The Weekly Review

by Chris Bowler

Singular Focus

I must confess that I’ve been slowly coming back around to the idea of using an iPad for serious work once again. I’ve only ever owned one iPad, I believe it was an iPad 3. Somewhere along the line I just stopped using it and it eventually became our daughters main device.

And although you can do a lot of things on an iPad, I was of the mind I might as well be on my laptop so I can do everything that pertains to my work. My apologies to Ben Brooks …

But since WWDC, with the new 10” iPad and the changes coming in iOS 11, I’ve been reconsidering once again. Will some things still be more of a pain to do on an iPad compared to my MacBook? Yes. But I’m coming to the place where the primary benefit of an iPad may outweigh all the inconveniences that come with it.

That benefit is a better ability to focus.

By that I mean a singular focus. A constraint forced on your by the design of combined hardware and software that make an iPad what it is.

That concept was articulated well by Justin Searls in his article Giving the iPad a full-time job:

As a result, I’ve come around to a more nuanced view of productivity: that of a tenuous balance between friction and focus. “Friction” is the necessary turning of knobs on my tools in order to do work. “Focus” is the intentional ommission of knobs from tools to foster clear thinking. Any knowledge worker must balance their own creative action with thoughtful attention, and every software interface crystallizes an attempt at striking such a balance.

He also does a bang up job describing the problem with using macOS:

As I mentioned above, I can no longer trust myself to not get bogged down in distraction when I have a full-blown windowing system at my disposal.

That is the feeling I’m battling as well. Although I believe in the idea of focused “deep work” and work on a team that supports it, and although I have days where I have success with longer periods of focus, there are still many days where I struggle. More days than not. The tools and 10+ years of ingrained habits work against me.

Is using an iPad and iOS a crutch when the real problem is my ability and desire? Am I choosing to sabotage myself most days by ensuring I’m available in Slack and checking Basecamp and email? Well, yes. But again, it’s been 10+ years of being always connected to get to this state. Maybe it’s going to take a little help and some forced constraints to see some improvements.

And so I’m leaning towards making my next work machine an iPad. I can use all the help I can get.