The Way I Work : Round 3

On a good morning there’s no alarm clock. I wake up with the sun. On most mornings I go for a walk around Lions Head or a walk to Clifton 1st beach while listening to a technology podcast. This is the best time to think, so I usually make a few notes along the way.

Getting back home, I shower, make tea (I don’t drink coffee) and cut up some fruit. I put on some music. I check my mail and read some news before sorting my todo list and getting on with work.

TrustFabric‘s office is a house next to the sea in Bakoven. Bakoven is like a seaside village only 10min drive outside the Cape Town CBD. We’re probably the only startup in the world with a cave to a beach. TrustFabric writes Open Source Vendor Relationship Management software.

One morning a week I like to take my laptop and go work in a coffee shop for a while. Usually Wembley Square or Caffe Neo. I usually bump into other Silicon Cape entrepreneurs at these spots. On Friday afternoons we often have a glass of wine on the beach or an after work braai.

My preference is to work from home where I have a good selection of music, nice views and a Herman Miller Aeron chair. I try not to use my car for about two days of the week.

TrustFabric is a team of 5 people at the moment. Two full-time, two part time and one advisor. We mostly use email, mailing lists and a bit of Skype for communications. I very rarely use a desk phone. These days I seem to do most of my required telephone time in the car (with a Bluetooth car kit). I figure driving is pretty unproductive time so I may as well catch up with a few people. I use Mutt.. it’s a text based mail client. I’ve been using it for more than 10 years. I’m thinking of switching to a graphical mail client.. mostly for better smime support.

I have three screens on my desk. My primary workstation is a Macbook Pro 13″ with a 26″ LCD.. nice and portable, but with 8GB memory, so it’s snappy. I use a Mac Mini for photo processing on the other 26″ LCD, also with 8GB memory. The two machines share the same mouse and keyboard over a GigE cable. I have a Nokia E72 phone.. I’m not really happy with it, but it does what I need to do: make phone calls and make notes. I don’t like typing on touch screen devices.

I have two hosted servers which run my email, personal website and blog: a Debian Linux server and a Mac Mini Server. I’m a very inactive Debian developer. Both servers have a RAID disk setup. There is an Ubuntu PC around the house for Mia, though her toy of choice is an iPod Touch.

Mia is my daughter. She’s turning five soon. This will be the third year of having a birthday party for her on the beach in front of the house.

Most of what I do happens on my laptop now. I switched to using the Dvorak keyboard layout about 10 years ago. It’s more efficient, you should try it. 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.

My biggest time-suck is email. I used to have a pretty complex procmail setup to sort mail into 42 different inboxes. I’m getting better, I’m down to about 20. I used to send about 800 emails in a busy month, also down to about 400. Mid-day I often check emails every ~15 minutes. I usually respond immediately. If it’s more complex I flag it and work on it later. I keep my primary inbox below 15 emails.

I like to listen to music all day. Some jazz, Madeleine Peyroux, also Groove Armada, Morcheeba and more recently Deadmau5. I use a pair of Sennheiser headphones at the office. There is a hifi system in the lounge with a big sub (mostly for Blu-Ray animated children’s movies). We throw some great parties here. We hook up all the hifi’s to Airport Express devices which let us play music throughout the house.

My standard work clothes are tshirts, shorts and slops. I seem to have two modes of working. 1) Road Warrior 2) Apply bottom to chair. On “road warrior” days anything goes, meetings, short projects, emails, phone calls etc. On “apply bottom to chair” days I make a list of longer attention span projects and try to complete one or two. I also have a working “out of phase” mode usually starting at around 20:00 and working till 0:00ish at night.

I’d like to say I read lots of business books or even novels, but I probably only read about five books per year at the moment. I’m reading the 4 Hour Body at the moment. I seem to like reading product manuals. I think I’ve read my camera manual 3 times.

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 rocks!

I go out for lunch on road warrior days, which fits well with my preference for no meetings before 10:00. Most days I just make myself an uber-healthy raw chocolate green smoothie for brunch which I’m convinced is really all I need to eat. When I’m at the office I like to make tuna rocket salads for a late lunch. Weekends are usually fresh juice days. I love making fresh juices. I used to go out for every meal, but I’m getting better at simple and practical cooking. To be honest I really only make an effort to cook when Mia is around.

