The Way I Work

Just for fun.. actually, this is a bit of an experiment. I’d like to write another one of these in about 6 months and see if I’ve improved (not sure on which metrics yet). You may recognise some of this from ma.tt‘s blog or an Inc magazine article. I kinda see Matt’s story as a benchmark for the new productive geek lifestyle.

My version:

On a good morning there’s no alarm clock. I wake up with the sun. I check email. Sometimes even on my phone while still in bed.

In winter, the second thing I do is have a cup of Rooibos tea with honey and vanilla milk. I don’t drink any coffee, ever. I’d like to say I read business books or even novels, but I probably only read about two books per year at the moment.

I go to the Frogfoot office probably 3 or 4 days per week. It’s in Obs, about a 20min drive from Bakoven.. but the views along the way are worth it, especially driving with the top down winding up past Lions Head.

I often work for about an hour at home before going to gym or the office.

At the gym (Wembley Square) I go for a morning cycle, power-plate, weights and swim. I find morning exercise suits me.. easier to plan and get it over with. I’m a bit bad with planning exercise at the moment, but I seem to make it to gym 3 times a week, I walk up Lions Head once a week and go for about 3 beach walks depending on the weather.

My preference used to be to work from home, when I had a low latency Amobia service.. but these days it’s just easier to sit in front of my desktop machine at the office, ADSL and 3G simply sucks. I also don’t have a land line at home and I have issues with long mobile phone calls, so I have to go to the office for any teleconferences.. which happens pretty often for WAPA or ISPA related meetings. Also I like sitting on my Herman Miller Aeron chair.

I pretty much just use email. No Skype, Twitter or IM. I very rarely use the SIP phone on my desk. I use Mutt.. it’s a text based mail client. I’ve been using it for more than 10 years. I love it.

In my home office is a pretty entry level HP Ubuntu laptop. I used to have a Mac, but I broke it when I attempted to swap the hard disk. I have a Nokia E71, which I guess is also part of my home office. Oh, and there is an Ubuntu PC in the lounge that plays the tunes or movies for Mia.

At the office I have a Debian Linux workstation and a G5 Mac. I say workstation because it’s a pretty high end machine with redundant disks in a fat server casing. I have two LCDs on my desk, not linked. I use the Mac to sync my phone, scan documents and tinker with graphics.. and sometimes I put some backups on it.

Most of what I do happens on the Linux machine. The keyboard is, of course, Dvorak, a more efficient keyboard layout that I switched to 7 years ago.

One of my favourite programs is Chandler. It’s a tool for small workgroups with calendar and GTD style todo lists. I use it to plan my time and we use it for the WAPA and OSA project.

My biggest time-suck is email. I have a pretty complex procmail setup to sort mail into different inboxes. I have 42 inboxes at the moment. I send about 1000 emails on a busy month. I sadly check emails as soon as they come in.

I often respond immediately.. if it’s a small bite-size thing. If it’s more complex I flag it as read and work on it later. I keep my primary inbox below 15 emails.

I like to listen listen to music all day. There’s a lot of jazz, Madeleine Peyroux, also things like Fleetwood Mac, The Talking Heads, Morcheeba and R.E.M. I use a pair of Sennheiser headphones at the office.

I seem to have two modes of working. 1) In office hours I usually have an interrupt driven, shared attention, multi-tasking mode.. I sort out lots of little things.. the longest attention span task I can probably do in this mode is write a press release. After the flood of email for the day ends and I’m happy all the urgent things are done I can switch over to what I call “out of phase” mode. 2) Out of phase mode usually start at around 17:00, public holidays or some weekends. I do my best flow work between 17:00 and 21:00.. until I get hungry.

I don’t do much people management these days. I don’t think I’m that bad at it, it just got a bit much at some point, so I try not to demand much time and effort from people around me. Working with self-motivated people helps.

I go out for lunch whenever I can, which fits well with my preference for no meetings before 10:00.

In general, I’m pretty organized, not often late and good at keeping a schedule. I don’t have a PA at the moment, but it seems like a good idea. I don’t like to travel (for work). I try to limit things like Joburg trips to about 3 per year.. which is mostly ISPA related. I’m very happy in Cape Town.

My two primary jobs are working for Frogfoot and Amobia (as you can tell from the stickers on my laptop). Mostly in a communications, PR, sales and technical role. I spend a fair bit of time on research and development, interesting tangents and hunting for the next big idea.

I believe in the idea that we are drawn to exciting projects and happiness is a product of excitement.

I do lots of non-profit work at the moment, mostly for WAPA, the ISPA and the Open Spectrum Alliance.. which is the latest project I’m involved with. I seem to have this need to change the telecommunications environment is South Africa and I feel it’s a space I can make an impact.

I’ve been called a “social media slut”. I like to network, meet interesting people, connect people and ideas and generally have fun with social networking. I help organise GeekDinners and I often speak at geeky events.

My photos are autobiographical — though I have a good memory photos help trigger memories. I’m maybe a bit overly sentimental about photos. If the difference between an amateur photographer and a pro is that the amateur shows you everything they shoot.. I’m an amateur.

I have a Canon IXUS 700 compact at the moment and I sometimes take photos with my mobile phone. I like the idea of a camera small enough to take anywhere but I’ve been researching DSLR cameras and I figure I’ll get something like the Canon 50D soon.

I never really cared to build an audience for my blog. I blog for me and maybe about 5 friends.. and Mia, my daughter who is just over 3, if she cares to read the stuff I write one day. I try to at least write one post per week.. a brief bullet list style diary of sorts. The rest of my posts are a bit random.. I write when I feel like it. I figure I have about 50 regular readers (who subscribe to my feed).

I used to go out for every meal, but I’m getting better at simple and practical cooking. I’ve taken and published about 5000 photos so far this year.. probably about 60% of these are from time I spend with Mia. She’s fun to work with as a primary model.

My blog does not get lot of comments but I read and manually approve each one. I’ll happily approve a comment from someone who completely disagrees with everything I believe in.

I do my best work mid-morning and late at night. Some people don’t need sleep, but I actually need 8 hours a night.

On weekends I don’t do much work, mostly because I’m entertaining Mia, but I still check email or write the odd blog post after I put Mia to bed. In some ways it’s nice.. work life separation vs work life balance. I think many people have flexible work times (balance) but clear “no work” times (separation) are good.

Yes, my Mom reads my blog.

I would have loved to write about a really cool open source software project, rapid growth stats, building something which would last 15years+, BDFL role and 24-hour nature of a business… then again, we have to leave something to aspire to (-;

I’d like to read about how other people work, so if you find this useful, please write your story and link here.

6 thoughts on “The Way I Work

  1. A small snippet from me… if I don’t have commitments to “normal” people I find myself working and sleeping in longer cycles. So instead of the normal 16/8 hour cycle, a 20-30/9 hour cycle happens often.

    Like you, Microsoft Windows is also a tourist attraction to me. 😉

  2. Hey Aragon

    I remember those warped time cycles from school or varsity holidays. Hmm.. I used to play very long hours of civilization in school holidays. Nice memories (-;

  3. Well, I am a software developer and like us all, do not get much sleep. We usually have blood red eyes, shaky hands and no 4SS from all the sitting. I get up at 6:00 work until 16:30 for a boss, then go home and spend some time with the family, wife goes to bed around 21:30 and then I start with my private jobs until around 1:30 the following morning. Then do it all over again, and again, and again. Anyway, check out my new site http://www.helpmehelpyou.co.za it is not complete yet, but you will get the idea.

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