Once more it's time for our annual How We Work roundup, where Lifehacker staffers and contributors share their favourite tips and tools for better productivity. Today: Gizmodo journalist Campbell Simpson.
Location: Sydney (mostly) Current Gig: Journalist, Gizmodo Australia Your favourite word: Particularly Current mobile device: Oppo R5 (this week, at least) Current computer: Toshiba Portege Z20t (this week, at least)
What apps/software/tools can't you live without?
Last year, I wrote about the three apps I install on every Android phone I use, but Action Launcher is the one that gets downloaded first. Testing almost every new flagship Android phone that comes out in Australia means a lot of chopping and changing, but having Action Launcher means I can get a consistent experience across different devices. I don't like the newest version of Action Launcher as much, but the app's Aussie developer Chris Lacy has forked the previous iteration so I continue to use that.
On whichever PC I'm using, I swear by Chrome with a couple of extensions like Hola Better Internet, YouTube Center, No YouTube Comments and Frame By Frame for YouTube — handy for article screenshots. Beyond that, I need GIMP every day for general-purpose image editing like cropping and resizing, but if I'm working on photos for a review I'll be deep in Adobe Lightroom for an hour each day as well. The vast majority of my workday is spent typing directly into the Gizmodo CMS (sorry Gus!), so I don't really use any word processors beyond an occasional foray into Google Docs.
In any given week, I'll be switching between at least a couple of different laptops or Windows tablets, which means I'm always adapting to different interfaces. I'm a bit of a peripherals geek, so I'm not really a big fan of using the trackpad or keyboard of whichever laptop I'm on. I swear by a good mechanical keyboard and a good wired mouse, and I've built my workflow around using both simultaneously — a bit of a contrast to Lifehacker boss Angus who swears by keyboard shortcuts. And, of course, there are a couple of high-powered desktop PCs in various states of disassembly around the office and my house at any given time.
Writing most of Gizmodo Australia's reviews, a big part of my job is taking photos. I'm actually in between cameras at the moment, because I'm switching from my trusty Nikon D7000 — bought the day it launched back in 2010 — to a new Samsung NX1. Whatever camera I use, I've always got a relatively fast wide-angle zoom with a wide maximum aperture mounted on it, because whether I'm taking review snaps or going to a product launch or other event I need a bit of versatility. An external adjustable flash, rechargeable AAs and a spare camera battery are mandatory, too.
What's your workspace setup like?
In the Gizmodo office where I spend most of my time, the stalwart on my desk is a Dell Inspiron 15 laptop off to the side, but the vast majority of my productivity comes from the 24-inch monitor directly in front of where I sit. That monitor, a mechanical keyboard and wired mouse are hooked up to the notebook through the monitor's USB hub. I mostly work off the one screen but occasionally I'll use the laptop too. Even though we have an office printer, I actually have my own little Wi-Fi network set up for testing, so I've got a Canon printer sitting on that for printing itineraries and boarding passes and all those little pieces of ephemera.
I'd love to try a standing desk for more than a couple of hours at a time, because I need the passive exercise, but I don't think my setup is mobile enough to allow for that. Beyond the office, I'll make do with whatever laptop I'm testing on a train or plane, but if I'm on my Android tablet or iPad a Bluetooth keyboard case is a necessity.
What's your best time-saving or efficiency shortcut?
I'm not great at either time-saving or efficiency, to be honest. In the last year of working at Giz I've built up routines that streamline things a little, but my day-to-day job changes enough that I haven't really locked down any huge efficiency improvements. I actually think my biggest time-saving shortcut is the Android Wear smartwatch I always have on — it's an LG G Watch R. I trust it to display notifications and reminders faithfully, and with a bit of careful thought put into organising my calendar, it means I'm not always breaking concentration to look at my phone or Twitter or my email, and I can focus on whichever writing task is at hand.
What do you eat for breakfast?
I'm not great with breakfasts. Usually a couple of pieces of toast and maybe a piece of fruit on the walk to the train station, and then almost always a hot chocolate or coffee when I sit down to work — that lasts me a couple of hours of sipping, I don't really care that it gets stone cold.
What skill are you better at this year than last year?
Time management, definitely. Working at the frenetic pace of Gizmodo means you can't just spend half an hour doing nothing unless you've specifically planned for it a couple of hours beforehand, so I have to know — within reason — what I'm doing for almost all of the workday before it actually starts. It takes me five minutes when I wake up to get my head straight so the rest of the day isn't a shambles.
What do you listen to while you work?
Mostly silence. We work in a relatively rowdy office, but I need to shut that out while I'm writing, so a pair of good noise cancelling headphones is a godsend. I might have Spotify or Deezer open with a generic Top 40 list or some quiet jazz or world music, but just as often I have headphones on but I'm not actually listening to anything. It also signals to the rest of the office not to distract me if possible. It's either that or I'm listening to our office stereo and chatting with the rest of the Giz/Lifehacker/Kotaku guys.
What's your favourite part of your job?
The variety of technology that crosses my desk week to week. Reviewing a bunch of gadgets gives me the opportunity to poke and prod and test out a bunch of ground-breaking toys, and some particularly weird and nifty gear. You really do live on the bleeding edge in this job, and it's great for bragging rights amongst techy friends. At the moment I'm looking forward to spending some time programming the new Raspberry Pi 2 and watching a couple of movies on the Samsung Gear VR headset.
What's your sleep routine like?
Short. As a hard rule I'm always in bed and attempting to sleep at midnight, and I'm usually up between 6AM and 6:30AM depending on the workload of the day unless there's extenuating circumstances like an early flight, business breakfast or an evening event. I really value those hours after getting home from work and having dinner, so I'm happy to trade off a little bit of beauty sleep to have some me time to play a game or two or kick back with a movie or TV series.
Is there anything else you'd like to add that might be interesting to readers?
This year is the first in a long time that I've made some New Year's resolutions — learn to pick a lock, go on at least a couple of hikes and bushwalks, build a quadcopter, go on more long weekend holidays, learn to speak Italian, and a few others. I'm progressing well on at least a couple of those, and I'm enjoying the newfound challenge of picking up new skills.