Technology slowly builds up around us.
Over recent years we’ve accumulated devices – phones, laptops, tablets and more – and accounts on various social networks and other cloud-based forms of connectivity. Precious few of us ever take the time to step back, disconnect and appraise what we’re using – and the role it should play in our lives. But creative consultant Andrew Missingham did just that – and has found it liberating and life-improving.
Andrew is actively exploring new ways of working. He defines himself as an independent rather than a freelancer, and returned from an eight-month sabbatical intent on changing his approach to technology. “I tried to avoid using the internet when we were away, and…I came back determined not to live with my head in a screen,” he says.
Every device he brings into his personal ecosystem has to have a clear, defined purpose in enhancing his life. Andrew has been documenting the experience on his blog, but we spoke to him to get a little more background on how this new approach is working for him.
“The initial motivation was that I wanted to use the best-in-class hardware for all devices, regardless of software or operating system,” he says. “It’s hard to separate them, of course, but locking yourself into one ecosystem means making compromises on quality.”
He suggests that, for example, being Apple-loyal will get you a great laptop, a good tablet and a poor phone. Android, on the other hand, would give you a good phone, a compromised tablet and no desktop at all. He decided to try to live with all three major systems – Windows Phone, OSX/iOS and Android – simultaneously, choosing the best device in each category. His initial range of devices was an Apple laptop, a Nokia phone – the Lumia 820 – and a Google tablet.
It’s in that context that we find Andrew being particularly effusive about his Lumia 820. “It’s so good a phone, so good at making calls that it reminds you of just how bad the iPhone actually is as a phone,” he says. Having a mobile that is great at telephony makes it a much more valuable and central tool to his working life than it would be otherwise. He cites the call quality – in use either as a phone or as a speakerphone – as something that makes a manifest difference to the calls he’s making every day to keep his business running.
The key to using a phone effectively in the flow is eliminating distractions, he suggests. You can focus too much on apps and not on the task in hand – putting the tool before the solution. He finds that stepping away from app-obsession allows him to focus on his phone as a critical communications device, one that’s at the heart of how he works. Windows Phone allows him to customise his device around the people and information that are important to him in his work and private life.
His iPhone has ended up languishing in a desk drawer. It’s been rendered irrelevant by his Nokia 820 on one side, and his tablet on the other.
However, he’s no longer a three ecosystem man. One ecosystem didn’t make the cut: the Nexus 7 tablet he was using didn’t suit him, and Android dropped from his repertoire a mere 10 days into the experiment. The Nexus 7 has been replaced by that iPad mini, often used with a Bluetooth keyboard.
“I think Apple – or at least Steve Jobs – was wrong about the ideal tablet size,” Andrew suggests. “The 7 inch device feels just right to me – about the size of a Moleskine notebook.” He’s found it eroding the time he spends in front of his laptop. At the time we spoke, he was composing a blog post on his tablet while sat in his front room rather than in his office.
Andrew suggests that most new technology initially responds to what went before, and then becomes its own thing over time.
“When the pianoforte was invented, people spent time trying to give it the sound of the harpsichord, before realising that it could be its own thing. People are trying to do the same with tablets at the moment – trying to turn them into laptops.”
Tablets have their own purpose – creating new opportunities for working in different ways, rather than being laptop replacements, he suggests.
The glue that holds his cross-ecosystem working together is platform agnostic software: Skype, Dropbox and Evernote are three key players for him. He found the process of migrating from his previous systems, including Apple’s iCloud, eased by using the migration features built into Windows Phone.
Missingham is clear that what he’s doing is an evolution of the way he works, making conscious choices to design how he’s going to operate and work.
“Mature thinkers have got to the point where it’s not about being always on any more,” Andrew suggests. “Good business is about the right response at the right time.”
And – so far – that approach is working for him.
Image credit: ePublicist