Personal meditations on tools for creativity, productivity, and time.
I wanted a new device, a new app, a new something. I had fallen prey to a common productivity trap, looking for a new tool to solve all of my problems. I’m sure you already know this truth: it doesn’t exist.
For a long time, I thought that I just needed the iPad Mini, a small and portable tablet, to help me keep up with my tasks. That way, my calendar would always be with me. I could see my Things 3 lists at all times. Craft Docs and Apple Notes would be in my pocket, and I could pull out my Apple Pencil and make sketches and draft out new writing ideas and models for academic research at a moment’s notice.
For context, I already own an iPad. It’s not the newest one, but it’s pretty good. It’s lovely, really. I use the iPad Air 4 with the Magic Keyboard. The keyboard never needs to be charged, and it’s saved my time on countless occasions while stuck waiting in spaces with no real room to work (e.g., airplane rides, healthcare facilities). The Magic Keyboard is “lappable,” which basically means that I can get serious writing done anywhere that I can sit down! The only criticism that I had for my current iPad was the weight. The Magic Keyboard and iPad Air 4 is hefty, over twice the weight of the iPad Mini.
So why am I keeping the iPad Air 4? The iPad isn’t exactly the problem. I have a tendency to sign myself up for projects and events that don’t meet the constraints of my limited time, both professionally and personally. It’s a fault that I am actively working to improve — to set limits and take regular, restorative breaks. A new iPad, app, nor any other device can reduce our workloads.
Buying something new is often a coverup, or a bandage to fix a failing system. It seems like the easy way out, but in reality, it could waste your time and money. These are measurable costs to adding new pieces to an existing system.
There is a time cost. Although intuitive, a new iPad takes a while to set up, especially for so-called power users. You link the iPad to your iCloud, position your apps, design your displays, and tinker with other settings.
A new iPad also has a substantial financial cost. The iPad Mini 6 varies from around $400 to $500 for the base model (the cheapest one). Keep in mind that this is only for the iPad, not peripherals, like screen protectors, protective cases, nor the Apple Pencil. The cost is not trivial, and for me, it’s a completely unnecessary personal expense. Hugh MacLeod, author of Ignore Everybody reminds us that “part of being a creative is learning how to protect your freedom. That includes freedom from avarice.”
We don’t need to spend unnecessarily to be more creative. We don’t need the latest hardware or software to be better at our crafts. Before we opt to buy something new, the first step to solving a problem should start within ourselves, not some external device or any app. Although many ads will try to convince you otherwise, there is no “one thing that fixes all.” Some devices may help us, sure, but never get lost in the constant compulsion to optimize. Nothing can do the work (or decline work requests) for you.
To be sure, the iPad mini seems like a wonderful device for specific use cases. Right now, though, I cannot justify the cost. Someday that may change. These regular reflections, done publicly or privately, can help us understand why we consider purchasing new devices and hold us accountable to what we truly value and actually need.
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