The iPad Pro Solved My Distraction Problems
Sometimes limitations allow you to be better and more efficient
When I started freelancing and working from home two years ago, I read lots of content about how to be productive at home without falling for all the distractions around you.
So naturally, I disabled all the notifications on my phone, I tried time-blocking my days (that didn’t work out for me), journaling, putting my phone in airplane mode, not open social media on my computer, this kind of stuff.
I feel like we have all read the same advice at this point.
For some reason, it still wasn’t enough for me. As soon as I opened my laptop, the temptation to procrastinate by either distracting myself or by being “fake productive” was just too high. Fake productivity is doing work-related activities that don’t bring much value to your job, such as checking analytics, planning your day for hours, watching educational YouTube content, looking at your competitors’ content on social media. Not that these kinds of tasks aren’t useful, but they’re not always necessary. If you’re a writer, checking out your stats on Medium every 10 minutes doesn’t bring as much value as sitting down and write.
I’m sure you’re familiar with these kinds of distractions and traps I’m talking about.
They’re just as bad as your phone ringing all the time, or your non-stop Instagram notifications. They’re hard to handle, though, because there is no way to make them go away. Not only you can’t make them go away, but these distractions are very easily accessible.
That’s when an iPad comes in handy.
Multitasking on an iPad is hard, and I hope it stays that way.
Even the large 12.9-inch display iPad Pro doesn’t make multitasking that easy.
Every time Apple talks about their new iPad OS (or previously, iOS for iPads), they show you how you can handle multiple apps at once, and how multitasking is now easier than ever.
Easier than ever, yes. Practical and comfortable, not really.
It might just be a matter of habit, but I find multitasking on the iPad such a pain. Not every app is optimized for multitasking, app windows are small, the click and drag features don’t always work for me. I just don’t get it, and I can’t seem to make it work as smoothly as Apple makes it seem.
From watching other iPad Pro users, I think a lot of them have similar experiences with the multitasking features.
If I’m writing a note on a word processor while doing some research on Safari at the same time, I find it quicker to switch between the two apps using the Command + Tab keyboard shortcut. The apps can display full screen, so it’s easier to navigate, and I don’t have to deal with a tiny word processor interface next to an iPhone-size version of Safari.
I’m slightly exaggerating, but you get the idea.
With the workflow I decided to go for, which I described just above, I deal with all of my apps full screen. That means the doc at the bottom of the screen is not showing, and because I disabled notifications, the app that I opened is the only thing that I see. No interruption, no distraction, there is nothing else showing other than the app my iPad is displaying.
While this may seem like a limitation on paper, it’s the best feature the iPad can provide. Apple focuses so much on the multitasking features of the iPad, spending long minutes every year when they introduce the new iPadOS in their keynotes. I’m sure that’s a better selling argument than saying you can only focus on one thing, but the focus experience the iPad offers is such a strong advantage to me.
Some may argue that you can have the same fullscreen view of apps on a Mac. That’s true, but I see two significant differences on a Mac. First thing, if you’re using an iMac or an external monitor, why would you use the fullscreen mode? These displays are giant and putting these apps in fullscreen mode kind of doesn’t make sense to me. Second, what about web-based apps. I’m thinking of Trello, Airtable, Buffer, Grammarly, even social media. They’re all in your web browser on desktop while they’re separate apps on an iPad. Switching between tabs in a browser is super quick and easy while switching apps on an iPad is just a little longer and harder.
Friction is your friend if you want to stay focused.
Getting to work is hard. The hardest part about it is usually to get started.
Sure you can hack your brain and your behavior with techniques such as the 5 minutes rule or something. If that works fine for you, please use them. They don’t seem to work for a lot of people though.
What works for me is creating friction for distraction, and making getting started to work easy.
On my iPad, all my social media apps aren’t on my home screen, so I have to swipe multiple times to the side to find them. They’re also in a folder, so there’s an extra click to do to open Facebook, for example. I also limited my social media time on screen time. That means that after 15 minutes of use, I have to enter a password to open these apps. On the other end, my word processing app, calendar, organizational tools, and all my working related apps are fully available, in my doc. Everything is accessible within the click of an icon.
That doesn’t mean I don’t spend time on social media, but at least if I’m tempted to just scroll pointlessly on Facebook, there are a lot more steps in the process of opening the app than there is to open my emails or my word processor. That doesn’t work 100% of the time, of course, but it works well enough for me.
I mostly recreated the same limitations you find with the multitasking features of the iPad: if something is too hard to do, or not smooth enough, or just not practical, you end up not doing it.
It’s a combination of two laws to create good habits and two laws to break bad ones, by James Clear from his book Atomic Habits. Make starting to work and staying on the same app easy and satisfying. Make the distractions invisible and difficult.
While some people may think the iPad Pro’s limitations just make them spend more time and energy getting things done, it is the opposite. Being able to work without any sort of distraction, without constantly switching between tabs or apps makes you a lot more efficient at what you do. The lack of interruption and switching between tasks and apps also preserves a lot of mental energy as you don’t have to concentrate so much on not getting distracted. With the iPad, you open an app and just keep using it because that’s easier than switching.
The design of iPadOS makes it hard to multitask, and therefore, to be distracted when you work. The iPad is such a fantastic working device if you’re looking to focus on one thing at a time. It makes any sort of distraction invisible. The only visible thing is what you’re working on.
Having more features is not always a great thing when it comes to productivity. Having a simple device that allows you to do simple tasks can help you get a lot more done than any other sort of overpowered desktop computer.
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