In general, I’m pretty organised, 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 try to limit business trips to about two per year. I’m very happy being in Cape Town. I try to go overseas in June/July every year for conferences and do some traveling. I visited London, Boston, Egypt and Greece last year. I like adventure travel. I try not to plan much when I visit a new place. I just read a quick guide on the plane on the way there. I like going to places with good SCUBA diving sites.

Once a week I go through the notes I made on my phone. Some get moved to a todo list. Some get moved to my blog notes. Some get deleted. I guess it’s my version of GTD, but it’s not only about tasks, it’s about tracking ideas and recording creative thinking.

I co-founded and sold my shares in 3 technology businesses by age 33. I’m working on the next one. I’m turning 34 this year. Steve Jobs started Next at age 31, so I figure early 30s is a good time for a big change. My primary job is CEO and Product Owner at a new tech start-up. TrustFabric is self funded and incubated, but we are busy talking to a few investors to help fund the business. It’s a big, scary, global, change the world idea that’s been bugging me for the last 7 years. I believe we are drawn to exciting projects and happiness is a product of excitement. Wealth is a side effect of passion.

The plan with TrustFabric is to build a startup and an open source project with a good story to tell. We want to build a business and set up a community that will be around 30 years from now. TrustFabric is also an experiment in finding a better business model. I like the idea of doing well and doing good: the .com + .org business model. owns 26% of the .com business. We’re busy hacking the fabric of business. Hacking for good. I think in the next 10 years the most successful businesses are those who conquer the moral high ground.

I used to do lots of non-profit work (for WAPA and ISPA). It was fun to unfocus, but I’m very happy to be focused again.

I like to meet interesting people. I like connecting people and ideas. I sometimes help organise GeekDinners and I enjoy speaking at geeky events.

I enjoy photography. I take (keep) about 10k photos per year at the moment. My photos are autobiographical — though I have a good memory, photos help me 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 something in between. I have a photoblog where I publish my better work, but I share most of what I shoot with friends. I need to have a bit more discipline in keeping the photoblog active. I enjoy shooting travel photos and live music (often Afrikaans Punk Rock), but I’d guess about 50% of my photos are of Mia. Usually from our sunset beach walks.

I have a Canon 5DmkII DSLR and I sometimes take photos with my little waterproof Canon Powershot D10. I have three lenses for the 5D: a 16-35mm f/2.8 wide angle, a 85mm f/1.2 and a 70-200mm f/2.8. I like these because they are so different to what the human eye can do, the first is very wide and the second lets through an insane amount of light and the third has a nice zoom.. going to 400mm with a doubler.

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. It’s nice work life separation. I think many people have flexible work times (balance) but clear “no work” times (separation) are good to have.

I never really cared to build an audience for my blog. I blog for myself and maybe about 15 friends. 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 have no idea how many regular readers I have.

I’m a bit sad that Twitter seems to have taken over much of the blogging time of the friends around me. I love reading interesting blogs. I like it when people sit down and do some longer attention span writing on a topic close to them.

My all time favourite quote:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
–- George Bernard Shaw

Don’t be afraid of designing and creating your own reality. That’s what entrepreneurs do.


  • This is an update to : The Way I Work. One year later.
  • You may recognise some of this from‘s blog. I still see Matt as the benchmark for the new geek entrepreneur.
  • I think it’s useful to track how we evolve in our quests to work smarter. If nothing else it gets me thinking about things I’d like to change and things I’d like to work towards.
  • I 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 : Round 3

  1. Joe,

    Inspiring stuff. Ek geniet jou uitkyk op die lewe en hoe jy jou werk omgewing as platform vir jou passies gebruik.
    Erg jaloers op jou Bakhoven werksplek , Beta beach ?
    Wanneer kom jy weer bietjie onderwaterhokkie speel.



    1. Hi.

      Ek was aan die einde van laas jaar twee keer by onderwaterhokkie in Lang Straat. Ek moet weer ‘n paar goed koop.. soos nuwe fins. Op my todo list.

  2. Hi Joe – thanks for sharing this. I love reading posts about other people’s gear setups and work processes – there is always something to learn. For me, the distinction you make between “balance” and “separation” is an important one and I’m going to challenge myself to think about that more.

    Looking forward to running into you at Neo again one of these days.


  3. > I don’t like typing on touch screen devices.

    Have you seen/tried Swype? If not, try it. :)

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