Getting More Things Done With the iPad

I’ve spoken before about how the iPad can be used to increase productivity, and today I want to go a step beyond that and outline two different ways that the iPad can become essential to anyone’s workflow.

One way is fairly common, and the other might be something that you haven’t heard of before. Hopefully you’ll learn something either way and will find the iPad becoming less (or more) of a toy. Let’s get cracking.

Method One: Delegate the iPad to a Leisure Device

I know, it seems a bit ridiculous to start a how-to about being productive by stating that you should use your iPad as your leisure device, but I promise that I have good intentions.

How many times have you sat down to get some work done, written a few words (pushed a few pixels, what have you) and then launched your browser of choice to do some research when you realize that it’s three hours later, there’s a mountain of Doritos around you, and you’ve seen all of those clips of that boy slapping his brother in the face with the iPad? Maybe not exactly like that, but you get the point.

Do It on the iPad, Instead.

As you work you create certain connections between your location, habits, and workflow. Imagine that every time you walk into the living room you plop yourself down, grab the remote and some popcorn, and catch up on Boardwalk Empire. Now imagine that you need to work in that living room for some unknown reason.

Chances are, you’ll find it difficult. You know how once you learn how to ride a bike your muscles know how to maintain your balance long after you consciously think about it? That’s the same force at work when you create connections between location, device, and work.

The division of labor that you need to create.

The division of labor that you need to create.

By moving your leisure to the iPad instead you know that when you sit down at your computer it’s crunch time. Sure, working on your iPad might be a bit more difficult, but if you’re a work-at-home type of guy (or gal, don’t get any picket signs) it’s definitely worth deciding whether you’d prefer to get work done on your iPad some of the time, or work done on your Mac all of the time.

Method Two: Your iPad as a Second Screen

Okay. You don’t want to move the iPad to being a strictly leisure device and would prefer instead to use it for more productive tasks. Where the iPad can really shine in this regard is as a second screen, shoving all of the trivial information that you might need from your main screen but keeping it within sight should it be required.

The main concept, illustrated.

The main concept, illustrated.

While you technically don’t need anything for this, there are a few things that could make this easier. A good stand always helps, keeping that information at a nice, easy to read angle. An external keyboard might also help if you need to type on the iPad, but the entire point is that you’ll be using it for quick, at-a-glance information instead of a heavy workflow.

Here are a few applications that could help you out:

OmniFocus (or another task app)

We’ve all been there: we’re working on something when we hit some form of mental wall, unable to continue on the path that we’re already on. By keeping our task list up on the iPad you can continue to work on something worthwhile without jumping through into OmniFocus on the Mac and deciding that you need to clear your Inbox, and re-organize your projects, and clear your contexts, etc.


I’ll admit it: I’m not the best at math. While there are some applications on the Mac that one could use, I love Calcbot for its interface and the virtual ‘tape’ that it uses to keep track of your calculations.

I would have included Soulver in this list with Calcbot, but the whole point of Soulver is that you can write out your items in plain English while the point of this exercise is not typing anything.


Email is a necessary evil that can seriously destory any workflow if left running on the desktop. With the sheer amounts of spam that gets thrown at any given email address during the day combined with the maybe-relevant dozens of emails that seem important at the moment but aren’t nearly as special an hour later, an email client constantly pinging on the Mac can drive you crazy.

So, instead, leave email to the iPad. Don’t leave it open all the time, but if you feel like checking it very quickly leave it to your second screen until you’re ready to make it your main focus.

Bonus: Stop Worrying, Stop Reading, and Start Doing

Listen. Getting work done is important, but it’s not nearly so important that you read this article multiple times, or comment on how I left out your favorite app, or see where else Google can take you with lists or methods similar to this one. It’s important to research, but eventually you need to get working and stop thinking about work.

I’m not trying to come off as mean with this. I’m certainly not telling you to quit reading AppStorm or any of your other favorite websites; what I’m saying is that there comes a point where you need to close Reeder, stop reading those productivity blogs, and get going.


Hopefully you found something relevant in this article. None of this is particularly ground-breaking stuff, but I experiment with my workflow in this way so I can share the results with you and get some more work done.

I’d say that I would love to hear what you think in the comments, but I would much rather see what you managed to create once you gave some of these a try. Leave a link in the comments and I’ll check it out – if I’m not working.