Working on MY iPad: Why iPad only?

This is one of the most common questions that people ask me since I made the iPad my main machine. For many the iPad is a toy, but not a production machine. I may need to agree that it is a great machine to play, but it had been incredible for production.

In my work I used basically four applications, regardless if I work on the iPad or the MacBook: A Word Processor, An Spreadsheet, A Presentation Software and a Browser.

Let’s see the MacBook: Pages, Numbers, KeyNote and Chrome. (I understand your list may say: Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint)

On the iPad I found: Pages, Numbers, KeyNote and Chrome. (If you want a more powerful option you can use Office2)

I understand that if you need macros, the iPad is not the machine since as today it’s not possible, but honestly I don’t know many people that use them.

I work on a Word Processor, I don’t do anything more complex that add images, graphs or a comparative table on those then I am doing reports. All this I can do with Pages, without any problem. The other thing I do, is review documents for which I need the track changes function, but it is part of Pages, so I have no problems there.

On the spreadsheet, it is the same thing. I have some that had many graphs (all created on the iPad) and many formulas that connect one page to the other inside the document. The only thing that I can’t do on the iPad are Pivot Tables and Macros, but honestly I can’t remember when was the last time I use either of those.

An application to do Presentations: Honestly, I wasn’t a big fan of Microsoft PowerPoint to begin with and there is nothing that I can think that KeyNote on the iPad can’t do. I even connect this application to the Apple TV to see the presentation on there and use the iPhone to control the presentation and even look my presentation notes if I wish.

A Browser: I had said previously that I use two browsers, one for work (Chrome) and one for play (Safari) (You can read the story and the why on my book 25 Tips for Productivity) in this case I can use both without any issue.

As you can see I have the basics covered, additionally exist certain applications on the iPad that make the experience even more of a pleasure and only one on the Mac that make me come back once in a while.

On the Mac side the application is Scrivener, without a doubt the best application to write in existence, but to my knowledge there is an iPad version coming soon.

For me work on the iPad create a different way to work, it’s exactly the reason that get people away from work on the iPad what make me work closer to it.

When the iPad was released my mother was looking for a laptop, even on those days the iPad was the machine I used the most so I recommend it to her. Even that she loves her iPad, she wasn’t able to substitute the laptop and months later we got another laptop for her. The problem was never a power issue, as many people think, her iPad had plenty of processing power, her problem was that she need it to interact in a different way, it was a confort zone problem.

One of the biggest problems people had with the iPad had nothing to do with the capabilities of the machine, or how more or less powerful their laptops are, but with the idea that they don’t have the same menus, the fact that the interaction is more personal, is the fact that you are dong with your hands. The most interesting is that a soon as you break trough that barrier and you sit on a laptop or desktop you will find yourself touching the screen and discovering that the magic it is not there.

Giving direction to your weekly review

“If you are not checking the map, you risk never reach your destination.”
– Augusto Pinaud

It had always impress me how little people check their goals, (I am even more impressed with those that don’t even write them down or don’t even had any) the reality is that what it is the use of writing them down to review them once a year. It is exactly that reason why many of those goals are never accomplished. Think about the following: If you are traveling on a car to a place you are not familiar, you check the map constantly. Why don’t do the same with your goals?

Like many, I have goals for the next twelve to eighteen months as well as things I want to accomplish in the next five years, but I am not waiting fro 2018 to check the list and see if I am actually there, I check them constantly to make sure I am moving in the right direction.

Before I begin my weekly review, the first thing I do is review this goals, I spend some minutes to think about them, why are they important, and why I want to accomplish them. The reason is simple, I want to guarantee that the projects I am working on are the ones I should be working on, in other words, those projects are getting me closer to my goal, otherwise, why I am working on those.

The next time you do your weekly review, begin checking your goals, from there begin your revision. Simply you will be able to see which projects get you closer to your goals and which ones not. Which projects you should eliminate and which ones you should add. You can’t expect this is going to happen in other way.

