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First-Generation iPad: The Perfect Hack for Focus?

First-Generation iPad: The Perfect Hack for Focus?
Published September 15, 2010 by Jocelyn K. Glei
When Apple released the iPad this spring, one of the biggest complaints from early adopters centered on its inability to multitask. That is, the current operating system won’t allow you to toggle between apps, email, and browser windows as we are so accustomed to doing on our laptop and desktop computers.
When multitasking finally came to the iPhone this summer, we wondered how we ever lived without it. Now, it’s set to debut on the iPad with the release of iOS 4.2 in November. But this time around we’re wondering: Is multitasking really a good thing? In the months since the iPad’s release, a growing volume of committed users have noted that the power of the tablet as a productivity device comes not in spite of the lack of multitasking but as a result of the lack of multitasking. You must use it in a single-minded manner – you have no choice.Think about it. We know that multitasking does not work (with the exception of a select group of “super-taskers”). It has been proven again and again and again. Still, we are addicted to it. As a result, much of the current writing on productivity focuses on ways to increase self-discipline (or trick ourselves) so that we can suppress the urge to multitask. The first-generation iPad has the unique benefit of being a beautiful device that forces you to uni-task. A recent WIRED article touted the tablet as a great learning device, commenting: “On the iPad, any application you run takes over the full screen. So, when you launch your note-taking app for class it’s the ONLY thing you see. It improves focus and makes it more difficult for our easily-distractable students and employees to browse away to Facebook.”
The first-generation iPad has the unique benefit of being a beautiful device that forces you to uni-task.
Writers and bloggers, in particular, seem to enjoy the single-minded focus enforced by the interface. Blogger Shawn Blanc recently outlined his favorite things about the iPad, including its “undistracted writing environment.” He goes on: “When you’re writing in full-screen mode in Simplenote, that is literally all you see. To switch to another app I have to click the home button, look for the other app’s icon, and tap it. Not exactly an arduous process, but also not as easy as a quick press of Command+Tab with my thumb and ring finger.” Joel Johnson at Gizmodo uses it with a Bluetooth keyboard for stream of consciousness writing, and to get through airport lines swiftly. (Slow to adapt, the TSA has yet put the iPad on the list of devices that have to be removed from your bag for screening.) Taking a different approach, technology blogger Ben Brooks single-tasks on his desktop computer and offloads all of the apps he usually finds distracting to his iPad. Brooks writes:
“Aside from email (which I hate) there are two things that really distract me while I work on my Mac during the day: Tweetie and Things / OmniFocus. Before the iPad, I used to have Tweetie open on one screen and my task management app of choice open on another. Between those two apps I would spend a stupid amount of time organizing tasks and changing due dates, and reading tweets and replies... Now I check Twitter during the workday on it with Twitterific and review my tasks on it as well… All of this means that I check Twitter once or twice and hour instead of every 15 minutes and that I only look at tasks when I need a new one. The best part is that the iPad screen turns off automatically after a bit so I really can’t be distracted.”
Creatives are notorious for chaffing against limitations, and we’re prone to believing that more is always better. But the iPad’s “do less” approach – whether by accident or design – has struck a chord. -- iPad Users: What Do You Think? Does the iPad’s current lack of multitasking help you get more work done? What are your iPad productivity hacks? Will you upgrade to the new multitasking OS when it’s released?

More about Jocelyn K. Glei

A writer and the founding editor of 99U, Jocelyn K. Glei is obsessed with how to make great creative work in the Age of Distraction. Her latest book is Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distraction, and Get Real Work Done. Her previous works include the 99U’s own bestselling book series: Manage Your Day-to-Day, Maximize Your Potential, and Make Your Mark. Follow her @jkglei.


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