Working on a mobile device: It's all about focus

Tablets and other mobile gadgets are commonly said to be consumption devices, not good for doing real work. Those of us who prove that wrong know it's in large part due to focus.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
Nike glasses
Image credit: Nike

Since they first appeared tablets, such as the iPad and Galaxy Tab, are only good for consuming media and other content according to the pundits. More and more people are finding that's not exactly true as they can be solid work tools for creating content, too.

I've been doing just that for over a year with one tablet or another. I've corresponded with dozens of folks such as Harry McCracken (@harrymccracken) of time.com who is also doing it. Many of these folks have discovered like I that the mobile platforms running these tablets force the user to concentrate on the actual task at hand. It's all about the focus.

I just picked up new eyeglasses with a greatly revised vision prescription so focus is front and center on my mind. My eyes are adjusting to the new glasses and I'm paying a lot of attention to focusing on specific things.

"This then is the entire Chromebook proposition. It's just a web browser. " — Matt Baxter-Reynolds

This concentration on focusing makes me realize that the primary reason I am more productive working on mobile devices is due to the single focus this enforces. The mobile platforms I use: iOS, Android, and Chrome OS, present me with one window on the work screen at a time.

The forced focus on one thing at a time grabs all of my attention and focuses it on the task at hand. No longer do I have windows open all over a giant screen, all fighting for my attention whether I should be giving it or not.

It's not a lack of discipline that diverts our attention when we have lots of windows open with information all over the screen. It's only natural that flashing lights and multiple points of interest cause our eyes to constantly flick all over the screen to see what's happening. This is a natural distraction that we can't help for the most part.

The best way to eliminate the distraction is to get rid of all the windows with different information displaying. That's exactly what the mobile devices do: present one window at a time that grabs all of our attention. This naturally results in a more concentrated effort no matter what the task at hand may be. You focus entirely on what you should be doing rather than a bunch of things you shouldn't.

This single window method is not appropriate for all tasks or workers. There are some folks who need things displayed side-by-side for reference. But I am willing to bet that many who think they need this really don't if they analyze the real task at hand.

I suspect that working on a mobile device like an Android tablet or an iPad would be a step up for many workers. Undivided attention is usually a good thing and will help get the work done faster and with less headache.

My colleague Matthew Baxter-Reynolds recently shared a brilliant concept that the Chromebook he bought is very similar in function to the iPad. I believe he's discovered what I find to be true that both of those mobile devices focus his attention on the task at hand. That's why they are similar in function.

Even Microsoft gets this with Windows 8 and its single window operation. Put the job front and center and remove all distractions. Except for that snap view thing, which may be best left alone. Focus is the key. Try it, you may be surprised.

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