Most people, hope to accomplish their goals, but forget that in order to make this possible, they need to know they are taking the right steps. How to know your steps are right? How can we know if they are going to help us get closer to our goals? For me the answer is simple, remembering which ones are they, constantly.

Think about the following, you do the weekly review, so you are on top of the important. You do the weekly review to remind yourself of all the pending things that you will forgot otherwise. But you do it without any direction and you hope that the actions that you are going to take will take you to a place that you review every three, six or more months. You want to accomplish your goals, review them constantly.

My recommendation, review them before you begin your weekly review, so when you are doing it, don’t hope to find critical stuff, but you could identify without any doubt which ones are taking you in the direction you want to go. Review the map, constantly, so you don’t forget the direction you are going and where you want to go.

Stop hoping that your weekly review will take you to your goals and begin directing it towards those.

If everything is your higher priority; nothing is.

I love when people said that everything it is a priority. In my experience, when everything is a priority nothing is.

The reality is that you can only have one Top Priority. At a given moment, only one thing can be a priority. If you think otherwise, you really don’t know which one is your priority, therefore you think everything is.

That doesn’t mean that priorities can’t change from one moment to the next, only means that if you compare two or more things, only one can have the highest priority, otherwise, none of them are.

Imagine for a moment, what it is your higher priority right now. What are you doing towards that priority? Do you have a conflicting priority? Notice that if when you answer the question of what it is your Higher Priority you though on more than one thing, honestly you need to sit and really think which one is the real priority, you can only have ONE HIGHEST PRIORITY, otherwise, you have none.

When I publish my latest book NO, my highest priority was that book, until was ready for sale, nothing else. I didn’t had twenty other higher priorities, I had one, that book.

We confuse, important things, and things we need to do with our higher priority, and it is that confusion that generate that really any of them get to be really our higher priority.

Think about it, if everything it is your higher priority, nothing is.

@Journal. (Having a Journal Context)

It’s not a secret that I love contexts, and that I believe that when you lose the fear that most people have and begin using all the context you need, your system tend to allow you to move even faster.

Some years ago, I create a context that I called @Journal. The content of this is things that I want to journal, that I want to think about it, that I want to write and reflect about. As I am writing this, I have seven entries. This are seven things that I want to spend time journaling on, I am not looking to a compromise, or a quick response. I am looking just to remind myself that once in a while, it is important to go over this topics.

Some days I can open my journal application (I use DayOne on the iPad and iPhone) and just write and write. Others, I can stare to the white screen. Are on those days that I open OmniFocus and get to my @Journal Contexts.

I enjoy Journaling, and I understand that having that context allow me to re-visit and be intentional about what somedays I am going to write, but also had been an incredible way to work on stuff and found answers that otherwise I don’t know if I would had work hard and long enough to get. Most time it is hard to Journal, at least for me, the dialog that comes from there sometimes is hurtful, but eventually the clarity that produce is magical.

Do you journal? Have you ever consider having your own @Journal context to remind you of stuff that you should journal about? Try it, it’s painful the process, but magical the answer.

If this is true (and I believe it is) we write a novel worth of emails every year

My friend Michael Sliwinski (link) recently a post from Paris Lemon where the claim is that we probably write a novel worth of emails every year.

I believe this may be true.

The Good News is that if you query all those email you can publish your first novel.
The Bad News I don’t think anyone will like to read it.

I have been a big proponent to learn to type, I mentioned in my book 25 Tips for Productivity and I practice constantly, even that I probably type faster than the average, my goal is to type more than 100 words per minute.

I just want to let you with some numbers to reflect over the weekend, (especially for those that don’t need to learn, because they don’t type long enough)

It is consider a novel when a book is over 50,000 words. Let’s assume as Paris Lemon said that we type 50,000 words worth of email every year.

