The Way We Work 2016: Alan Henry’s Gear and Tricks to Improve Productivity
Every week, we share shortcuts, workspaces, and productivity tips from our favorite experts and personalities. This week we talk about how we work, and today it’s my turn. Somehow I’m in a big chair right now, so this is how I keep this ship on course.
Obviously, I’m not new to this series. In 2015, I made some pretty nice changes to my workspace (and switched to a triple monitor!) In 2014, I solidified myself to be cross-platform . In 2013, I was cursed by my love for services that were doomed to be closed . Even before that, I was a beginner . It’s been a long road, but let’s focus on what’s new – and barring that, at least what’s interesting.
Location : Washington, DC (current) Current job : Editor-in-chief of Lifehacker One word that best describes how you work: Strategically relevant mobile device: Moto X (2013 model, running Android 5.1 Lollipop). Also in the box: OnePlus One (running Android 5.0 Lollipop), Nexus 5 (running Android 6.0 Marshmallow), iPad 3 (iOS 9), and the rooted (and still running) Nook Simple Touch. Current computer : Ganymede, my 15-inch MacBook Pro (2010), Deneb, my personalized Windows PC (Win 10), and when I’m really bored, Europa, my 15-inch MacBook Pro (2008) running Ubuntu …
What apps, software or tools can’t you live without?
Pretty much everything that gets to my desk goes through Google Docs and Drive . I still manage email on Mac with Airmail and Postbox on Windows, although I’ve seen a few promising beta releases that might displace those two. Good desktop email clients are hard to find. Unlike all the other Lifehacker staff, who are mostly LastPass enthusiasts, Dashlane continues to be my preferred password manager. It helps that I still have an old old free account that suits all of my needs.
For everyone who follows, I still bathe in smartphones. The ones I listed above are of course here, but that’s not counting the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, which I tested a few months ago , or the OnePlus X and OnePlus 2, which I’m still trying to send back to OnePlus (guys, seriously take these phones, I don’t need them anymore.)
My Nexus 5 is my pure Android stand, and my OnePlus One is more or less the phone that I use when my Moto X needs to be charged and I don’t have it on hand (and with it I stream a lot to my Chromecast I, too, was going to replace your Moto X – it served me long and well, and I think the Nexus 6P is probably going to be my next phone, probably in the next month or so, if nothing happens -razrushitelny result. spring round We’ll see.
How is your workplace arranged?
Let’s go on par with you guys – not much has changed since that time last year. When you find a suitable setting, stick to it. The downside is that in a few months I will move, which means that I will have to turn everything upside down. Wish me luck.
Until then, I still rock a30 “Monoprice IPS display in the center of my triple monitors and two (now discontinued) 27″ Monoprice IPS displays on the sides. Ganymede, my trusty (but aging) 2010 Macbook Pro sits under the display on the right, and I pop it out and stuff it in my bag when I need to take my work with me. Deneb, my custom Windows PC is on the left. I even have SpaceBars that keep 27 “ displays at a decent height compared to 30 ” ones , and they make great USB hubs for both computers. Not too long ago, I finally moved all of my display connectors to DisplayPort, and let me tell you, if you’re still using DVI-D and you don’t need to, switch to DisplayPort. It is much easier to lay cables.
In Deneb, other than upgrading to Windows 10, not much has changed. This is still as much my gaming PC as my Windows test bench. Someone here needs to use Windows on a daily basis, and that could be me. I’ve been thinking about building a new computer and every time I update our PC building guides I get itchy, but I think I’m going to go beyond overclocking before I do.
I’m still (I know it’s been two years now, don’t be silent) proud of my lamp and camera mount: it doubles as a light source and a webcam stand. My faithful Loigtech HD C920 installed there using Joby the Gorillapod , so when I ‘m calling in Google Hangouts, or a Skype, the camera is close to my face, and usually at a large angle, when I conduct interviews with podcasts, or other video calls.
Now I’m talking about my peripherals. My annoying addiction. I’m still rocking my Corsair K70 RGB for my Windows PC, and if you have any recommendations for awesome lighting profiles I’d love to see them. On my Mac, I actually used the Das Keyboard’s Division Zero X40 , which they sent me recently for review . I mean, look, this is a gaming keyboard, but I really love their dedicated writing switches. They are similar in many ways to Cherry MX Red, but are twice as quiet, which makes it a pleasure to write on them. Even when I finished my review and changed my Corsair back to my Windows PC, I kept writing about it. The Cooler Master Novatouch TKL that I mentioned last year is still spinning, just in that foot box under my desk along with all the other keyboards I have, waiting for a while for me to feel the urge to change things up a bit .
However, the situation with the mouse has completely changed. I switched from the Performance MX to the Logitech MX Master , which is more than a suitable successor . I switched from my lovely wireless Logitech G602 to Windows to the Logitech G502 Proteus Core because I love that feeling more than I love the lack of a cable on my desk. I know last year I said that “I would be tempted to pull the cable back on the table.” Well, the G502 is just good . What about my Performance MX and G602? Don’t worry – they are in my filing cabinet along with the other dozen mice I keep, because I clearly have a problem.
