The Way We Work: Gregory Works From Anywhere

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Gregory Heller

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January 30, 2008

The Way We Work: Gregory Works From Anywhere

Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York... And the airports of those cities are just some of the places I've worked from in the last two weeks. I get through security and my eyes shoot furtive glances at the bottom 2 feet of walls searching (sometimes in vain) for a power outlet, preferably one that is next to a seat. Recently I have started seeing Samsung "charging stations" in some airports. A brilliant idea who's time is long over due: multiple outlets on a bistro hight mini table. After dealing with spotty free, and sometimes pay wifi services while traveling, I broke down and signed up for Sprint's mobile broadband and us ea Sierra Wireless card from Sprint. So far, I've gotten connected everywhere I have tried and the speed is pretty good. The other required hardware for airport working are my Bose Noise Canceling Headphones. In the past I've posted videos showing me working from improbable places: a tree, the side of the railroad tracks, and island in Canada, My tag line: If you work for CivicActions, you can work from literally anywhere. The truth is that most of my time I work from Seattle. P1000013.JPG And when I'm not in Seattle, I am sometimes in NY. P1000201.JPG

Hardware and Furniture

As you can see, my desk setups are relatively similar:
  • Mac Book pro on a laptop stand (I switched from an IBM ThinkPad to the MacBook about 18 months ago)
  • External Monitor to the right
  • MS Explorer Optical Mouse
  • Mac Slim Keyboard
  • Legare FSC Certified Wood Desk
  • Ergonomic Desk Chairs (an Aeron in NYC and a Chadwick in Seattle, let's just say it is good to have friends in the furniture industry)
I find that having these similar setups make it very easy to switch from one place to another. Possibly the most important thing for me is the comfy chair, the mesh surface is great! For me, the two monitors is immensely helpful. I keep mail up on one screen, and web on the other (generally) though if I am working on writing something, like a proposal, I will often have openOffice up as a primary window on one of the screens, usually the bigger of the two.

What software do I rely on?

  • FireFox with a number of extensions (web developer tool bar, firebug and Dummy Lipsum get the most use)
  • Thunderbird: I use it to pop my gmail accounts (which are filtering my spam and keeping a backup of my good mail) and I sort most incoming mail into folders by list.
  • iTunes and MusicIP Mixer for tunes
  • Aidium for chat
  • X-Lite for SIP
  • ImageWell for screen shots
  • Neo Office / Open Office for all office stuff
I find that Solitude is essential to my productivity. For two months in 2006 I worked from coffee shops in Seattle. And while I love coffee (and donuts) the environment was not conducive to me doing my best work. And it is not just grinding coffee beans or steaming milk that distracts me. I find that after having worked alone, even just the presence of another person can be distraction enough. Sometimes the urge to share is just so strong!

A Day In The Life

If I am at home in Seattle, my day starts around 8am. I get up, power up the computers, download email, take a quick look to make sure there is nothing super super urgent, and then just as I am about to head out for a double short Americano, I get an IM from someone in a different timezone. When I get back and the caffeine is having its blessed effects I power through my email, first general unsorted emails, then by project. I set up my task list for the day and get to work. Typically my day is peppered with conference calls. Many of which are accomplished through Free Conference Call, while internal calls are made on our Asterisk Server. By about 1pm, I need a break. Sometimes this is reading the paper, going out for lunch, or running an errand or two. Typically by the time I get back, more email has piled up, and along with it more tasks, and I set to work on them. On many evenings, I come back online and do some late night work, the best part about it is that email STOPS coming in! I think my biggest challenge is the distraction of incoming email. It feels like the incoming requests are the most urgent. I tend to get sucked into a LIFO process where the last thing I receive can disrupt my flow on an earlier received request. And if I could change one thing, this would be it. I'm working on it. Thanks to Ron for sending me this article on developing a personal productivity scaffold. Today I'll be heading back to Seattle after about a week in NYC. I have to remember to pack up all my gadgets and power adapters and cables. I'll only be there for a few days before I head down to Park City Utah, where, though I will be on vacation with some other CivicActions folks, I am sure I'll also be doing some work. Look for the next installment of "Work From Literally Anywhere" coming from, perhaps, a chairlift or gondola!

Share it!

Gregory, I'm in Seattle and I'm considering the Legare desk. I'd be willing to trade you some coffee in exchange for a few minutes / words about the Legare desk. Your choice for coffee but my local shop (Bird on a Wire) sells Raven's Brew, so I'd be happy to supply a bag of beans. Cheers.
Gregory, I find these "way we work" posts really helpful. I'm transitioning from a commute-to-office job to a home office, and need to equip it. I was going to go the IKEA-path-of-least-resistance route for a desk, but the Legaré furniture looks terrific and is not shockingly expensive. I'm not local and can't buy you a bag of local beans, but I too would benefit from your thoughts about your desks. Thanks!
Very interesting! I can fully relate to your issues, especially the distractions of company. Recently a group of open source geeks here in Christchurch have been trialling informal coworking at a bar on Friday afternoons. I haven't succeeded in getting any work done from there yet. It turns into a long 'brown bag'. I haven't tried imagewell, but I was using an Apple Automator script to do screenshots of windows, then cropping them in Apple Preview, until recently when I discovered Skitch (thanks Factory Joe / Chris Messina). I highly recommend it.