A typical day in the life of a devoted Mac and iOS user

This week I read Kyle Vanhemert’s piece at Wired titled Nobody Knows What an iPad Is Good for Anymore, which prompted Federico Vittici to explain how he uses his iPad Air 2. Those pieces inspired me to take a look at how I spend my day with my mobile devices.

I’ve talked quite often about how I do specific tasks with my mobile devices, but I’ve never broken down exactly how I spend my day on them. Today, I’m going to examine a typical work day and a weekend day. My goal for this is to give people an idea of the tools, apps, and strategies I use to get through the day.

A typical work day

Wakeup time
My iPhone 6 Plus is my alarm and it goes off at 6:30 in the morning. I’d be lying if I said I got right up and faced the day, but the reality is I hit the snooze for a lot and then grudgingly acknowledge it’s time to get up. I’ll usually then quickly check my work and personal emails for any immediate crisis and also check to make sure that my first meeting is when I think it is.

After I’ve gotten ready, I’ll check Overcast to see if any new podcasts interest me for the hour-long ride into work. If none do, then I usually listen to a large playlist with songs I enjoy.

The work day
After arriving at work, I again check my emails and messages on the walk in from the parking lot. Once I’m at my desk, I put my iPad in my Origami Workstation and connect my iPad and iPhone to our guest wireless network.


During the day, naturally most of my work is done on my work laptop. My iPad is still an integral part of my day. I will usually keep Outlook open as my primary email triage device. I’m usually working on a document on my laptop and using my iPad to read my email lets me determine if it’s worth shifting my application focus to address the issue.

I also take the majority of my notes on OneNote for iOS. As I work on my documents throughout the day, I’ll also reference the notes on my iPad. Unless I’m taking notes on a conference call at my desk, I’ll rarely open up OneNote on my work laptop. A quick note I’ll drop into the Notes app on iOS.

Managing tasks is challenge. If someone asks me to do something, and I have my phone with me and I’ll create a Things action item. If the request arrives via an email, I’ll simply flag the email for follow-up. If it’s in a meeting I will use the checkbox formatting tool in OneNote to call it out.

The commute home is pretty much the same as the commute in. I’ll see if any podcasts have downloaded that I’m interested in. Otherwise, I’ll just listen to a playlist on the way home. At this point, plans for the evening will start to be made and I’ll use Siri to read incoming texts and respond to them.

At home
Once I’m home, I wouldn’t classify my actions as truly mobile. My Alienware Alpha is where most of focus shifts if I’m playing games. I also use MarkdownPad 2 to work on articles. My MacBook Pro usually sits to the left of the Alienware keyboard.

I feel safer surfing the internet on OS X, so that’s my browsing machine. One piece of freedom I do like with my setup is my MacBook Pro is now free from monitors and USB drives; the only cord plugged into it is the MagSafe cable. If I’m practicing my guitar, I’ll still use my amp simulators on my MacBook. This means I’m more likely to wander throughout the house with my laptop. Depending on what I’m working on, I might want a little but of change of scenery so I might go watch is snow from the family room while I’m writing.

At this point, for the most part, my iPad turns into a content consumption device. Primarily. I use it to read books on the Kindle App. I also read a lot of PDFs. Those I will usually sync via iBooks, but sometimes I’ll use GoodReader to access files from the cloud.

On the weekends, things can be very fluid. I usually keep my work email up (I’m really bad about balance), but I’m not producing much content. I typically don’t write on the weekends, so any creative activities usually involve music. If I leave the house I’ll always take my iPhone with me. If it’s a longer trip, or I think I may need to do some writing, I’ll take my iPad with me. I’m starting to force myself to use the on-screen keyboard more so I’m more productive without an external keyboard. If you ever want to see masters at on-screeen keyboards, hang around the Genius Bar at an Apple Store. Those people fly on the keyboard.

Changes I’d like to make

Steve Jobs famously referred to desktop-class devices as “trucks.” I’m not sure this is a fair comparison, but nowadays what Jobs would call a truck, I call a Digital Center. Even though iOS 8’s extensions and share sheets, combined with cloud services, have limited the need for a Digital Center. However, there remains a need in my life for a device that I can use to upload images to a CMS system, or just quickly download a file and store it someplace.

With that in mind, I was talking to a coworker this week about the Apple Watch and if he was getting one. When I said I wasn’t likely to get one I listed two reasons: it’s a Revision 1 of a new Apple category and waiting until next year’s model might be prudent; and that either my MacBook or iPad will need to be upgraded and that’s probably a better spend. The biggest slowdown I encounter on my iPad 3 is running out of RAM. I read a lot of large PDFs and there’s often quite a lag turning pages.

Until iOS 8 (and, frankly, my little Alienware box), I would be looking at a MacBook Pro. The Alienware Alpha settles my gaming and Plex server needs for now. My MacBook Pro is now my default device for things that need downloading or uploading.

That means sometime this year I’ll be upgrading my iPad. It’s the mobile device I use the most so it makes sense to upgrade it. By the time I can afford to upgrade it, it will be early Summer. That’s getting close to the October iPad releases so I might wait until the next revision to upgrade. One additional items I’ll also get is a keyboard case. Carrying the Origami case around is a little awkward at times. Another small change is I want to start making sure I grab my iPhone every time I leave my desk so I track the steps I take.

Last year I challenged myself to use the iPad more. This year, I’m challenging myself to use it as my primary mobile device and leave my MacBook at home.