex of political debate. Not only that, but with constant travel built into so many of our schedules—Americans make more than 405 million long-distance business trips each year—it has never been so important to have access to our lives wherever we go.
For me, this includes my daily intentions list—that’s why I sync the list across each of my devices every morning. It’s as easy as popping open OneNote, typing my intentions, and syncing the list across each of my devices. Whether it’s on my phone, tablet, smartwatch, or computer, the app means my intention list follows me wherever I go.
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2. Capture your brilliant ideas—always. We all hate the feeling of forgetting a hard-earned eureka moment. Unfortunately, these moments don’t always come in deep periods of focus. In fact, they’re much more likely to strike when we’re in the shower, taking a walk, or lying in bed. This is because our brains our less inhibited (and as a result, more creative) during this time, free to wander and waltz around the dots of information we’ve yet to connect. During these periods of mind wandering, research has shown we think about the future 48% of the time, plotting our next immediate steps.
While devices can definitely hinder these mind-wandering episodes, they can also do a heck of a lot to capture what your brain comes up with.
The greatest minds in history have used the technology at their disposal to capture their ideas, awake, and asleep. Salvador Dali would drowse off while holding his keys over a metal plate; Thomas Edison would do the same with a handful of marbles. Deep sleep mode would make the men drop their items, rousing them awake and prompting them to write the idea they had just been dreaming.
While pen and paper constituted technology for Dali and Edison, our ability to work across multiple devices means we should never miss the opportunity to capture an idea. I don’t always carry a notebook and pen with me, but I’ve almost always got either my phone, smartwatch, or computer at my side. Being able to capture and sync my ideas using a suite of Microsoft apps means I’m never left stumped trying to remember a eureka insight.
3. Make lots of lists—and then don’t think about them. In addition to the daily intentions list I mentioned earlier, I’ve got a whole other collection of lists, including a Waiting For list where I record everything I’m currently waiting on from other people; and a Worries List, where I log everything that’s weighing on my mind. Using these lists to capture the open loops in our mind prevents unresolved items from derailing our focus—and makes us more productive as a result. By syncing these lists across my devices and skimming them a few times each week, I can better schedule follow-ups with people and companies, and collaborate with my colleagues.
While technology can hinder our productivity, it can do a lot of good, too. By working across devices to capture our intentions, ideas, and concerns, we’re able to better put down the phone and close our computers to focus on what really matters: living with more productivity, creativity, and purpose.
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Chris Bailey is a productivity expert and the international bestselling author of The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy, which has been published in 10 languages. He writes about productivity at A Life of Productivity, and speaks to organizations around the globe about how they can become more productive, without hating the process.