What’s your best time-saver or life hack?
Over the years, I have told you to load your day and week ahead of time , and I have told you to tackle your affairs as fiercely as possible. But here’s something I want to highlight this year: aggressively defend your borders , your personal space, and your workload. Protect your free time, take a vacation, and don’t work when you don’t need to work. Spend time doing what you love with the people you love.
If I’ve learned anything since I took center stage at Lifehacker, it’s how important it is to be flexible and reactive, as well as to aggressively defend your borders. It was once upon a time that I was a project manager that helped me a lot, and I still agree that laziness is a powerful productivity weapon . It even applies here (do things now so you can be lazy later), but it’s still a delicate balance. When it comes to productivity, this is my mantra this year like never before:
Productivity isn’t just about doing more crap. It’s about getting the shit you needed to finish finished so you can spend more time doing the shit you want to do.
Your time is precious. Spend it on things that enrich, inspire, challenge, and empower. Don’t settle for anything less. Don’t be afraid to use your time and energy. This is all we really have.
Yes, let’s just do it.
What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
Asana is still what I fondly call my “bank of ideas,” with various boards for articles and ideas, home projects, and a few other things that I still keep secret. As a joke, the Sunday Showdown was one of those idea bank projects that came in as a spark of an idea and turned into something amazing.
Todoist is still my everyday manager, mainly because I love the way it handles recurring events, it’s super easy to use and has apps and plugins for just about every OS, mobile OS, email app, or browser you can think of. … He is everywhere, so he is always by my side, and this is exactly what I need from a to-do application.
For everything else, like shopping lists, packing lists, notes (like how many reps with what weight I do at the gym) and other quick notes and reminders to myself, I’m all about Google Keep , which is still incredibly underrated .
What device, besides a phone and a computer, can you not live without and why?
Some of you noticed this in my workspace photo last year, but apart from the phone and the computer and all the peripherals for them, I absolutely love the headphones. I enter this thread and now every time here Lifehacker , but I tend to keep the depth of my collection to myself. Well, let’s talk about banks. I have a wall of headphones next to my desk, so I can swap positions depending on what I am listening to and what I want to hear from it. Right now, I have a pair of AKG K7XX Special Editions (which I bought from Massdrop ) that are used the most, the AKG K701 kit that I took to compare with the K7XX, a pair of Grado SR80e that are perfect for jazz and classical (which are easily worth twice as expensive), a pair of old V-Moda M100s that are damn near indestructible, sound great and have great insulation, and a pair of Sennheiser Momentums, which I also pondered on long before I bought them – they are worth every penny.
These are just the ones on the wall. There is a pair of AKG K553 Pro right under the wall, as well as Blue Mo-Fi powered headphones that I really like and really need to write about (you can check the Gizmodo review , but I liked them a little more than my man. Mario. ) They are expensive, but perfect for podcasting and voiceover, and I feel like I wear some kind of steampunk machine on my head when I put them on. This is probably all that is worth telling in more detail. Also in the heap is a pair of Superlux HD668Bs , a robust Monoprice 8323 kit, a Koss Bluetooth BT540i kit and a Koss Pro4S that they kindly sent in for review (not bad for Bluetooth!) And here it is. I have a lot of headphones. I really need to sell something, but I love the options.
Last year I mentioned my multicooker (plural. Yes, I have three), the Kitchen Aid stand mixer that changed my baked goods all year, and the little changes I made to the coffee making process, which are all good and good. … I even mentioned how much I fell in love again with my humble Nintendo 3DS , but mobile gaming is a love affair that has expanded to the point where I recently bought a PS Vita , mostly to catch up on older games. not available on other platforms, and crappy import names. Even when I don’t have time to play on my computer, I can make time to play on the train or something, a little sanity that I’m grateful for.
What are some of your best everyday activities?
I still don’t like this question, even after all these years, mainly because I don’t think I’m better at it than anyone else. I just like to think that I’m good at them. I mentioned adaptability (and my BS detectors) last year, but had no idea how far-sighted that vision would be, how important flexibility and adaptability would become in the next year – and how important it is right now. I’m probably one of the most adaptable people I know, and I still have to find the line every day between what I should be willing to change and where I should draw the line. It’s a never-ending struggle between sticking to your boundaries and getting out of your comfort zone .
That’s the point, isn’t it? Be willing to bend over without breaking, but maintain who you are and what makes you yourself. It’s skill, not talent, and it’s something that takes practice – so in a way, I’m grateful that I had so much of this.
What do you listen to while you work?
Bless my old party heart, but these days I’m really into future funk and steamwave while I work. This is partly due to the fact that most of them are mostly instrumental and all beats, so it’s easy to work on. This is in part because it celebrates 80s / 90s nostalgia for neon-lit, cyberpunk, an uncertain future for Bladerunner (with a huge chunk of anime GIFs) paired with samples and remixes from classic funk, soul, disco and electronics. which I ‘I have listened to for many years. I recently put together a YouTube playlist for you with some of my favorite tracks:
Since YouTube and SoundCloud seem to be at the center of this stuff, I found myself just subscribing to YouTube channels and clicking play all on some of those channels. Some worth subscribing to are Artzie Music , Triangle Music , SoundStation , 94.20AM , Tukyo キ ー O へ, 悲 し い ANDROID-APARTMENT , ENM , Real ℒℴѵℯ , AkaneInTokio TV, and Sun Levi .
