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Productivity

First-Generation iPad: The Perfect Hack for Focus?

What looked like the Achilles heel of the first-generation iPad its lack of multitasking may be its biggest advantage. In short, you have to focus.


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 Posts by 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.

Comments (7)
  • skhot

    Yes, I will upgrade to the new OS. Multi-tasking is a necessity, my number one complaint. I think print functionality is going backward.

  • Sky

    I will upgrade to 4.2, but not for the multi-tasking feature, for all the other features : app folders, mailboxes, AirPlay, AirPrint…
    Multi-tasking is not, for me, a real lack, cos many apps can already stay in a “working state” when you switch to another one, and like you say, it’s true that it enhance focus… 😉

  • Ramo

    I think that appreciating the lack of multitasking on the iPad comes down to whether you primarily use the device as a productivity tool or as a entertainment/media consumption tool. In my case, the iPad is what I reach for when I have some discretionary time to run through Twitter or watch a video or 2 on YouTube – in my case, multitasking can’t arrive too soon

  • [Peter]

    Multitask on the iPad, amazing! I mostly just like the fact that I can switch between apps faster. And I like listening to Pandora and doing what ever else at the same time.

  • Traveling bags

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  • ipad apps development

    The first-generation iPad has the exclusive advantage of being a wonderful system that causes you to uni-task. A latest WIRED content recognized the product as an excellent studying system, commenting: “On the iPad, any program you run requires over the complete display.

  • Rehana

    The actual first-generation apple ipad tablet gets the unique selling point of as being a wonderful process that will causes you to uni-task. Any latest WIRED content material recognized the product for fantastic studying process, commenting: “On the particular apple ipad tablet, virtually any system people function needs within the full screen. smoking weed

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