How mobile technology has made me more productive

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: May 27, 2012

My life is almost entirely consumed by mobile technology. In everything I do, pocket-sized technology is there to make my life easier, to make remembering and getting things done in a timely manner more manageable.

It wasn't always this way. My bad habits and gaming addictions used to get in the way quite often. The 24-7, on-demand aspect of mobile technology can easily become a problem for many. (Remember the derogatory term "CrackBerry" used to describe those zombie-like people who couldn't dig their nose out of their BlackBerry long enough to acknowledge the real world?)

As they say, too much of a good thing can certainly become bad. And it was about six months ago that I realized just how terribly inefficient my life was, especially when it came to my mobile tech usage. All of my spare time was spent perusing forums in search of a better ROM and tiny hacks and mods that ultimately made my phone better. It got to the point where I was obsessing over it, though, and hobby time started overflowing into work time.

It was if I woke up one day and realized all of this. I realized I spent most of my time behind a computer and really wasn't making good use of my time, particularly when I was working. So I made it a point to become more structured and to use the devices I love and write about every day to become more efficient, focused and, ultimately, more productive.

A colleague of mine, James Kendrick of ZDNet, wrote a piece titled Being more productive with mobile tech and published it this morning. Kendrick explains how he uses his mobile devices to become more productive and efficient at his job.

In many ways, I can relate to Kendrick. I have been trying for (literally) years now to work entirely from tablets and cut down the number of steps needed to do my job, to streamline my workflow and the devices I use to do it. And, a few times in the past, I have gone over just how and why tablets have made me more productive. But with every passing moment and with every new app or service I discover, my usage changes, matures and becomes more streamlined and concise.

Nearly my entire workflow is now driven by mobile devices. And, believe it or not, I only use four services to get everything done: Simplenote, Dropbox, Google Reader and Pocket. In this case, simple is better.

It all begins with an idea. As Kendrick states, “inspiration comes at the oddest times.” It doesn't matter whether I'm in line for a refill on my black tea at Starbucks, laying in bed trying to go grab some shut-eye (which, oddly enough, seems to be where the majority of my ideas hit) or hanging out with a bunch of friends on a Friday night, saving an idea is as simple as opening up the Simplenote app on my iPhone (Notational Acceleration on Android) and typing it out. Instantly, the note can – and will – be accessed from all of my devices (iPhone, One X, Transformer Prime, iPad and MacBook Air) at any time. And the note will be safe as I have an automatic backup note created in Notes directory in my Dropbox folder from my Simplenote account.

Not every idea starts with a note or thought, though. Sometimes, I have to skim headlines for inspiration, particularly when I'm looking for something that might be more relevant to the day’s mobile news. So I fire up Google Reader (Reeder on the iPad) and skim away. Of course, this could be done from a computer, but it's quicker and I'm more efficient when using an iPad or Android tablet to sort through my feeds. On the computer, I tend to incessantly switch back and forth between my browser, IM client, Twitter and Gruml (for Google Reader) and I never get anything done. (Hello, A.D.D.) Without a windowed interface, I tend to spend more time in a single app and concentrate significantly better, despite all the buzzing, beeping and blinking the device may be doing.

Once I come across something interesting, I immediately share it with Pocket. Like with the Simplenote service, articles saved to Pocket can be accessed from any of my devices simply by opening the Pocket app. Once I find my angle and ponder exactly how the article will flow, I open the Simplenote client (Notational Acceleration on Android and iA Writer on iPad, which I actually sync through Dropbox to Simplenote) and begin typing. Again, the lack of true multitasking helps keep me on task and focused. With a little music playing in the background and iA Writer in front of me, writing from a tablet takes a fraction of the time it would from a computer.

Only after I finish writing do I move to the MacBook. Since I use Simplenote, everything I write on my mobile devices is instantly available on the MacBook via Notational Velocity. From there, I will edit, hyperlink and add pictures to the work. Often, I will even edit the pictures used from the iPad using iPhoto and sync them to my computer via Dropbox.

The true beauty of mobile tech and this particular setup is that I can use any of my mobile devices to do all of the steps prior to moving to the computer. I can jot down notes, browse my feeds, save to and read from Pocket and write all of my articles from my HTC One X, iPhone 4S, iPad or Transformer Prime. And I can do it all without skipping a beat and when I'm in a bind. 

It took all of six months to finally discover and hone in on a method that really works well for me. And after some refining and cutting out all of the muck, I am more efficient, productive and a faster worker, all because of my smartphones and tablets. This method won't work for everyone, especially those with different professions. But to all writers (and aspiring writers) out there, if concentration and efficiency are your weak points, consider using a tablet to write and work from. It has worked like charm for me.