If you are a Pandora lover, take a look at my profile to see what I listen to, when it works for me – you will find what you like. You usually catch me listening to my Todd Terje station or that Skyrim station that makes me write. In other cases, it could be a liberator or Blackmill or Parov Stelar . When I feel horny, it’s all about Miles , or maybe Mark Farina , or heck, even Brubeck .
In addition, some familiar names that are still worth your hearing, and your subscription: Noon Pacific , about which I spoke earlier , Freefall Radio , a weekly podcast, which leads David Bassin , and the disappearance of This Is My Jam I moved on. on Nusiki (which I wrote about before – you can check my profile here ) to share my community songs, and Whyd (you can check my profile here ) when I hear something that I absolutely need to save and listen to again …
What are you reading now?
I’m working on a heap of technical Automate the Boring Stuff with Python by Al Svigarta , mainly as a freshener Python, but also to see if there are any interesting projects that I can highlight here at Lifehacker.
From a stack of cookbooks, I worked on the recipes in America’s Test Kitchen’s Cook It In Cast Iron . You can definitely look forward to seeing some of their tricks outlined here in future posts – it’s already awesome, and if you want to pamper yourself and love to cook in cast iron as much as I do, grab this book. We recently reviewed their latest book, Kitchen Hacks , and it’s worth checking out too.
How do you replenish?
I really can’t underestimate the revitalizing power of music, good food, decent drink, and naps. Out of it all, I get the most music (and maybe a little time to play video games), but still try to find time to eat and drink well. Unfortunately, my casual dream faded into the background. Hopefully someday this will appear on my schedule again.
I also recharge when I leave home and travel around town or around the world. The same old, the same old, maybe pretty outdated. I’ve also found that photographing – even in the streets you know – makes you see and appreciate them in a whole new light.
Oh, that’s a lot of coffee. And tea. Not at the same time.
What is your sleep routine?
Working with a team scattered across the country requires me to be flexible, so I usually get up and work around 7/8 AM ET (4/5 AM PST), drink my first coffee of the day, check channels to see if something interesting happened overnight. Fortunately, I don’t have to be at the keys as soon as I wake up, which is a consolation, but at the same time the same advantage turns into a disadvantage when it’s middle of the evening or night for me, but afternoon for my colleagues from other parts country. It’s a compromise, but it’s hard to get used to.
I try to go to bed around 11:00 pm (although lately it was closer to midnight or 1:00 am), and although I try to work as much as possible in the morning while it is still quiet, I feel more creative in the afternoons and evenings. so I try to have time to brainstorm or work on my personal projects then.
Fill in the blank: I would like _________ to answer these same questions.
We all made our wish come true when it got to the point where Elton Brown did How I Work , so I’m very excited about that. In fact, I really want to aim even higher and see who else we can get what we’ve always wanted to talk to, so if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!
Other than that, just like last year, I would still like to know howNikki Giovanni works, or NASA administratorCharles Bolden , or Mae Jameson (we have one birthday!), Or LeVar Burton, since they were all models for me. to follow in childhood. … Let’s add Ta-Nehisi Coates as I have a lot of respect for his writing style.
Oh, and this would not be the answer to this question if I did not hope that one day Xeni Jardin will share her vision with us. I already mentioned that she is one of my heroes, and in this regard, nothing has changed.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Ready for an answer, you can probably google it at this point? Here:
Back in 2006, I struggled to lead a double life. On the one hand, I worked in technology and went to graduate school trying to decide if I wanted to make a living working in an office with corporate technology. On the other hand, I already wrote myself and really wanted to do it in my career. I turned to Xeni Jardine , founding partner and co-editor of Boing Boing (still one of my favorite sites), on a whim for advice, as an aspiring writer seeking advice from someone more experienced. She answered:
Find untold stories, things that captivate you, and do your best to tell them honestly. There is so little truth in the world these days that any little piece of it is a jewel that will be appreciated and will find a grateful audience.
Don’t look for “big” stories, just look for the ones that matter to you. The more you work on it, the better your work will be and the more people will see it.
I’m still working on it, but every day I appreciate her words. I will also share a quote from the 8th century Zen father, Shito Sitsian: “The vast sky is not impeded by floating clouds.” I try to remember something else, especially in this direction.
Anything you would like to add?
Every year I post the video above. It becomes more and more important every year.
I said that I was in Washington “for now.” I love it here and if anyone else is in the area or is thinking about it, you can always rely on me to tell you what to see, where to live and of course what to avoid. However, if you haven’t already, I’m moving! I am moving to New York in the near future. It will definitely be an adventure.
On the other hand, I have a feeling that we will be having more Lifehacker meetings in the near future, so … hold on to your asses?