Stop monkeying around: Devices aren't the secret to mobile productivity

Merely giving people iPhones and Androids is like giving monkeys typewriters -- you need to focus on business needs

It used to be easy. I would go to work, sit down at my desk, and start working on my laptop. Everyone at work had a laptop. I had mine hooked up to an external keyboard and mouse, as well as a large monitor. The laptop sat in a nice docking station where everything was already hooked up, so it was easy. At the end of the day, I ejected the laptop and took it home with me for whatever work I had left to do. The whole office was the same way, and many still do that in my office today. I was productive.

On the other hand, when I was traveling, it was a pain. As anyone can tell you, it was unbelievably expensive to get a wireless LAN mobile card, and they were slow as molasses. The battery life of the machines was maybe three hours; if you turned Wi-Fi off, you might eke out a whole four hours of work time. The computer weighed about six pounds, and the power brick was another pound. It wasn't a lot of fun to carry around, yet it went everywhere with me. If you asked me whether I was productive, I would have definitely answered yes.

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Fast-forward to the last year, and I marvel at what I used to call productivity. These days, when I travel, if I need a laptop, I carry one that weighs 2.9 pounds and last seven hours on a single battery charge. In the same bag, I carry a smartphone and a tablet with an external keyboard. If I know I don't need a computer (some things don't work well on a tablet), I travel with just a tablet and smartphone. The whole kit (without the laptop), including chargers, weighs two pounds. The smartphone lasts most of the day unless I am using it heavily, and the tablet grants me easily 12 hours of constant use.

I can now connect whenever there is Wi-Fi or a cellular signal, so I can do work almost everywhere. Productivity moved from 9 to 5 in the office and maybe an hour or two at home, depending on the night to whenever and wherever I needed to get something done. I very rarely look at my location as the limiting factor of my productivity. I have been away at a soccer tournament eight hours from home at the field for my daughter's game at 8 a.m. in 28-degree weather when I have answered a call for an emergency, fired up my tablet, logged into work, and in 10 minutes saved a deal worth a lot of money, then watched my daughter kick ass on the field. The confidence and trust I have in the devices and the installed apps makes it easy for me to be productive.

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