My Mac is my digital hub. Every gadget connects to it. iPhone, iPod, printer, scanners, cameras, video cameras, Internet, and more.
I’ve examined my digital life recently, and to be honest, my productivity is going down, not up. I think I know why.
Personal computers are supposed to make our lives better, right? Certainly, using a Mac has made my computing life better than using Windows.
My Mac doesn’t require constant troubleshooting. I don’t have to scan for viruses or spyware or worry much about security issues. Having used both Mac and Windows for years I can confess that my Mac experience is more pleasurable.
Does pleasure translate into higher productivity? Are Mac users able to multitask to a greater degree that Windows users? I’m not so sure.
Since the introduction of Mac OS X Leopard I’ve had some difficulty keeping on top of my daily tasks and my many projects, almost all of which run through my Mac in one way or another.
Processing time has increased. I devoted time to learning the new features of Leopard. Then, many Mac applications were upgraded to run on Leopard, which required some additional maintenance and effort.
The iPhone continues to add features which requires additional time and effort. You can see where this is going, right? For a few months I’ve had this feeling that I’m less productive these days, and my multitasking abilities have taken a big hit.
It really struck me this past week when we finally integrated Adobe Photoshop CS3 into our office, and guess what? Along came Microsoft Office 2008. More productivity to add to the daily work flow. More features to learn, more issues and problems, and that translated into less time for work, less time for pleasure.
I thought to myself, ‘I’m the queen of multitaskers. How could this be happening to me?’ If I’m not able to multitask as I once was, then what is happening and how can I fix it?
Is that a familiar refrain emanating from your conscience? This weekend I took time to try to figure it out. I’m a Mac user. I’m an iPhone user. I know the major Mac tools inside and out. So, how come I’m devoting more time to processing and less time to juggling, and why are things falling through the digital cracks in my day?
Have our digital lives become so complicated that we can no longer multitask? I think so. So does Walter Kirn writing in The Atlantic. He goes so far as to say it is the Autumn of the Multitaskers. It is.
Relative to Windows Vista, Leopard, on the surface, seems simple and elegant, therefore more efficient and productive to use. It multitasks better, so I can get more Mac software to do more things on my digital hub. Except for a couple of things.
First, Leopard is not simple. It’s complex There’s a lot going on in there. Add to it iLife ‘08, iWork ‘08, Adobe CS3 whatever, and Microsoft Office, then add those dozen or so Mac applications and utilities you can’t do without and your time, efficiency, productivity, and ability to multitask effectively begin to wither and fade.
Second, I’ve come to believe that multitasking is better left to athletes than information workers. Running to catch a football is multitasking. I’m just not convinced we can do much better than that.
I may have a dozen Mac applications and utilities open on my computer at any one time. That’s not multitasking. That’s complexing. I can usually only do one thing at a time. Answer or write email. Browse the web. Work on a report. Finish up a presentation. Dink around on some graphics. All may be up and running at once, but I’m only working on one at a time.
That’s not multitasking, is it? It’s more of a juggling act and my Mac is the center ring.
Worse, I’ve been adding more things to juggle, each of which take time and effort, but don’t really produce better productivity or efficiency, and, if anything, they increase my daily processing and maintenance time, thereby adding complexity.
Should I just scrap my Mac altogether? Of course not. As of today I’ve started to segregate my functions and I’m attempting (it’s a process, not an event) to work on one thing at a time and be as efficient and effective on that one thing before starting on something else.
I’ll check mail and write or respond to messages on a schedule as opposed to the 27 times a day I normally work on mail. Ditto for web browsing. Once in the morning, once in the mid-afternoon, but not all day as it has been.
Just that little personal commitment turned on a light bulb. That’s what Getting Things Done is all about. Do one thing, do it well, before moving on to something else, and don’t try to jungle 17 things at the same time. Am I barking up the wrong tree or am I on to something? How do you manage the complexity of your digital hub?