Changes

Distractions

My work space at home has three 27″ monitors: one hooked up to my gaming PC; one hooked up to my MacBook Air; and a TV I use to watch sports while I’m doing stuff in my office. I thought this setup would help productivity. I thought that having a 27″ monitor on each computer would meant when I wanted to write on my MacBook I’d be more effective on a large screen and my games would play better with its own 27″ screen. I was wrong. Instead, I’ve found myself with web pages up on both screens, or sometimes even having games running on each device. My focus was split. I felt like Mr Universe in Serenity. Well, except for the fembot.

I need to do something about this chaos. I need to stop the signal.

Earlier this year I bought a MacBook Air. A series of technical mishaps slammed into the Casa and a new laptop was needed. As I was thinking through what I was going to get, I seriously gave going iOS-only consideration. In the end, I decided against it. There were three reasons at the time: iOS 8 still didn’t really support workflows to make me think iOS could be my primary OS; I used my MacBook enough at work I thought I’d miss it; and Gigaom’s CMS didn’t really work well with iOS apps. The joke was on me when Gigaom ceased operations a month after I got the MacBook Air and I stopped bringing my personal laptop to work.

What does iOS-primary really mean, though? The more I thought about it, iOS is already my primary OS, if you factor in the aggregate of the time I spend on it. My iPhone is rarely not on the desk next to me and my iPad is rarely outside arm’s reach. I always grab my iPhone when I leave the house and probably 80% of the time I also bring my iPad. If you add up all the hours I spend on my personal devices, iOS wins by a long shot1. Granted, a lot of that is consumption, but the tools are there to support writing. I’m writing this post using 1Writer and Ulysses on my iPad. I use OneNote to take notes during work meetings. I’ve noticed that pecking along on my iPad presents a better image than taking notes on my MacBook — there’s not a screen between me and the other people in the meeting. Microsoft Word is also available as well. There are no shortage of productivity apps available. Since Steve Jobs sat down on a stage in 2010, I’ve wanted to make the iPad my main device. That was back when you had to sync your Pages files by hand over iTunes. Like savages.

If I had to give up my iPad or my MacBook, the iPad would win. It may not do everything the MacBook can, but it gives me a broader palate to work with. With the iPad in my bag I can write, deal with email, administer my web app at work, read, research articles, and draw, on a device that weighs less than my MacBook. On a recent trip to Nantucket I brought both my iPad and MacBook and my MacBook rarely left my bag.

But what does this have to do with changes?

This weekend I am uprooting my home office. The end goal is to minimize distractions and make my iPad and iOS more front and center in my life and drive creativity. I’m going to take two of the displays out of my office. The remaining display will be hooked up to my gaming PC which is also my Plex server. I play an online game once a week with some friends, otherwise I’d let it sit in the corner as a headless PC.

Why iOS though, and not my MacBook or my PC? The MacBook Air is very light, and has a keyboard, and should be fantastic for writing, correct? A desktop OS these days is staring to feel more like a relic than a plus. I have three main creative goals this year: write more; draw more2; and make more music.

Since my iPad is usually with me, that means my entire creative palate is usually with me also. My writing needs are covered with Ulysses and 1Writer. Long-form fiction I’ll likely write in Ulysses; blog posts I’ll write in 1Writer. I think the Markdown shortcuts are a little better in 1Writer. This may change when the version of Ulysses that supports iOS multitasking is released early this year. For drawing I use Procreate. Music is covered by a mix of JamUP and GarageBand.

So, what will I use the MacBook for? Some things are unavoidable. When I buy a Kindle book, I download a copy and use Calibre to break the DRM so I can read it in iBooks if I desire. Downloading non-public iOS betas can only be done from a Mac or PC. Ripping DVDs can only be done outside iOS. There’s also the online game I play with my friends. So, I’m not going to shut down my MacBook and throw it in the corner.

What I do hope happens is clearing my desk keeps prompting me to create more.

  1. I’m intentionally not talking about the day job here. While I can connect into our Virtual Desktop from iOS, I can’t really have my work data on my iPad due to security concerns. ↩︎
  2. I haven’t drawn since design school in the 90s, but I want to give it another shot. ↩︎

 

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