Designing an iPad workflow

For a long time I’ve had this idea that an iPad would be the ideal tool to improve my workflow. I’ve been holding off, mainly for budget reasons, but this week I finally bit the bullet and bought an iPad Mini.

Once I’d bought it I realised I wasn’t exactly clear on how I was going to integrate it with my existing setup. I needed to be clear what my iPad would and woudn’t be used for.

Paper replacement

There’s a running joke in the office that I’m the “stationery guy”. I have a raft of pads, notebooks and pens, not to mention my noteboard. All this paraphernalia is designed to help me capture meeting notes, ideas, todos etc through the course of the working day. My plan is to eliminate all of it and replace it with the iPad.

The most important app for this will be penultimate. I’m hoping I’ll be able to capture various different types of notes using it, from actions to sketchnotes to the “doodles” I often draw for my team to illustrate my thinking. I have a sensu stylus on order that I’m hoping will enable me to hand-write as intuitively as on paper. With full Evernote integration, this should mean I no longer have to scan in my sketchnotes when they’re done (sorry, Doxie Go…). One further benefit to this is that once I’ve sketched a note, I can access the note from my iPhone either via Evernote or through Photo Stream if I’ve saved the note to the Mini’s Camera Roll.

Task Management

I use two tools (other than my Outlook inbox) to manage tasks and actions: Nozbe and the Emergent Task Planner. My daily routine is to print a blank ETP first thing in the morning and plan out my day. I’ve imported the ETP tempate into Penultimate as a “paper” template, so now I can fill it out daily in an electronic format.
I’ve been using the Nozbe iPhone app for about a year now, so it’s going to be interesting to see how well I transition to the iPad version. I’ve shied away from using it to manage work actions as so many come through my Outlook folder (which I can’t sync to a non-approved device), but I’m going to think about ways that I might be able to put it to better use.

The set up process

As I started to setup the iPad, I had to think carefully about what I was doing. My initial inclination was to try and replicate my iPhone setup, but I quickly came to the conclusion that was a bad idea.

My iPhone is my communications device. It’s what I use for calls, messages and social media. I have no intention of moving these from my phone to my iPad, so I should modify my setup accordingly. Here’s what I’ve done:

  • Turn off all Push notifications. See my article on Brain Cutlery to learn why I love push on my iPhone. I didn’t want any of those distractions on my iPad, so I’ve turned them all off.
  • No media. My iPhone is a 64GB iPhone 5, and my Mini only has16GB, so it seemed fruitless to try and keep my media in sync. I use Netflix for video streaming so my collection is entirely music – and it will stay on my phone only.
  • Limited games. I’m not planning on using my iPad for gaming, so I’ve kept most of the games off it (this also helps with space). But I’m not naive enough to think I may never want a “break moment”, so I’ve installed Plague Inc. which is my all-time favourite iOS game and I may also install Angry Birds Star Wars (no sarcastic comments please).
  • Limited apps. I have a whole whost of “useful” apps on my phone for train times, weather forecasts etc. My intention is that my iPhone will still be my go-to device for this information on the move (when I’m least likely to be on wi-fi) so I haven’t installed these apps on the iPad. I have installed Sunstroke and Kindle, as I predict there will be occasions when it would be handy to have reading material available on the iPad.

I didn’t expect to need to give so much thought to my iPad setup, and I expect to need to fiddle with it over time to maximise its efficiency alongside my iPhone. I’m really excited to see how well it fares in cutting out all the stacks of paper and pens I’ve grown accustomed to carting around, and the reactions it will no doubt provoke when I start doodling on it in meetings…

What’s my learning from this? Give careful thought to how you plan to use the tools at your disposal, and take some time to design your workflows so you can use them most effectively.