If you type:
15 words per minute you need 3,333.33 minutes (55.55 hours)
20 words per minute you need 2,500 minutes (41.66 hours)
40 words per minute you need 1,250 minutes (20.84 hours)
60 words per minute you need 833 minutes (13.89 hours)
84 words per minute you need 595.24 minutes (9.9 hours)
100 words per minute you need 500 minutes (8.33 hours)

Just imagine you can improve from 20 words per minute to 84 words per minute… You will suddenly found 31 hours this year. Instead of this, people will use in average 42 hours to write those emails and wonder how the people that type 84 words per minute can leave work earlier.

Managing ourselves as if we where two year old

“Ninety percent of what we call ‘management’ consists of making it difficult for people to get things done.”
– Peter Drucker

The most interesting thing is that, most of the time, we are based on this definition, “managing” ourselves.

When I get asked why I work on little tricks instead of big theories, is simply because I had learn that I should work hard to simplify the rules that guide my life. I have said:

In Productivity, most of the time, if it works for a two year old child, will work for us

We go to this complex setup, complex system, complex rules, when we should go exactly on the opposite direction, our own rules need to work for a two years old, otherwise, must likely, eventually they will fail.

For some reason, we have been convinced that we need more, more complexity, more layers, more information, more work, more money, more of anything if nothing else.

The problem is that as part of the trick, no one has told you that if you just want more, you are never going to be happy. Yes, you will have more of all those things that money can get, but not enough of those that you really and deeply care.

We get our lives so complex, that we forget how to slow down and enjoy the simply things. We have this tendency that things need to be hard, complex and difficult in order to believe they are worth.

What if we try the opposite approach? What if we try to simplify our life? To have simply setups? simple rules? We live our life as we will try to make a two year old happy. You will discover it is also a challenge, you just will laugh and have fun more often.

Working at 4:00A.M. to eliminate distractions

For years I was convinced that I was a night owl. I struggle in the mornings, and thrive at nights. Last year in the name of productivity, (and desperation) I decided to test waking up at 4:00 A.M. to work. I was like many struggling with lack of focus, concentration and a day full of distractions, and was exhausted at night.

What began as a test out of desperation, looking for something that I had lost, quickly turn into one of the most interesting tricks I had discover in productivity.

Our house sleeps until around 7:00 A.M. Thats the time my 4 year old daughter wakes (or get waked up) and I need to get her ready to go to school. My old routine was simple, I wake up at 6:30 A.M., shower, dress and get coffee and do my daily review. Then I went and get my daughter ready.

When I decided to change the rules of the game, and begin waking up at 4:00 A.M. I discover that I could shower, dress and get coffee to do my daily review between 4:00 A.M. and 4:30 A.M. It was exactly there, that the best came, I was basically free of distractions, between 4:30 A.M. and 7:00 A.M. but even better, I had just sleep 7 to 8 hours and was totally fresh. In other words, I was in prime condition, and had two and a half free hours of silence and no interruptions.

I could not believe my luck, I had discover two hours of really quality time, without interruptions, and highly focus time. In many days I can accomplished more on those hours than the rest of the day, same as you will accomplished if begin doing this.

I understand that you are a night owl, as I was. I understand this will not work for you. For years I tried to get those hours at night, work hard all day, have my family time, wait for them to go to bed, and try to work after that. The problem was, that in many days I was simply exhausted. Even that I push trough, took me hours to accomplish the stuff I was looking forward to accomplished. The next morning I began the same race, and continue walking the world, simply exhausted.

These days, I go earlier to bed, sit in my desk at home at 4:30 A.M. and work for the next two and a half hours in silence and without interruptions and distractions. In many days, I accomplish more on those two hours, than the rest of the day. Not only that, on a bad day; you know those that you feel that you did nothing, I was really productive the first hours of my day. On a good day, I feel unstoppable.

Think for a moment what you can do with two hours of no distractions, stop snoozing television at night and go to bed. Wake up earlier and discover a couple of hours of full focus and without distractions, then begin working on that really important thing.

