Lowering Carbon Footprint, Increasing Productivity: From Paper to iPad

I’ve been a big proponent of using paper to plan out projects as well as tasks, but since picking up an iPad I’ve been shifting back into electronic organization.  I still love having a pen and paper handy, but I’m starting to find that with the right tools in play electronically I am producing more efficiently and effectively.  It boils down to a few things, really:

Ubiquitous Capture

While I don’t necessarily have to carry my iPad with me wherever I go, I generally have my iPhone with me.  With the synchronizing of common apps between the two devices, I no longer have to fiddle for a pad and pen – no matter how elegant they may be.  Before, I’d have to bring around my Hipster PDA (which, to be fair, I still have in my car just in case my 1st generation iPhone’s battery dies on me – and yes, I am going to upgrade) and then transfer what I captured there to my productivity program of choice.  No longer.  Now, I simply use a program like Note2Self if something comes to me quickly or go directly into my productivity app of choice and record it there.  By the time I get home I’ve either emailed the note to my self or have synced the task with my iPad (and MacBook Pro).  I’m never at a loss.  There’s nothing more ubiquitous than that.

The Right Tools

With my new Dodocase, my iPad is disguised as Moleskine.  I can carry it around with me and search for things quickly and easily.  I can move much faster and make the two-minute rule achievable on a consistent basis.

Besides a case that is functional, you’ll need to have software that is just as functional – likely more so.  Here’s what I’m currently using:

  • OmniFocus: Tried ’em all…yet I keep coming back to OmniFocus.  It appears to be the heavyweight champion of productivity apps.  It’s the syncing that does it for me – and I’m beta-testing their web server now as well…which has worked like a charm. I’ve got a lot on the go and don’t mind that you have to wrap your head around OmniFocus before you can really make it what you need it to be.  There are other great apps out there in the native application realm (Things, The Hit List), the web app realm (Producteev2, Remember The Milk, Nozbe) and others that either work in tandem or do one thing really well (Evernote is one I sue for all the “other stuff”) but OmniFocus just keeps hooking me back in.  It’s that good.
  • Note2Self: This is great for those times that you need to quickly get something out of your head and don’t want to scramble to do so.  Just record your voice memo and you can email it directly to yourself (or to an assistant, someone you delegate to, etc.) straight away.  You can preset email addresses in the app and if you’re not in 3G range or just feel it can wait, you can save the note.  Simple and useful…that’s why I like it. (And it’s available for Blackberry and Windows Mobile as well.)

The transition hasn’t been completely smooth – setting up OmniFocus again to work just as I need it to has taken some time.  There’s plenty of ways to do it, and having a listen to the MacPowerUser podcast comparing OmniFocus to Things definitely helped.  So even though it took some time, it was time well spent.  Just as the money on my iPad was.

Not that I’m giving up paper completely.  I still use my trusty actual Moleskine for journalling.  For now.

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Mike Vardy an editor on Work Awesome. We could tell you where his personal productivity parody site, Eventualism and all of his other projects reside on the web, but you'd be best served going to Vardy.me and following the trail of virtual bread crumbs from there.


  1. Corie on the 28th June

    Great article….just another reason to tack on to my “say yes to the ipad” list lol. Thank you!

  2. Trish on the 28th June

    I can see how the iPad would increase productivity, especially in the situations given above, but how does it lower your carbon footprint, exactly? After all, the energy you use each time you create or view something on the iPad, adds up. And as for reducing your carbon footprint by reading books on the iPad vs. the old-fashioned way, a book (once printed) has virtually no carbon footprint, especially once it arrives in your home (or in your local library). You can read the same book hundreds of times without increasing your CF. But each time you read a book on an electronic device, you’re using powering, thus increasing your CF.

    • Mike Vardy on the 28th June

      Just using less paper does it. Whether you’re using a Moleskine, post-it notes, index cards or refillable planners, you’re going to go through a ton of paper if you capture absolutely everything you need to. Rather than have a printed to do list or a printout of a document, I can simply store it on my iPad. I do realize that charging and using the iPad does offset some of it, but in terms of how I’m using it, it certainly reduces mine.

      As for the reading of books, I agree with you. A book is reusable – it’s not something you dispose of when you’re done with it. While I do use my iPad for some reading, it’s not my “go-to gadget” when it comes to it. I still prefer a book when I can….reading off of a screen for long period of time just isn’t how I like to read. The advantages of carrying a lot of books on the iPad isn’t lost on me, however. Nor is the amount of impact the printing of books has on the environment, which e-readers can help reduce.

      For the basis of this article, I’m lowering my carbon footprint – and I think if used as a replacement for paper productivity, others will as well.

  3. eiffair on the 29th June

    Great article. I’am an Omnifocus user too and agree with you to say ti is the best productivity app.
    You say you’re a beta tester for monifocus’s web server. Do you meen they’re working on an online solution (like RTM or Nozbe). It could be a great news since I can’t use my favorit app at work (on PC).
    Thanks in advance

    • Mike Vardy on the 29th June

      Thanks for the comment!

      Omni Group is running a beta test on a “Sync server” where you can sync all of your OmniFocus data. It’s an alternative to MobileMe or other WebDAV options that are out there.

      Although I do wish (and bet) that they are thinking that the web is the next platform for their apps. Only time will tell!

  4. tp on the 30th June

    I agree that charging the iPad or the eBook reader might save energy, compared to the printing and transportation of a book. But what about the footprint of manufacturing and (at some point in the future) disposing the electronical devices? How many books have to be printed to cover the CO2 emissions of the eBook reader assembly?

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