App Based Compartmentalization

July 5th, 2013

I recently sold my iPad in favor of a Macbook Air. It was one of those instances where I had been dreaming about it for awhile and I finally slapped myself in the face and said:

Me: “Dude. Just do it. Sell your iPad and buy the stupid laptop. If you don’t like it, just sell the laptop and buy another iPad.”

Other Me: “Oh… yeah. I can do that, can’t I?”

Me: “I don’t know why I even bother talking to you somedays.”

But this isn’t a story about laptops and iPads. This is a story about apps.

One of the most helpful things I have done on my new laptop is to completely separate out my email between work and personal.

I have always been the type of person who searches for the BEST app and then uses that. When I can’t afford the BEST, I hunt out the NEXT BEST, or the MOST AFFORDABLE alternative.

I’ve always thought in terms of ONE. But in today’s thriving App marketplace, why should we limit ourselves? Why not use the resources we have available to help us be more productive?

Okay, what am I getting at?

I currently use Postbox for my email, my work email. (Mac and Windows, it’s a port of Thunderbird, highly recommended.) I now use Airmail for all of my personal mail. (Mac only, very reminiscent of Sparrow, but cheaper and still being developed.)

I’ve never done this before and it’s mentally liberating. When I am at work, or when I need to think about work, Postbox opens up and all my messages are there. When I head for home, Postbox closes down and I can open up Airmail.

When I had email coming in on my iPad (as I still do on my iPhone) I have this annoying badge in the corner of the mail app saying “You have unread message! Why don’t you read your email?” If that comes into a work account on a Friday afternoon, I have to live with that badge all weekend long. I have a visual, mental, reminder that there is something unfinished about work. It’s an open loop.

Maybe it’s fine, if it’s a former classmate who is using that address. Maybe I do want to read it, but if it’s any form of action item, I want it to stay unread so I’ll remember to do something about it when I get back to work.

Yes. I know. If my GTD system was completely up and running I should be able to throw that action onto my todo list and be all set to go when the time comes, but when I pull myself away from work I don’t even want to do that.

I don’t hate my job. I don’t just put in my 40 hours and go home. I’m dedicated and fairly enthusiastic about the things I do. But I know that if I don’t take the appropriate time to recharge and not think about work, I can get pretty cranky.

I’ve been doing this with other apps too, but not to the same extent. I have a specific todo app on my iPhone (2Do) which I currently use solely to track books I want to read and movies I want to watch. The rest of my todo items live in a different app all together, so I don’t clutter up my actual action items with things I hope to someday get around to reading or watching. (That’s only partly true. I keep trying to use OmniFocus, and I keep going back to paper lists that stack up on my desk and never get done.)

This is a new way of thinking for me. I really think it’s going to boost my potential productivity and organizational skills.

Do you separate out parts of your life? If so, how? Do you have some high-tech (or even lo-tech) ways to keep things from overlapping in unproductive ways? I’d love to hear your solutions.