This is how I work (February 2016)

work

I often read the Lifehacker articles ‘This is how I work’ with interest, whether or not I knew of the featured person beforehand. As I’ve been settling in to a new job recently I’ve been thinking about the way I work, so I thought I’d share one of my own with the world.

Location: London (where I live and work some of the time) & Cambridge (Raspberry Pi HQ)

Current Gig: Research Manager at the Raspberry Pi Foundation

One word that best describes how you work: Methodically

Current mobile device: An iPhone 5. I much preferred the robust design of the 4, but this one has lasted much longer in terms of having power to run new OSs and apps without slowing down. The battery died, but since buying a new one on eBay and prizing the screen off to fit it I am quite attached to the phone and don’t want to trade it in.

Current computer (and what OS is it running?): My work computer is a Dell XPS 9350 laptop, the first PC I’ve had in ages. It’s running Windows 10, although I plan to switch to Ubuntu when I get some time.

I’ve also got my own 13″ MacBook Pro (on Yosemite), I’ve maxed out the RAM and removed the optical drive to accomodate a 500gb hard drive and a 128gb SSD for the OS. The screen is looking dated compared to newer high res ones, but otherwise it’s a great machine. At home I’ve got a music setup with a Hackintosh based on a Quad core i7 processor, a Native Instruments Maschine, TC Electronic Konnekt 6, a Focusrite Liquidmix, Blue Sky speakers and a MIDI keyboard nearly as old as I am. I make music using a mixture of Logic 9 and Maschine.

What apps, software, or tools can’t you live without?

Evernote is my ‘everything bucket’ and pretty much the only place I make notes.

Calendar on the Mac and iPhone and Thunderbird on PC for calendars and emails. It’s essential for me to have offline email and calendars for when I’m commuting.

Scrivener is my go-to for any kind of serious writing projects. It’s a great way or structuring and organising writing, and I love the distraction free full screen mode. Sometimes I wish it had online collaboration, but it’s offline nature does help with focus.

Google Docs is great for collaborating on documents, although I’ve learned it’s essential to structure your requests to people you ask for feedback or review, otherwise people can end up just copy editing rather than giving deeper feedback on structure and ideas.

Music wise I really like the way Maschine gives you a dedicated hardware workflow as well as the power of software. I keep coming back to Ableton Live for manipulating audio and Logic for arrangement though.

What’s your workspace setup like?

I’m not one for particularly optimising workspaces. I like to keep things digital as much as possible, including all documents, so they are portable. My space at home is a bit more deliberately organised for the music hardware, but only really so I can reach things.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?

Putting things I need to do in my diary when I’ll do them was a game changer for my organisation.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

I use Trello to keep track of projects, but my main way of managing my time is putting tasks into my calendar at the time I plan to do them. Otherwise I find I just have endless lists of over-ambition. It helps to think about how long something is likely to take and means I don’t feel bad about having a lot to do, at least if I’ve got all the tasks for that day done. For this I use Google Calendar, but mostly accessed through Calendar on my Mac and iPhone and Thunderbird on the PC.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?

Bose QC25 noise canceling headphones give me great focus in open plan offices, trains, and out and about. They sound amazing too and let you create your own world when you need to.

What do you listen to while you work?

Anything with lyrics or spoken word doesn’t help with concentration so it’s got to instrumental. Brian Eno’s ambient albums are great for relaxed focus, and dance music mixes like the podcasts from Above & Beyond and Sasha give me a bit more momentum.

What are you currently reading?

Re-reading ‘Mindstorms’ by Seymour Papert. It’s a fascinating, and well ahead of its time piece of thinking on the deep relationship between technology and education.

How do you recharge?

I took up running about 18 months ago and I find it a great way to forget work and quite meditative. I’m doing though less since I’ve been cycling 5-10 miles a day for my commute. In the last couple of years I’ve focused much more on disconnecting from email, social media and online networks and found that helps immensely with switching my attention to life outside work.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I’m lucky that I’ve rarely had any insomia. If I don’t get enough sleep it’s only because I’ve been too focused on focusing on a project or spending time with people to go to bed early. I get up around 7 each morning, although much more erratically on weekends, and try to head to bed before midnight in the week.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.

I’d love to see anyone in my network answer them, I’m always fascinated to get an insight into the decisions other people make about how they live their lives.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve not got one piece of advice from an individual, although lots of people have cultivated it in me the importance of deciding how you want things to be and planning for how to get there.

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