As some of you may be aware, when I’m not writing here, I’m writing for another blog on The GigaOM Network, TheAppleBlog. TAB’s focus, as you can probably guess, is Apple products and software. Some of my latest posts there have been about the new Mac Mini, which I recently purchased for use as an HTPC, connected full-time to my TV and stereo.
My first thought was that this would be a productivity killer, since it makes my TV and home theater in general that much more distracting. Generally speaking, I resist the urge to have the TV on in the background when I’m working, and instead listen to music at a relatively low volume. For the past couple days, though, since the arrival of the Mac mini, I’ve had the TV on pretty much the entire time I’m working, and I’m noticing an improvement in my work practices, rather than any negative effect.
I find I can more easily keep up with a steady flow of information thanks to having a net-connected desktop constantly attached to my television, in addition to having another laptop or desktop (in this case, my MacBook or iMac) as my primary workhorse machine. At a very basic level, I can have fewer applications running simultaneously on my MacBook, which lessens the system’s use of resources, decreasing fan noise.
The real benefit is that I can keep potential distractions contained, while still making them available for consultation should I need them. Applications like TweetDeck can run on the Mini and be at hand should I require Twitter, without intruding if I’m on a roll, work-wise. I can even background email and IM in the same way if I’m working with a particularly tight timeline.
Because I can compartmentalize, I find that distractions are less tempting and more organized. In other words, I’m in complete control of them, and not the other way around. Using the text zoom and accessibility options built-in to OS X, I can also use my TV as a reference monitor while keeping my MacBook unburdened by wired connections to actual secondary monitors.
If you’ve been holding out on an HTPC purchase because you were worried it would not provide any professional benefit, or even actually hurt your work, take a second look at what’s out there and reevaluate your work flow. Sometimes a perceived productivity threat can actually be a blessing in disguise.
Have you already incorporated an HTPC into your work flow? Share your experiences with us in the comments.