The most effective tool I've ever bought

What's the most effective tool you've ever bought? These days, I'm starting to think it's my iPad. At $499, it seemed at first like an expensive toy. I knew there was potential there and I mostly got it so I could start to get a feel for the device and how it could be used.  But I'm finding that I'm using it more and more.When it first came out, there was a lot of talk that it wasn't as useful as a laptop and too big to effectively replace the iPhone.  This discussion belied the exact type of flawed thinking that always greets truly new paradigms.  Is typing on the ipad as flawless as it is on a laptop?  Of course not.  But it is better than typing on an iPhone.  If the pre-iPad me had to return an email, I would take mental stock of how long I expected it to be; quick line or two, iPhone is fine, any longer and I'm breaking out the laptop.  But now, I don't even hesitate, it's the iPad every time.

And more and more tasks are falling into the "iPad every time" category.  Wikipedia search?  IMDB search?  Google search?  While the iPhone ushered in the era of "there's an app for that", the iPad is what's making it truly worthwhile IMHO.  What the iPhone did was pull us away from our computers and allowed us to do things we traditionally needed a PC for, anywhere we happened to be.  What the iPad does is pull some of these things back to the middle.  LIke it or not, there are some things that we forced onto the iPhone that maybe didn't need to be there, or at the very least, could benefit from having more screen space.

This is why I tweeted the day after I got it that the iPad is the first portile computing device. That is to say: more portable than a laptop (which can't be held in one hand effectively) but not quite as mobile as a phone (try putting it in your pocket without added stitching).  Some people thought it was nothing but dead space between laptops and phones but the iPad proves that thinking wrong.

So what makes it "the most effective tool I've ever bought"?  The simple fact that it becomes the tool I need, when I need it, and I always have it.  Email, wikipedia, books, music, movies, games, even apps for playing with and reading to my kids.  All in a package that is never more than an arm's reach away.  In less than two months, the iPad went from "an expensive toy" to something that I consider more indispensable than my iPhone.  And FSM knows I NEVER thought that would happen.

Redefining productivity

I used to work exclusively as a server in restaurants.  It's pretty easy to define productivity in such a setting, if you have a second to breathe, you're not being as productive as you can be.  As a server, your job is to be the conduit between the kitchen and the floor.  The kitchen can make food at certain rate and you need to make sure that the kitchen is fed orders at a rate they can keep up with and then deliver the food at a rate that allows people to enjoy their meal without feeling rushed.When I started a desk job, productivity began to be measured in output.  The amount of "stuff" that could be held in your hand, printed out, emailed to a client or posted to a webpage.  Without "something to show for it", you might as well have been watching youtube for 8 hours.  After doing that for years, I found I was having a hard time re-difining productivity from the point of view of an entrepreneur .

In my new role, productivity has a whole different meaning.  You see EVERYTHING I do now can be made to be productive, depending on how you look at it.  I spend at least an hour every morning just reading; Following links from twitter streams, seeing what's being dugg, reading press releases, etc.  Do I have any "output" after this time?  Maybe not.  But as the "head cheese" or "frontman", I have to measure productivity in more than just "product".  Maybe what I've produced is the knowledge that a competitor is going to beat us to market.  Maybe I've discovered a new market and I'm going to produce a brief for a new app that might serve that market.

One thing that does keep me grounded though is the fact that I still take some time each day to "produce" in the more traditional sense.  I make graphics, setup UIs, build models, etc.  Having some time each day dedicated to "something to show for it" style productivity helps me to keep from loosing my mind during the rest of my "non-traditional productivity" time.