If you are wondering how I do it everyday, let me leave you with a little trick: “Negotiate your wake up time at night and avoid doing it in the morning” at the morning your brain is clever and will found a way to convince you to not do it.

How I gain 2 working hours free of distractions (Working at 4:00A.M. to eliminate distractions)

For years I was convinced that I was a night owl. I struggle in the mornings, and thrive at nights. Last year in the name of productivity, (and desperation) I decided to test what will happen if I wake up at 4:00 A.M. to work. I was like many struggling with lack of focus, concentration and a day full of distractions.

What began as a test out of desperation, looking for something that I had lost, quickly turn into one of the most interesting tricks I had discover in productivity.

Our house sleeps until around 7:00 A.M. Thats the time to get my 4 year old daughter wakes and I need to get her ready to go to school. My old routine was simple, I wake up at 6:30 A.M., shower, dress and get coffee and do my daily review. Then I went and get my daughter ready.

When I decided to change the rules of the game, and begin waking up at 4:00 A.M. I discover that I could shower, dress and get coffee to do my daily review between 4:00 A.M. and 4:30 A.M. It was exactly there that the best came, I was basically free of distractions, between 4:30 A.M. and 6:30 A.M. but even better, I had just sleep 7 to 8 hours and was totally fresh. In other words, I was in prime condition, and had two free hours of silence and without interruptions.

I could not believe my luck, I had discover two hours of quality time, without interruptions, and highly focused time. In many days I can accomplished more on those hours than the rest of the day, same as you will accomplished.

I understand that you are a night owl, as I was. I understand this will not work for you. For years I tried to get those hours at night, work hard all day, have my family time, wait for them to go to bed, and try to work after that. The problem was, that in many days I was simply exhausted. Even that I push trough, took me hours to accomplish the stuff I was looking forward to accomplished. The next morning I began the same race, and continue walking the world, simply exhausted.

These days, I go earlier to bed, sit in my desk at home at 4:30 A.M. and work for the next two hours in silence and without interruptions and distractions. In many days, I accomplish more on those two hours, than the rest of the day. Not only that, on a bad day; you know those that you feel that you did nothing, I was really productive the first two hours of my day. On a good day, I feel unstoppable.

Think for a moment what you can do with two hours of no distractions, stop snoozing television at night and go to bed. Wake up earlier and discover a couple of hours of full focus and without distractions, then begin working on that really important thing.

Working on MY iPad: Using Guide Access on the iPad or iPhone as Focus Tool

With the introduction of iOS 6 Apple add a feature to their iPads and iPhones that had been an incredible aid to me. It's called Guide Access and most people ignore their existence and power.

Apple defines this feature for people with vision, hearing, learning, and mobility disabilities, but honestly, people that need more focus can use this app to their advantage. Basically you can limit your iOS device to one app and as a bonus, you can disable the Home button and Siri. In other words unless I type a password, there is no iOS access for me. That it is a great idea!

First you need to go to Settings, then click in General, then Accessibility and finally click Guide Access. (That it is cleverly classified as Learning)

After you activate you just set a passcode, open the application you are going to work on (Byword most of the time for me) and hit the Home button 3 times.

You will then be able to disable touch, hardware buttons and/or motion. I don't mess with any of those, I just need Guide Access to keep me long enough in Byword to get into the writer mood. Then press Start and begin the writing work.

Every time that my distracted brain try to exit, I get a reminder that “Guide Access” is enable. If you hit the Home Button three times, you will be prompt to enter the passcode you set before, but all those actions are more than enough to stop me from distracting and force myself back to task.

Do I need to use this feature for write every day? No, but I used much more than what I am going to admit in writing. It is the beginning of the writing session what it is hard for me, a soon as I get into the words, I can stay… but those first ten to fifteen minutes are a challenge many days.

For the people that like numbers, output had been increased in more than 30% since I begin using this trick. This wouldn't stop me for go to other applications, but will help me to stay in focus. In productivity most of the time, if works for a two year old, will work for ourselves.

