#iPadOnly book » Section 1. Why #iPadOnly? » Multi-tasking or multi-distracting?

Multi-tasking or multi-distracting?

Just because you can open so many windows on your laptop, doesn't mean you should.

When people learn that we work #iPadOnly they ask us about multitasking and complain about iPad’s lack of having ‘windows’ with different apps all over its tiny 10-inch screen (or the even the smaller 7 inch screen on the iPad Mini). We are simply embracing the constraints of the iPad. We believe these constraints are blessings in disguise.

We don’t multi-task. Most of the time, the only thing that comes out of multi-tasking is that you are multi-distracting yourself. People really can’t do several things at once. We think we can but it’s not what is really happening. We can quickly switch our focus from one task to another and it gives an impression of multi-tasking but in reality it is single-tasking with a switch. Generally, women are better at this than men (at least our wives are better than us) because of their nature - they are designed to be able to take care of the child, while cooking a dinner, while reading a book and working. Again, this is just a focus switch. Not a real multi-tasking ability.

When we multi-task, what happens is that with each switch of focus we need to get accustomed to the new task - and it takes a little bit of time. Studies have long shown that people who multi-task don’t really work faster. They think they do, but they’d actually be better off doing the same things one after another - not alongside one another. This is why iPad’s constraint of ‘one app at the time’ is so great.

Here’s what Augusto writes about his single-tasking experience:

“As I’m typing this on my iPad there is nothing to distract me. My email client, my Twitter client, or my other apps, are all in the background. All I see now is a black screen with white fonts. No menus, options, or anything else- just the text I’m typing. The only option I have is to write or not to write. It’s binary. It’s easy. It’s focused. And it works.”

Single-tasking is good for you. Ask any productivity expert. We have been using GTD (Getting Things Done) methodology in our daily lives for the last decade and we’ve studied all the other productivity methodologies and techniques out there. We feel more productive and are getting more done by being single-taskers. We believe that multitasking is ineffective and because of that we try to avoid it as much as we can.

It is not that we have always been averse to multitasking; we have had multiple computers working at the same time over the years, two or more monitors and more. This is something that the iPad brought back to us. For many people it is something that the iPad failed at: the lack of multitasking. For us, it is one of our favorite features - the ability to use one and only one application at a time. As we write text on the iPad, no email is being sent out or received, no tweet is being written, there is no weather or stock market distraction. It’s our text and us.

The COMMAND+TAB problem.

For many people working on computers today, the biggest enemy regarding their own productivity is the infamous app switcher: COMMAND+TAB (or CONTROL+TAB on Windows). To switch to a different application on the iPad you have to either double click on the home button and choose another app, or use a four-finger gesture. It’s pretty easy but takes a little longer than switching between apps with COMMAND+TAB on the Mac, thus making the process more conscious and less automatic on the iPad. We get into a hypnotic state in front of our computers. The reason you open the browser to research something for work and end up in Facebook is not because you aren’t busy or because you don’t know that you will be wasting time. It is because you can make the switch so quick and basically with zero effort. That is why you don’t break the hypnotic state. We can change everything without taking our hands off the keyboard. We can open the browser and open something, create a second tab and open something else. When we are in that hypnotic state, that ability to open one thing after another always plays against us. That is the reason Augusto additionally recommends using different browsers for work and play.

The iPad brings at least two incredible benefits to help you fight the multi-distraction battle.

  1. First - one app at a time. This helps you stay focused on your work, not on your machine.
  2. Second - the apps as such are so much more focused.

They have fewer features, less cluttered menus, less options - their authors and developers chose the most important features. That’s why you will find people often prefer the iPad apps to their Mac counterparts.

Next Chapter: How about the iPad Mini?

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