How I Telework: Danny Allen

As part of our National Telework Week coverage, we’re looking at how the Lifehacker team makes use of teleworking techniques to be more productive. Today, Lifehacker publisher (and former Gizmodo US/Australia editor) Danny Allen explains how he captures a great idea before it slips away in the night.

Why and when do you telework?
Let me kick this off with a guilty (and perhaps not-so-secret) confession: I’m a bit of workaholic. I scour Lifehacker for tips about maximising productivity to achieve a better work/life balance, but I’m constantly lured back into the cycle of pouncing on ideas when they strike. A story idea for the next day. A bass line for a song I’m working on. Being woken up by a tailored Google News Alert coming through to my Outlook inbox with a custom sound alert (set this under Manage Rules & Alerts).

Inspiration (the kind where ideas seemingly make their own way to you) can be a hard beast to summon. For me, it sometimes hits with breaking news in the middle of the night.

What are the most important tools (hardware and software) in your teleworking arsenal?
I tend to obsessively brain dump as much of an idea as possible, whether on the road or at home. I hum tunes into my phone while walking (I’m not crazy . . . OK, just a bit). I send feature ideas to myself and others via email before I forget them. And yes, I’m tinkering with Evernote.

If I come across an article to focus on later, I’ll send it to Pocket (formerly ReadItLater) for reading on my tablets (both iPad and Samsung if you must know). My favourite news app right now: Zite. Either platform is fine. It truly stumbles across sources I would never have added to my Google Reader RSS list. Speaking of which, there are daily attempts to hit inbox zero across Reader, Gmail and Outlook. In this, I have spectacularly failed. However, I have succeeded in arranging all my ‘feeds’ into extremely efficient and searchable folders and rules. [clear]

I tweet (follow me @danny_allen), I WordPress, I connect with the Lifehacker team in our online group chat. We all track traffic across Lifehacker, Gizmodo and Kotaku in real time. Page views, Google keywords . . . oh we’re on the front page of Reddit. Nice.

How do you stop yourself getting distracted by the comforts of home?
I sneak in work where I shouldn’t, because for now, I can. But family is important to me and little people could be on the horizon. Until then, my problem isn’t distraction. It’s turning off.

Do you ever telework in your underwear?
Ever had a great idea in the shower? It’s fertile ground for me. I’ve been known to get so absorbed in jumping out to complete a task that it’s mid-morning before I’ll look up with towel around me (and a T-shirt subconsciously thrown over my head). That was mainly when I worked strange hours writing for a bunch of US sites like and For the most part, these days you’ll find me on the train next to you. With underwear. Mostly.

Which one teleworking annoyance would you like to see fixed in the future?
I’d love better laptop and phone batteries. Real 4G speeds. Cheaper group video conferencing hardware. But for now, I’m pretty keen to try online collaboration and brainstorming tools like Basecamp, Office 365, Mindjet, Teambox, and even good ol Google Docs. Everyone has a favourite; what’s yours?

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