Photo credit: Minifig

One of the world’s most recent innovators passed away yesterday, far too soon and yet achieving so much in the time he had on this planet. Whether you admired, revered or thought little of him (in terms of time spent thinking about him or in terms of who he was), he left an impression that will outlast many of us who are still alive. There have been many tributes to the man, his ideas and his achievements over the past day or so on the Internet, but I’ve yet to encounter one that discussed how the man, his ideas and his achievements have changed the realm to which Stepcase Lifehack primarily dwells in: productivity.

This is not to say Steve Jobs has enhanced the way all of us do things. For a lot of people, his company’s creations played a minimal to non-existent role in their lives – at first glance. But if you look deeper than the iDevices he had a huge hand in bringing to the world, you may find that some of what he helped create may have had a more profound impact on your productivity than you realize.

Rather than endow you with how Steve Jobs may have had a hand in making you more productive, I’ve thought about how his innovations have done so for myself. There are some things that were quite apparent to me from the get-go, but as I dug deeper I found there was a lot more there than meets the “i”.

Time

There’s no question that the things Steve dreamt up (or re-invented, innovated, improved, etc.) has boosted my efficiency. Much of what I use to manage my time exists on the platforms his company created. I don’t need to use those solutions to manage my time; I can use pen and paper just as easily – and still do for some aspects of my workflow. But the fact that they are at my disposal has allowed me to reflect on the value of time as a whole.

When I don’t have my task management program at the ready, I’m not at a loss – at least, not anymore. Instead, I’m more mindful of where my time is being spent and how quickly it can pass. That mindset came to the forefront yesterday when I read that Steve had died. He was so young, only 19 years older than me. Sure, that may seem like a long time, but it isn’t. It really isn’t.

With all that he did in the time that he had, he treated time like the precious commodity that it is – and unlike his wealth (which not many of us have), we all have the same amount of time in the day to accomplish what matters most to us. He did that, and that shows how much he valued his time. I aspire to treat time with as much care and reverence as Steve did.

Simplicity

Every Apple device I’ve ever used has been more intuitive than any other computing device I’ve ever used. I’d go as far to say that my Mac computers have truly been “appliances” in the sense that I know they’ll do pretty much what I need them to do time and time again, much like a refrigerator, a microwave or a deep freezer. I think that’s what he was going for. I also think he wanted to make sure that an Apple computer would blend into your home as seamlessly as any other household appliance would. The look on the outside was simple and inviting, more than the inside was. But once you got in there, that’s where things got done.

Everything seems to flow in iWorld. The whole “mind like water mantra” that David Allen espouses to fits Apple’s philosophy as well. Get the stuff out of the way that blocks access to progress. Steve got this, and it showed in virtually all aspects of his life. The famous photo of him sitting in an apartment with very little stuff surrounding him is a testament to this. There’s no stuff in the way – just what matters. He may have been more complex on the inside, but the uncluttered Apple remote, the miniscule MacBook Air and the glowing white Apple logo that came to replace the spectrum of colours beforehand all showed that simplicity was what he wanted to deliver on the outside. Right down to the mock black turtleneck, blue jeans and sneakers – grass-stained or otherwise.

Play

Rarely have I found that using my iDevices has been a chore. But beyond that, his greatest source of play has to be Pixar.

Pixar seems to embody a lot of the earlier aspects of my productivity that Steve has had an impact on: time and simplicity. I’ve never found that watching a Pixar film is a waste of time, and I can only think of one that didn’t appeal to me (sorry, Cars 2). I value Pixar’s work so much that it is the only movie studio where I look forward to hwat they’re working on next. Much like I do with Apple, actually. I value what they offer to me and my family, so much so that I am willing to spend time and money going to the theatre to watch one of their films rather than wait until I can do so at home.

The stories behind each of their films are simple as well. From Wall-E to Toy Story to Up, the heart of the film is the story, and the technology serves to bring the story to life. The technology is the platform, the story is the goods. And the goods are, simply put, brilliant.

Steve loved to work and loved his work. So, for him it was play. If only it was that way for more of us. We spend so much time working and not enough time playing. Imagine if work was play for more of us. It’s become that way for me in recent years, and that’s partially due to what Steve has had a role in delivering.

Creativity

This is a no-brainer on so many levels, but for me it’s creativity on so many levels as well. Steve’s work has allowed me to integrate my creativity into so much of what I do, almost effortlessly at this juncture of my life. Knowing that I can push boundaries and limitations with the tools I have at my disposal allows for a much greater flow of creative juices. Even as I write this, I know that the wellspring of my creativity can be fostered on a variety of platforms (prose, video, audio) in large part because of Steve’s vision and his ability to create tangible tools from that vision.

I can say, withut a doubt, that I would not be making a living as a writer if it had not been for Steve Jobs. Not because I couldn’t have done it without his innovations, but because I wouldn’t have. The barriers to entry were too high when I started to feel the need to express myself in this career. That would have made taking the risks I’ve taken to get where I’m at today much tougher to swallow. Honestly, I’d probably still be working my old retail day job instead of writing this today. Not necessarily a bad place, but a bad place for me.

So it goes.

Steve Jobs changed my productivity. His life’s work has played a part in helping me craft my life’s work. The best way to honour his memory is for me to press on doing just that: my life’s work. And thanks to his vision I can do that a lot more efficiently and effectively than I could have without it.

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