Self Improvement

Productivity Hack: The Surprising Benefits of Using Your Apps on Separate Devices

Mihir Patkar 03-06-2015

We often praise apps for being cross-platform, since that makes it easy to use them no matter what device you are on. However, there’s a down-side to it. If your app is everywhere, then your notifications are everywhere. To be productive, you might want to try accessing certain apps on certain devices only.


Sure, distractions can be productive too 10 Daily Distractions To Improve Your Productivity Contrary to popular belief, there are some distractions that could actually make us more productive. Distractions need not be roadblocks...with these deliberate ways, they easily can be catapults. Read More . But for a lot of people, a smooth work flow is the better way to achieve maximum efficiency.

The Experiment


This is not a new idea. The basis of it is that all communication is not equal and you need to prioritize Use This 3-Tier Communication System to Resist Distractions The need to constantly stay connected is distracting. To manage your relationships and time, also manage the way you communicate with the world. Create a smart 3-tier plan. Read More . For example, productivity experts often advise checking your emails only on your phone, or accessing social networks only from your tablet to reduce the constant stream of distraction from your main work computer.

Facing a slump in my own productivity, I decided to try out this experiment. For three weeks, I segregated my apps based on devices. I have an Android phone and an iPhone, a laptop, a tablet and a desktop PC. Here’s how I set everything up for my daily work hours:

  • Slack: iPhone only
  • MakeUseOf Comments Moderation: iPhone only (Laptop for flagged items if needed)
  • WhatsApp, Google Hangouts: Android phone only
  • Facebook: Android phone only
  • Twitter: Android phone only
  • Writing articles: Laptop only
  • Uploading articles, image editing, image sourcing: Desktop only
  • MakeUseOf Email: Laptop or desktop, no phones
  • Personal Email: Android or iPhone, no computers
  • Kindle ebooks: Tablet only
  • Reading/viewing bookmarks: Tablet only

For three weeks, I adhered to this as much as possible. Yes, there were lapses at times. For example, I had intended to use Twitter on my Android phone only, but soon discovered that I relied on Twitter far too heavily for work-related items. In fact, Twitter is one of the best ways to follow news The Absolute Best Ways To Follow The News On Twitter Twitter is the coolest, most user-friendly way to keep up with the news of the world, yet sometimes we still over-complicate it. With all of the different accounts and followers and feeds flying around, it... Read More .


The Biggest Productivity Benefit of Separating Apps


When you separate the apps, the most striking difference for me was how few times I fell down a rabbit hole. We are faced with an overwhelming stream of digital information, whether on social networks, email, IMs, or even a work colleague coming up and talking about the new viral video going around.

Instead, since I knew any link was to be read or viewed on a tablet, I found myself using Pocket a lot more heavily. Pocket is the best bookmarking tool Pocket - The Ultimate Digital Bookmarking Service As Bakari previously reported, the well loved Read It Later - which enabled users to save articles to read later from a bookmarklet or various apps it was integrated with - was discontinued and replaced... Read More around, but you could use any other app of your choice. The point is to not open a link when you see it, but instead to just add it to Pocket.

For that reason, I needed to have Pocket installed on all my platforms — ironic, in an experiment about platform-specific app usage. Still, I would read the saved Pocket articles only on the tablet.


It took about a week to get used to this new flow of doing things, but once I became accustomed to it, my distractions dropped down dramatically. Whether this experiment succeeds or not, this is one productivity trick everyone should implement.

Similarly, I found a new way of using Twitter, and separating my work duties by platform enabled a smoother workflow.

Does Segregating Apps Really Boost Productivity?


Yes and no.


I would encourage everyone to try this out once. Not because you will stick with it for life, but because you will get a deeper understanding of how you use different devices and apps, and tweak your usage accordingly. Segregating apps by device isn’t a long-term productivity hack; it’s a short-term hack to figure out how you should be doing things in the long term. Just like the three-strike system to prioritize your to-do list The 3-Strike System: How To Prioritize Your To-Do List Are you not getting through your to-do list? The problem might not be your productivity, it might just be your priorities. Let's learn how to prioritise the to-do list, and get things done. Read More , this is useful for a short period before you move on to a new productivity system based on your learnings from it.

A good example of this is Twitter. Initially, I thought I could only access it on one phone, but found myself needing to check it more often because I was getting out of the loop, which hurts my job as a journalist.

However, by week two, I had set up a practice where I periodically checked Tweetdeck, one of the best Twitter tools for the web Why Twitter's TweetDeck Is Worth A Second Look In the last few months, Twitter has become my favorite social networking hangout, mainly because I find it less time consuming than Facebook and Tumblr, and I can certainly update it quicker than I can... Read More , and only responded to work-related or time-sensitive DMs and Mentions through it. For my random musings and personal conversations, I stuck to using Twitter from my phone.

It was a small tweak, but it stopped me from getting into long Twitter chats in the middle of a work day, or trying to follow something on Twitter when I should be writing.


How to Implement This Experiment in Your Life


While this experiment is seemingly simple to implement, there are a few things you will need to be successful.

  1. Keep your devices far apart. If your phone and your laptop and your tablet are all right next to you, then you’ll switch between them without thinking about it. It defeats the purpose of segregating apps by device. The point here is to make it cumbersome to use something on a different device, so when you’re using one device, make the others as difficult to access as possible.
  2. Change it up when necessary. The rules you start with aren’t what you will be able to enforce all the time. So, just as I decided to split my Twitter usage into work and personal, you might need to adapt your original plan to best fit your needs. That’s all right, just make sure you are trying to stick to the original.
  3. Set a start and stop time every day. This system is meant to boost your productivity, and you shouldn’t try to do that 24 hours a day. Maybe implement this only in your office hours, or even a sub-section of your daily office hours. It’s really up to you, but I wouldn’t advise making this a 24/7 experiment.

How Do You Stop Tech Distractions?


My biggest takeaway from this productivity experiment was the ability to deal with distractions, which are a big problem in this tech world of constant notifications. So what’s your productivity secret to deal with distractions from your gadgets?

Image Credits: tetue / Flickr, stokpic / Pixabay, FirmBee / Pixabay, Bacho /, Yeko Photo Studio /, stokpic (2) / Pixabay

Related topics: Notification, Time Management.

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  1. Tommy Rypi
    June 4, 2015 at 6:00 am

    Personally I like the option of being able to look at the same app on different devices. For example if I sit in the living room and read a book on the tablet and quickly want make a note, or check up on the calendar. The notification issue I have solved by disabling notifications from every device that I didn't choose as my "primary". For example calendar notifications are only coming from my phone otherwise I would go nuts.

  2. Saikat Basu
    June 4, 2015 at 5:15 am

    Like everything else it comes down to sheer discipline of fighting distractions. But it's a good way to build up artificial fences for using the devices and the apps installed. Have to try it out for a week and see the results.