Productivity

How We Work: Alex Kidman's Favourite Gear And Productivity Tricks

Every week, we share the shortcuts, workspaces and productivity tips of our favourite experts and internet personalities in our How I Work series. Over the past week, we’ve given readers a glimpse into how we work. Today, regular Lifehacker contributor and full-time gadget fiend Alex Kidman shares his top tips to complete the series.

Location: Sydney

Current gig: Freelance Journalist, frequent contributor to Lifehacker

One word that best describes how you work: Rapidly

Current mobile device: RAZR M, Galaxy Note II, iPhone 4S, iPad, iPad Mini, Nexus 7, whatever-I’m-testing-right-now-it-seems-to-have-a-screen-of-some-sort…

Current computer: Apple Macbook Air/iMac

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

1Password. I changed my password strategy about a year ago, generating a whole stack of lengthy complex passwords, and locking them behind a single password with a password manager. This also makes it simple for me to change the passwords as I feel the need and sync them with Dropbox to my choice of devices.

Twitter. Nothing fancy — I just use the regular Twitter client for Mac OS, because it’s good enough for the purposes I put it to. The majority of what I do is write, and for that I tend to use Bean; it’s a lightweight Mac OS word processor that can save into .doc files or as plain text, depending on the needs of my clients.

What’s your workspace setup like?

A snake orgy, based on the typical number of cables and gadgets that infest my desk on a regular basis. My work desk includes a 27″ iMac, a testing system running Windows 8 and whatever I’m testing/reviewing at that point in time, along with a rubber Godzilla figure that I’ve been known to punch when I get cranky.Unless I’m on the go, in which case my workspace setup consists of many gadgets wobbling precariously on my legs, from laptop to camera to Livescribe pen. It is possible to tune out the entire world (headphones help) and work anywhere in my trade.

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

Write it down now. Doesn’t matter if it’s only part of a quote, or a full story idea, or just a paragraph for a story that I might write; the act of putting pen to paper (or, in my case, digit to keyboard; I have lousy handwriting) is a great clarifying agent for getting a story rolling, or at the very least storing an idea away for future use. Why does that save time? Simply because when I do need it, it’s right there later on, rather than having to re-transcribe, or remember, or do the research again.Also, don’t waste lots of money on haircuts.

What’s your favourite to-do list manager?

Arguably iCal. Yes, it’s not a to-do list per se, but it’s the way I track my deadlines across a constantly shifting set of freelance clients; that plus the intermittent use of a simple text document that I can delete lines from day by day gets me by just fine.

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

You’re asking me to pick my favourite? That’s like choosing between my children! You monster. If pressed — and I suppose I am — I’d say my 4G hotspot. I can’t be without my Internet. Although I firmly refute that I have a problem. I can give it up any time I want to. I just never want to.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?

Making my wife laugh. I’m firmly convinced that the world would be a better place if everyone stopped to giggle a little childishly at least once a day.

What do you listen to while you work?

A jumbled playlist of music; at any one time I may jump from Prince to Metallica to Howard Jones to Jonathan Coulton to Los Campesinos to Gilbert & Sullivan, and back via Pink to Hall & Oates. With a little Weird Al on the side.

What’s your sleep routine like?

Erratic. Between three young kids, three elderly and increasingly insane cats and three noisy chooks I sometimes wonder how I get any sleep at all. I used to be a solid night owl, but in recent years I’ve had nothing that could be called a “sleep pattern” at all, although I did for a while master the art of falling asleep for precisely thirty minutes on my train ride home when I worked in the city.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

This may surprise some, but definitely more of an introvert. I find it hard to start up conversations with unfamiliar people. Once I’m amongst people I know I can be somewhat boisterous, and I have a distinct acting personality that sometimes takes over when I’m on a stage (tip: never let me near a Karaoke mic), but I’m otherwise very shy indeed, sometimes to the point of frustration.

Is there anyone you’d kill to see answer these same questions?

No, because then I’d have to dispose of the body. It’d be interesting to read the responses given by Prince or Spike Milligan.Milligan might be a tough one to organise, though, what with being dead, and I suspect the effort of changing Prince’s quirky spelling habits would send Lifehacker editor Gus over the edge.

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

“You’ll never get rich being a journalist.” That was the opening line in the interview for my first journalism gig a decade and a half ago, and it’s absolutely true. That’s cool, though, because money isn’t everything, and I get actual pleasure from writing; I’d much rather be happy and content than rich and depressed.

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers?

I’ve suffered on and off with depression for a large part of my life. Why would that be interesting to you? Because I think while we’ve made some strides in removing the social stigma around depression, it’s still seen as a rather taboo subject; you’re either meant to “suck it up”, or not “bring people down” by talking about it. Having survived some very dark days, neither attitude helps, but what can help is talking about it, whether that’s to a professional or just a friend. If you’re suffering from depression, seek help for it, and if you suspect someone you know is, don’t be afraid to reach out; you may just be saving a life.


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