One of the largest productivity gains I ever got was going to a work computer / play computer setup.
I'd read about Paul Graham implementing it, and a few other people I respect. So when I switched over to Mac, I kept my old Toshiba for surfing the net and otherwise screwing around, and would only work or do work-like things on the Mac.
It worked well.
Not only was I more productive, I was happier. And I mean, really truly happier across the board. In the moment-by-moment, I was either fully disengaged and feeling good about it after working or when deciding to take a break. And when I was working, I focused. When I got to a hard problem, I kept going and pushed through it. It produced both more calm and more triumph. It was a good thing.
But then... eventually, things start to crack. And once they do, it's hard to get the magic up.
I'd try to willpower through this, but with mixed results.
More and more, it came to seem to me that "just use willpower" is not a universally good solution to problems. It's the only answer for some things, and a good answer for a great many things.
But, the recent research and writing on ego depletion makes it seem like it's not the end-all-be-all answer. Yes, you could willpower any one or maybe two things to success. But you can't simultaneously willpower everything that could use some attention.
Thus, structuring the environment so distraction can't get you seems very worthwhile. And now, I'm thrilled to be back on work computer/play computer -- not through will, but through environmental structuring.
A couple days ago, I chatted with a talented and gracious reader of this site. We talked over business and some general points, and then he recommended the application "Self Control" for the Mac.
I set it up. You make a blacklist, set a timer, and it doesn't make it easy to casually disable or circumvent.
Load up the standard procrastination sites, set the timer, click the button, and GOOD -- now I've got to go dig the Toshiba out if I want to screw around.
And I'm producing more, and happier.
It's worth checking out -- http://visitsteve.com/made/selfcontrol/
And it's also worth thinking about you can structure your life instead of needing to use willpower.
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