Every week, we share cool productivity tips from our favourite experts. Today, you're stuck with me instead. I'm Eric Ravenscraft, yes it's my real last name, and this is how I do things like write words on the internet.
We've all done these a bunch in the past, so I don't want to spend a ton of time rehashing the same apps and tricks I used last year or the year before that. I still really like Inbox, I still use gaming peripherals to get stuff done, and I even still use an Android watch! Boring. Let's talk about the cool new stuff instead.
Location: Atlanta Current Gig: Senior Writer One word that best describes how you work: Voluble Current mobile device: Nexus 6P Current computer: Custom-built Windows 10 desktop
What apps, software, or tools can't you live without?
Here's where I keep assorted lengths of wire.
Over the last year, I've spent more time building up my physical workspace more than my digital one. While I was learning how to work with Arduino by building a kickarse robot arm, I learned the value of a good soldering iron. I've started using the Elenco SL-5 station and a fine point iron for detailed work. I've also made use of Adafruit's Pro Trinket in a recent Arduino project where I don't need to re-use the board. It takes up minimal space and you can program it with a micro-USB cable. It's perfect for small, one-off, specialised projects.
I've also started using this Yubi tower for charging my gadgets during the day. Between my phone, tablets and other devices I have sitting around for testing, I need to charge up to five things at once on a busy day. It's also handy when I travel with other people and we all need to share the two outlets in a hotel room. Forty outlets might be overkill for most people, but fortunately they have a much smaller version with regular outlets in addition to USB plugs.
I should also mention Windows 10, which I left out of my post last year, since it was only available in preview form. Now that everyone can use it, though, guess what? It's pretty awesome. I've started using the multiple desktops feature regularly and even found some Windows 10 apps that are worth using. It feels silly to call out an OS update, but it literally is how I work and, for once, it's not a pain to use.
What's your workspace setup like?
I work in a small home office with two desks that I can slide between depending on which project I'm working on. My large, L-shaped desk is where I do my writing, with some extra space on the side if I need to test an app or charge the veritable cornucopia of gadgets I have sitting around. It's also where I keep my pile of junk that I should have cleared off two weeks ago. The second desk I keep on the opposite side of the room, specifically so I don't get distracted by the computer when I'm doing non-computer work, because I get enough of that from my day job.
What's your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
Ignoring stuff. No, seriously, you should try it. In the old days, I believed that I had to respond to each and every thing that someone pinged me on. A comment on Facebook, an email from a stranger, or a reply from some random troll on Twitter were all equally worthy of my attention. Not anymore! Once I got comfortable with the idea of ignoring something that didn't need my attention, I started to get a lot more done. I already have enough to do without letting every single blip and ding on the internet telling me what I have to pay attention to next.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without and why?
In the future, if you want a meal, you just press a couple of buttons and bam! It's done just like that.
My pressure cooker has skyrocketed to the top of this list. I used to think I suck at cooking. If you're in the same boat, a pressure cooker is a magic box that makes you feel like a cooking wizard. I use it to cook chicken in half the time, but the pressure cooker can make quick work of a ton of recipes. More importantly, it doesn't need to be watched constantly, so you can get other things done while you're waiting for your food to cook. It's all the fun of a slow cooker, without the wait.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What's your secret?
Googling. OK, maybe I'm not better than everyone else, but working for Lifehacker for over two years has taught me that most problems can be solved with a little research. In the past year, I've done minor repairs on our home's furnace, hot water heater, and I've repaired my girlfriend's car battery twice. None of these were terribly difficult tasks, but I didn't know how to do them before. Not everyone can or should do those specific repairs, but you'll be surprised what you can learn how to do when your first instinct when you have a problem is to start researching online.
What do you listen to while you work?
I've lately started browsing around Spotify's collection of curated playlists for our new Featured Playlist series. I'm also pretty fond of Play Music's mood-driven playlists. Even if I do inevitably end up on the Superhero Soundtracks station. Movie soundtracks in particular are awesome for when I need to focus, because they're designed to provide a mood without being distracting.
What are you currently reading?
Whatever tickles my fancy on Marvel Unlimited, which is still totally worth it. If you're into comics, the $US70 per year (or $US9.99 a month, if you're afraid of commitment) buys you unlimited access to nearly all of Marvel's comic backlog. The only thing you miss out on is around six months of the most recent comics, though that's not too bad a wait. Unless you're waiting for Secret Wars to end. Which was also pretty great, by the way.
How do you recharge?
Solo content in MMOs. Yes, that's right. I join (and in some cases pay a subscription for) games like World of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic with a ton of other people just to ignore all of them and focus on stuff I can do by myself. Weirdly, I find them soothing. Once you get the hang of a class in an MMO, solo content is mostly just busy work. It doesn't require a ton of thought or effort to grind through a basic quest chain. Plus, the longer you go, the more you rack up imaginary points that make you feel like you've accomplished something. Since most of my workday is brain-intensive creative or research work, having something I can thoughtlessly play without getting stressed out is relaxing.
What's your sleep routine like?
Usually I go to sleep some time before I wake up in the morning. I find this works better than the other way around.
Fill in the blank: I'd love to see _________ answer these same questions.
Probably Andy. He's pretty cool. Oh, wait!
What's the best advice you've ever received?
Keep it brief.
Also, it's ok to get paid. That feels like a stupid thing to say, right? And yet I constantly see more and more artists and workers who are willing to work for exposure, or simply accept the first offer that a company gives them. If you are doing anything more complicated than retail work, negotiate your damn salary. If you work hard on making something that another person would pay money for, get it. It's their job to get the best deal they can. You only have to make your work cheap enough for someone to buy it. Not for everyone to buy it. If a company or a customer isn't willing to pay you what your work is worth, don't be afraid to either negotiate higher or start looking for someone else.
Is there anything else you'd like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans?
You guys are cool. If you're ever at a con or something in Atlanta, say hey. Let's get a drink or something.
The How I Work series asks heroes, experts, and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces, routines, and more.