Every week, we share the shortcuts, workspaces and productivity tips of our favourite experts and internet personalities in our How I Work series. Throughout this week, we're giving readers a glimpse into how we work. Today, Lifehacker US editor Whitson Gordon shows off his home-built computers and newfound productivity system.
Last time we went through this, I was using most of the same gear — except for my six-month stint on the iPhone — but had yet to find any sort of productivity system that really helped me get things done. This year, I've solved that problem. Here's the lowdown on how I work now.
Location: Los Angeles
Current gig: Editor-In-Chief of Lifehacker
Current mobile device: Galaxy Nexus, running CyanogenMod 10.1. I was an iPhone user for six months before that, and an Android user (again) for two years before that. I have a first-gen iPad that's starting to feel a little old and slow.
Current computer: Custom-built, overclocked, water-cooled Windows 8 PC that triple boots with a hackintoshed OS X (for video editing) and Ubuntu (for post research). I also have a 13" MacBook Air (running OS X), a kickass home theatre PC, and a home server running FreeNAS.
What apps/software/tools can't you live without?
I spent years trying to find the "perfect" productivity system and the "perfect" app for storing my notes and to-do list, and I recently realised that it was a horrible, horrible waste of time. Trying out new apps can be good, but constantly searching for new apps will only keep you from getting things done. So, I've settled on Evernote for storing all my notes (Melanie convinced me) and Wunderlist for my to-dos. Are they perfect? Probably not. Do they do their jobs? Most certainly, so I'll be sticking with them. It's more about what you do than what your app does.
I used to be a desktop app junkie, but I've pretty much switched to Google's webapps for most of my other stuff (Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Voice). I have a lot of pinned tabs. Which is one of the many, many reasons I use Firefox as my browser — it's pinned tabs are so much more space efficient than Chrome's. Sadly, we Firefox users are a dying breed.
What's your workspace setup like?
I can't stand working away from my home office. I have a nice big Logitech Performance MX mouse, dual monitors, a <bangin' set of headphones and speakers, and my Rubik's cube that keeps me busy while my computer reboots.
My desk is actually as clean as you see in the above picture. I can't stand having a mess. The only paper I keep around are bills that need paying and other things like that, which you can see tucked under the monitor stand for when I have free time. Everything else is kept away unless it's something I'm actively using, and I reset it each evening so it stays clean.
What's your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?
I'm a shortcut nut. I think text expansion might be man's greatest invention. I use Breevy to automate a lot of my tedious typing every day, whether it's emails, HTML in my posts, outlines for specific post types, and everything else I can think of. I'm sure I'm only using it for 10 per cent of what I could use it for, too.
I also use AutoHotkey to turn everything into a keyboard shortcut, swipe actions on my Android phone, and Launchy to do just about anything else. The less typing or clicking it takes to get something done, the better.
I should also give a shout out to Lazarus, which just saved me from having to rewrite this whole post after I accidentally closed the window I was writing in. Talk about a time saver.
What's your favourite to-do list manager?
Right now I'm using Wunderlist. I like it because it's simple and quick to jot down to-dos, check them off, and keep moving — plus it's available on all my devices. I tried a lot of things in the past (like plain text, which definitely has its advantages), but going back to basics has been the first thing that really worked for me. Partially because I've actually started taking the initiative to use it, which is really 99 per cent of the battle anyway.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without?
My Gunnar computer glasses, which keep me from getting headaches after staring at the computer all ding dong day. I've also fallen in love with my new Grid-It iPad sleeve. It holds my iPad in the back and all my other odds and ends in the grid — from every cable type I could need to my iPod and Nook Simple Touch.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What's your secret?
I reply to tweets and email at near-lightning speed. My secret is that I don't prioritise notifications as well as I should. That, and I spend way too much time at my computer, and don't ever turn off my work email. Gotta fix that.
What do you listen to while you work?
I rarely differentiate "work" music with my normal music, so I just listen to my usual stuff. What that means can vary from hour to hour — one minute it could be death metal and the next minute it could be trance or dubstep or Taylor Swift. I'm a bit of a music junkie.
If I feel myself getting distracted, however I have a solid playlist of instrumental metal that makes it a bit easier to focus (since there are no lyrics), but if I really need to buckle down, I'll turn the music off entirely.
What's your sleep routine like?
Despite the fact that I have the evening shift at Lifehacker, I work best in the morning. So I'm early to bed, early to rise. Unless I'm on a roll in Skyrim.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
I don't like labels like this. But to answer the question: I'm kind of both. When I'm with other people, I'm very energetic and loud and extroverted, but I still desperately need my alone time. If I don't get some time to myself to read, mess with my computers, and/or play video games, I'll go crazy.
Is there anyone you'd kill to see answer these same questions?
Alton Brown would definitely be my top choice. He's one of my favourite life hackers. Also, just about anyone that has developed an app we love at Lifehacker. I'd be particularly interested to see how people in the iOS jailbreak community and Android rooting/ROM community do what they do. Heck, anyone in the open source community too — I'm just fascinated by people that are able to do all this work in their spare time and have jobs.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
"Those who don't give a f**k change the world. The rest do not." I'm one of those people who cares way too much about what other people think. I let criticism get to me way too much, and as much as I don't like to admit it, it's a very prevalent issue for me at this job (though my skin certainly has gotten thicker over the years). There's something to be said for pleasing your audience (that's you guys), but coming to grips with the fact that you'll never please everyone is crucial to getting back your self-respect. In the end, only you can make yourself happy. If you're looking to other people, you're looking in the wrong place.
Is there anything else you'd like to add that might be interesting to readers/fans?
Yes, I still eat potato chips with chopsticks.