Maximizing Productivity with the iPad Part I: A Paperless Office

Sometime last year, I decided to go back to school to get a second college degree, while working fulltime. I thought I could easily manage it, just as I managed to get my first degree while working full time – a decade ago.  (I graduated without any student debt, which I’m very proud of).

Almost immediately, I found myself having trouble staying focused and keeping up.

If that wasn’t enough, this semester I needed to get some credits for my degree which weren’t offered at my primary university this semester. If I didn’t get the correct prerequisites, I would be behind schedule to earn the degree.

I scrambled and found two other universities here in the twin cities that has the courses I need. However, I had missed the application deadline at one, and after a few calls, they refused to grant me an applications deadline exception. The second university had no problem letting me in.  Crisis averted.

So, if everything works out, I will be simultaneously enrolled at two universities taking courses.  

In addition to taking classes, I’m also running two businesses, a subchapter S Corp for consulting and a LLC (start-up).  Furthermore, I’m trying to write software on the side, while studying up to learn Objective C and Dojo. While I’ve written a few iPhone/iPad applications, they don’t have the polished, professional design that I want. It takes time and effort, before they are release quality. 

Oh, and did I mention that I also wanted to dust off my private pilots license and earn my IFR rating this year? That is going to be 50+ hours of flying on top of a the FAA’s written examination, instruction, and of course the FAA check ride.

Add on top of that mix in a few social engagements, and planned international travel later on in the year, and then you will have a small glimpse at how my year is going to be laid out.

So to overstate the obvious – I’m going to be busier than a one legged man in an ass kicking contest.

Conversely, for the last few months I have foundered badly, productivity wise. I’ve found myself overwhelmed by a huge crushing to do list, so much so that I don’t really know what to do first. I’ve started to let things slide until they had to be dealt with, rather than properly prioritizing my time. Furthermore, my time always seemed to be sucking away as I spin tirelessly accomplishing very little.

I got frustrated, then I got mad. I pondered why I have been so terrible at being productive.  I honestly appraised my personality and thought about ways to make me more efficient, because my philosophy is: you don’t give up, you get better.

As a result, partially out of desperation, I have torn apart my life and rebuilt it by refocused on getting more done, more efficiently, primarily by leveraging the iPad platform.

Towards a Paperless Office

imageThe first item that needed being addresses was my disorganization.  I intuitively knew if I didn’t get organized, I was doomed.

My desk at home was buried under payroll reports, stacks of invoices, bills, cables, magazines, printouts, and the detritus that accumulates when running a business and a household in the same confined space.  The entire desk was entirely covered except for a small clear spot for my Bluetooth mouse and keyboard.

My electronics work bench was a similar disaster, with parts, tools, cables, old keyboards and broken devices mutated into an unstable pile of dusty electronics.

Worse yet, it got so bad I couldn’t locate my college textbooks for two days after my wife “helped” me clean up. 

So when I took off work for Christmas, for two weeks I painstakingly sorted, scanned, shredded, and tossed out most everything.

My ultimate solution was to treat paper as the burden it really is.  My new process is simplified – I throw more away, shred more, scan more, and lastly I digitize what is left.  I have forsaken writing pads, notepads, binders, binder clips, file folders, and just about everything else.  Now, every piece of mail gets thrown away immediately unless it is a bill or something that has to be dealt with.

Moreover, my iPad is now the center of that paperless universe.  I now ruthlessly leverage the iPad and/or cloud based services to cope with paper.

IMG_0827Until recently, this was very difficult to do without a lot of work.  However, now with cloud based services, the dream is close to being fully realized.  Apple’s iCloud will synchronize your calendars, reminders, and documents transparently across my iPad, MacBook Air, Mac Pro, and even Windows machines.  You can email a PDF to your kindle account and it will appear in the iPad Kindle reader.  Evernote works well for stashing notes, but Noteshelf works even better for capturing handwritten notes and it synchronizes with Evernote.  Of course there is also Dropbox for sharing files.

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1 Response to Maximizing Productivity with the iPad Part I: A Paperless Office

  1. Pramod says:

    Going pearpless is just a click away. Wow! We all can learn from your post today. It’s all about environment, convenience, flexibility and being organized. Great post!

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