A minimalist approach on modern computing

For the past four years, my MacBook Pro has been by my side. It was my best friend at times, and it had never failed me… until today. And I knew this day was coming soon enough, which is why I started looking for a successor a couple months ago.

The desire to start fresh

For four years my Pro had assumed an ever increasing set of responsibilities, and an always growing set of installed applications. It had definitely become bloated with applications that I rarely used by the end of its life. When it was over, I had installed 3 IDEs, 2 text editors, 2 word processors, and 6 different browsers. I had used up nearly all of it’s 256GB capacity. And the sad thing was, I was keeping most of these extra applications around on the off chance that I would need it one day. I’m an iOS Developer, so there’s no need for me to have Eclipse or Android Studio around anymore, and I use Chrome as my primary browser. So why have Opera, Firefox, Safari Developer Preview, and Chromium? I’m not even a serious web developer. It felt like I would download things because I could, without giving any real thought on whether I actually needed it. The desire to start fresh was becoming irresistable.

All purpose vs. necessary purpose

Since moving to San Francisco, I’ve had to make a lot of important decisions regarding my living situation. If you’ve ever visited San Francisco, you’d know that square footage is a luxury. My current setup is a 480 square foot studio, and it forces me to make tough decisions on what I would keep in my apartment. Everything in my apartment has gone through careful consideration on whether it is truly essential. All the way down to whether I would want to keep a souvenir cup from vacation. When shopping for new clothes, the biggest question wasn’t if I could afford it, but if I had room for it in my closet. As a result, everything in my apartment has a clearly defined purpose — something that was clearly lacking in my Pro. I enjoyed this new found sense of purpose. I didn’t live in an all purpose apartment, I lived in a necessary purpose apartment.

Finding the right fit

Up until about a couple weeks ago I was dead set on waiting for the rumored MacBook Pros to be released. Between Xcode, Illustrator, and the occasional Steam game, the Pro seemed like a no-brainer. It was the flagship power user laptop. It was truly an all purpose device. I could do whatever I wanted to on it, and that extra power was what led to the cluttered mess that was my old MacBook Pro. I just didn’t know it was a problem yet.

I didn’t really consider anything outside of the Pro until I started leaving my laptop at my desk, and started bringing my iPad to meetings. It could handle my everyday workflow, except programming. I could take notes, render screenshots, markup PDFs and mockups. And the best part about it? It weighs 1 pound. It was 5 times lighter than my Pro, and it was ultra portable. On top of that, I felt like I never got distracted on the iPad because I simply didn’t have the opportunity to. Whatever I was doing took up my entire screen, and it was the only thing I paid attention to.

Smaller screen, stronger focus

At work I have a 3 monitor setup, including two 27" thunderbolt monitors. And when I needed to be, I was the most efficient programmer out there. One monitor dedicated to Xcode, one dedicated to the infinite tabs of Stack Overflow, and one dedicated to the simulator and a terminal. But I didn’t always need to be that efficient. And more times than not, the additional real estate would lead to distractions. I would have Reddit up on one monitor, or occasionally have a stream of an MLB game up. The MacBook doesn’t even give me the option to have Xcode and the simulator up at the same time, that’s how pressed for space I am. And while some may consider that a con, I think of it as a pro. Every open application on my MacBook is now carefully selected. I just simply don’t have enough resources to have whatever I want open. And this has led to an increase in focus. Instead of having something open simply because I can, I only have things open that I actually need. There’s no bloat on this device. There’s no “just because” applications. Just the essentials. And I couldn’t be happier with it.

Staying efficient

I realize I’ll never be as efficient as I could be if I had gotten the Pro with additional monitors, but I feel that on average I will be more productive. I’ve reduced the amount of potential distractions, and limited my attention to only one thing at a time. And sure, there will most certainly be times when I need to have more than one thing occupying my attention. And in those moments I might have buyer’s remorse, and feel like the situation could have been avoided had I went with the Pro. However, I don’t anticipate those situations happening frequently enough to make me regret the change. I’ll be silently happier with the MacBook over the Pro. It will force me to carefully consider what I’m doing, and keep me on task. The motto for the MacBook should be “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” and I think this perfectly defines a minimalist approach to the modern computer.

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