Why a Broken Computer Made Me More Productive than Ever

    March 17, 2010

    Note: This is a break from our regularly scheduled "How to Pitch" column due to an emergency. What's the emergency? Read on...

    It was a stormy Monday afternoon and I was diligently tapping away at my laptop computer. All of a sudden my computer froze. Hmm...no big deal....we can "ctrl-alt-delete" that problem immediately!

    Not....so....much.

    After many failed attempts, I realized my whole laptop froze to the point that no button, or combination of buttons, could fix it. I held down the "off" button (I know, I know - not the best thing to do) and re-booted. My laptop screen displayed an eerie dark gray glow and then...nothing.

    Uh oh.

    After a frantic call to my IT guy who assured me he would be over the next day, and simultaneously cursing myself for not buying a Mac, I sucked it up and slid over to my dusty old desktop. This was my college computer - which means it's basically ancient in electronic ages - and the only thing I use it for these days is to download music from iTunes. I turned it on, pulled my files from my back-up drive, accessed my online email, and I was back in business.

    But wait...

    The thing about using an old computer is that I can't operate like I can on a shiny laptop. On any given day, I have the following open: Outlook with 3 different email feeds, at least 5 Internet browsers, Twitter, Facebook, Savor the Success, AOL IM and Skype. Everything operates smoothly and is there when I need it. On my good old dusty desktop, the only thing I can possibly have open is one Internet browser without the whole thing taking a wipeout. And considering my online email interface isn't quite as user-friendly as Outlook, this meant things would be working quite slow until my laptop was back up and running.

    So, I powered through my tasks anyway and after 3 hours realized I had accomplished everything on my to-do list. This particular to-do list was one that would normally take at least a full 8 hours to complete.

    How is this possible?

    Since I now had a little time to spare to take a jog and reflect, I realized the reason I was so productive is because I was no longer able to multi-task. There was no dinging email alert every 30 seconds,  no Skype or AOL chat messages popping up on the screen, no Facebook or Twitter updates to make or check, no multiple news feeds to read in different browsers. Having to turn off all the noise ended up forcing me to 100% focus on that one task until it was done. And then do the same for the next task, and the next task until I crossed off 30 different tasks without blinking and scored some extra "me" time.

    All of a sudden, my dusty old desktop doesn't look so bad.

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