Reading Lifehacker can inspire you to reboot your computer habits, your workflow, your workspace, and even your home life. Believe me, I should know. About a year ago, I was a messy-desked, easily-distracted reporter who relished his lunch-break reading of Lifehacker's RSS feed. I asked to write a few posts, lucked into a real gig, and can now tell the story of becoming a task-minded guru who gets things done with the right software. That's not a true story, though. Inspired by an appearance by PostSecret founder Frank Warren here in Buffalo last night, I've decided to skip the authoritative "we" voice this afternoon and share my semi-secret Lifehacker failings and confessions. Read on to see what I'm not exactly getting done the right way, and offer up your own productivity penance. Photo by allaboutgeorge.
I've (mostly) forsaken Firefox for Google Chrome
It's easy to confess that every member of the Lifehacker team uses, and geeks out about, the open-source, infinitely extensible browser Firefox. It's harder to admit that, despite all the amazing ways it can help a blogger copy links, download pictures and files, customise webapps, and do so much more, I'm primarily using the no-add-ons-available Google Chrome to surf and write. I'm hooked because it's snappy fast, it lets individual pages crash without bringing down the house (no small thing when you're testing new web services in the wee hours), it auto-converts Google results links into normal URLs, and I just, well, like it for some reason. Google hype gone to my brain? Perhaps. But with extensions and user scripts on the way, I tell myself I'm just an early adopter with a thing for top-mounted tabs.
I gave up application launchers for the Windows key (also: I'm using Vista)
Until one month ago, I was an evangelist for the Windows application launcher Launchy. Smacking Alt+Space to pull up nearly anything on my system felt great, and I was amped to see it launch for Linux. My laptop came loaded with Windows Vista Home Premium, however, and Launchy was one of many utility apps I always had running, but after a few months, I could definitely feel the drag. I re-installed Vista—because I'm cynical enough to believe it will, eventually, replace XP on most desktops—and thought about what I really needed. Our commenters have often noted that just hitting the "Windows" key and typing out what you're looking for is fast and works nearly as well. Turns out, for my uses, they were right. I still use GNOME-Do when I'm booted into Linux, but the open-source geek inside me feels dirty admitting it's re-assigned to the Windows key.
I'm pretty much useless with Microsoft Office
I majored in English at college and write for a living, but if you asked me how to divide a Word document into two columns and separate them with grey space, I'd need about 20 minutes to Google and poke around. It's not that you can't do cool things with Word, Excel, or (grudgingly) PowerPoint, but I've just never been called on to do them. So for my needs of writing words and spell-checking them, I'm using the auto-saving/syncing Google Docs, Notepad++, or our straight-text blog editor. Those charts and graphs in the browser speed tests? Yeah, those were pretty late nights.
My Getting Things Done kung-fu is easily beaten down
This one truly feels like confession, as the Getting Things Done theology is pretty strong amongst our editorial team and readership. I create task lists, I break them down into actions, I tag them with their context areas, and I use a cell phone, my iPod touch, and Remember the Milk for universal capture. But there are items on my to-do lists that seemingly never come off, and the first-in, first-out mentality is just not how my brain works. My best example? "Clean out grill." That's been in my personal list ever since, well, it made sense to be outdoor grilling in upstate New York. In any stretch of free time I've found, though, I never think to do it, and I'll actually add and complete tasks to the list instead of breaking out the hose and rags. I'll only realise just how important task management is when I open up that kettle and see the char from late July staring back at me.
I can't hack it running Linux full-time
I was, to be honest, pretty amazed when I installed my first copy of Kubuntu and saw that you could do pretty much every computer task—browse the web, open Word documents, play media and IM—from a completely free (and speedy) desktop. Ever since, I've been impressed with the concept of switching to Linux entirely. When I last wiped Vista off my ThinkPad, I thought about making a go of it with Ubuntu, a copy of XP running in VirtualBox (for app testing), and a little WINE. But the thing about working entirely on Linux is that you end up spending, to this day, a lot of time looking up how to make things work, to emulate this or that Windows utility, to share a printer between Linux and XP systems, to fix a strange dual-monitor problem—in other words, not really working. It also isn't fair to evaluate some Windows apps inside a virtual machine, I remind myself, but the truth is, the most user-friendly Linux just isn't ready to replace Windows entirely—as the Ubuntu founder himself will tell you.
Those are my semi-shameful confessions to you, our wise and loyal readers. Now let's open it up to yours. What productivity tips, tricks, or software can you just not adapt to? What old, busted software are you still using despite all the good things you know about in newer apps? What skill have you been putting off learning since, like, forever? Tell us your tale in the comments.