Challenge: To find a balance between "traditional" and "mobile" computer use

By Scott

A few months ago I gave myself a 30-day challenge to substitute “traditional computing devices” in favor of my iPhone and iPad 25% of the time. My chief concern was that I wouldn’t be as productive on mobile devices as I could be on a traditional computer, where my time is typically divided between Outlook (email), Excel, and my Web Browser. What I learned, however, is that I could be just as productive – but in a different way.

In my experience, traditional computers are most useful when I’m multi-tasking and authoring long or complex documents and emails. Since I don’t like multi-tasking, and since self-reflection leads me to believe I would be wise to heed Thomas Jefferson’s advice of not using two words when one would do, I started by using my mobile devices for tasks I thought were reserved for traditional computers. Tasks like:

– analyzing website analytics reports
– communicating detailed thoughts about software specifications
– creating and editing simple spreadsheets
– booking business and personal travel
– buying online
– banking
– much more

Ultimately I found I could do most of these things easily while using my mobile devices (my preferred device was my iPhone), while at the same time being more focused and thoughtful. I do my best thinking when I’m out for a walk, when I’m kayaking on my lake, and when I’m driving to and from the office – and I discovered my mobile devices simultaneously unleashed me and compelled me to spend more time thinking and less time hypnotically plugging commands into the computer. My mobile devices became the tool I needed to inform my thinking and capture my thoughts.

Not just me…

Earlier this morning, as I browsed Google Analytics for insights about this blog (while mobile), I learned that I’m not alone in spending more of my time on mobile devices. I noticed a surge in traffic from these popular devices when comparing data from Q1 and Q2 2012 to 2011:

Y/Y growth in mobile traffic by device

While I’m not quite ready to toss my desktop and laptop out the window (there are many things I need it for), this experiment taught me that I can do much more on my mobile devices than I ever thought possible. I’m not alone, and it’s clear that mobile device and software makers will continue pushing the envelope to improve the mobile device experience. For now a 25% / 75% split between mobile device and traditional computer time works well for me. As more and more people over the world shift their “computing” time to mobile devices over the next 3 years, the importance of mobile will surge past current levels.

An important thing I noticed during this experiment was that the mobile version of websites are usually terrible. Far too often I found myself surfing to the bottom of my screen to find the “classic view” link, because key functionality is being left out of the mobile version of websites. Mobile users will want to do everything on a mobile device that they can do on a traditional device… plus a lot more.

Are you using your mobile devices to do more than ever before? How has your experience been?