Your Task list is failing. This is why.

It is irrelevant if you believe in GTD or not. If you use Omnifocus, Nozbe, Things or you write your tasks on your arm. The reality is that your task list is failing you and had failed you for years. In part it is because we don’t know how to say NO. In part is that we are simply trying to decided over a huge number of options. In most cases the confusion is the abundance of the second and a lot of the first one.

As years past by, my tasks increased at a ridiculous speed, in my GTD System there are more and more projects, tasks and time seems to be less and less.

I had mention on my book “25 Tips for Productivity” how my daily list works, but I have never talk about what I called my Master List.

My Master List had all those projects and tasks that I hope to accomplish. Most likely is like the list of Projects and Tasks that you have. The difference is that you work from that list and hope to finish it. For me, the Master List is the base where everything begin, but I apply one more filter. From the Master List to the Working List.

My Master List had all those active projects and all those pending tasks (next actions) per context, as per David Allen wrote in his GTD Book. The problem of this, is that the number of next actions are simply impossible to digest, is like trying to drink water from a firetruck hose… I prefer water from a filter, with a glass, in manageable quantities. For that, I process my Master List, on a smaller list, my Working List.

Every Morning I review my projects and next actions and mark those that should go to the Working List. This allow me that instead of 60 next actions, maybe they had five. The five that I consider relevant. Is from this smaller list that I pick the 3 most important.

Honestly I don’t have a criteria for how many tasks goes to the Working List, if after I add them to the list I think they are too many, I simply reduce them. The objective is to clear this list in two or three days.

It is a mathematical problem, if we have an average of 100 projects and each one had 1 next action we had 100 actions. In reality we have in average two actions per project plus all those that requiere one action that most likely don’t have a project per se. Buy Milk? Bread? My list is over 600 of them.

My calculation and experience said that a complete GTD System had more or less between 200 to 500 next actions.

Here comes the problem, doesn’t matter how you split this, the number is always more than what you can digest… more than what we can do to feel successful… therefore we can’t conquest that feeling of success. In many cases we just quit the system.

Now imagine that maintaining your system as it is, you work on a list from your Master List to work on the next day or two; a Working List.

Imagine the following number of pending actions:

Master List
@Home (45)
@Computer (60)
@Errands (30)
@Agendas (25)
@Calls (20)
@Work (80)

A total of 260 opportunities. In my case, that’s something complex to digest. Now imagine that from the Master List you select those that will produce a mayor impact in the short term and make a second list, based on your Master List; a Working list.

Working List
@Home (8)
@Computer (10)
@Errands (30)
@Agendas (25)
@Calls (20)
@Work (20)

Now I have 113 opportunities. But note that I didn’t eliminate opportunities from Agendas, Errands or Calls. In my reduction plan, I kept the elements that include Calls, Agendas and Errands because they can be done. But let’s see the reduction on the other contexts.

@Home: From 45 to 8.
@Computer From 60 to 10.
@Work From 80 to 20.

In other words, from 185 opportunities to 38… A huge difference. I am not implying that we aren’t going to finish the other tasks, but imagine for a moment the feeling if success if you finish those 20 @Work Tasks or the 38 of the three lists.

Not only that, imagine that you for any reason had 20 free minutes. From where do you think you have a better chance to pick an appropriate next action, from a list of 20 or from one of 80?

Like any other Tip for Productivity, the key is not forget theMaster List. In my case, I CAN’T add anything to the Working List. Tasks must be added to the Master List.

Be able to see my lists, per contexts, but knowing that there is a smaller number of next actions, had allowed me to move faster and more accurately. In any moment I am denying the importance of the other next actions on the Master List, I am just trying to focus into an smaller area to be more productive and effective, get smaller but more often victories, you know feel that I win this game more often.

If your Task List is failing you, what are you doing so you can make it effective again?