As part of National Telework Week, we've been looking at how our team has made use of teleworking techniques to be more productive on Lifehacker. Today, Gizmodo editor and hardened commuter Luke Hopewell explains that it's not the size of your gear that counts, it's how you use it.
Why and when do you telework? I spend an inordinate amount of time away from my desk during the day. Whether it's at events, on trains or even in my lounge room, I need to be able to write up news as it breaks. I actually feel a terrible lurch in my stomach when I'm not able to connect, so I have made sure that I'm able to telework from just about anywhere on Earth.
What are the most important tools (hardware and software) in your teleworking arsenal?
You need the best gear to do the best job, but having best doesn't always mean having the biggest.
In my opinion, the most important part of teleworking — especially if you're mobile — is portability. I used to commute about two hours each-way everyday to get to my job, which meant that I needed to travel light while still producing quality content. Plus, I didn't want to have to double-up on gear when I got home or got to the office. I need one device that does everything.
My daily driver is an 11-inch MacBook Air (2011) that runs Mac OS X Mountain Lion as the primary operating system as well as Windows 8, Ubuntu and ChromeOS in virtual environments. I'm usually carrying two phones or more, mixing it up between Android and iPhone as needs be and I'll always have a wireless hotspot and a tablet or two with me so that I can get connected to our content management system, group chat room or my Dropbox.
I have about four email accounts, all of which are being handled centrally by Sparrow and my calendar is sorted through iCal for Mac OS X.
Because I don't have a lot of storage space to spare on my MacBook's SSD, I try to keep the stuff I'm not using stored in the cloud. All of my music has been moved to Spotify and iTunes Match, while my documents, images and videos live in Dropbox, and my shared documents are in Google Drive (formerly known as Docs). I always try to maintain a zero-icon policy on my Desktop so that I don't fall into bad storage habits.
Storing everything in the cloud is also handy for when I need to switch to a review laptop, phone or tablet. Getting at my files is as easy as logging into a few webpages.
I no longer commute four hours a day, but old habits stick with me, so I still carry around a cable for each one of my gadgets and one AC wall adapter with a USB jack. I carry around a Lightning cable, two micro USB cables and a laptop charger, because when you're out at an all-day event, you're only as effective as you are juiced. With battery power, that is.
All of this kit fits into one satchel bag that I carry around with me everywhere.
How do you stop yourself getting distracted by the comforts of home? Mostly it's about maintaining a strong, reward-based workflow. If you can't enjoy some of the benefits of being at home, then why bother teleworking? I'm a bit of a clean-freak myself, so after getting the work done that I have prioritised as most important, I go and do a load of washing or do the vacuuming. It satisfies me knowing that both my home and work life are tidy and in order at the end of the day. That way I can just sit down in front of the PlayStation, hit the gym or simpy relax, stress-free.
I also find that a change of scenery can be extremely effective for staying productive. On a Friday afternoon I'll take my gear and wander down to a bench in the Sydney Botanical Gardens for a few hours. I'm still just as productive thanks to my selection of gear and I'm enjoying the outdoors at the same time.
Do you ever telework in your underwear? I try not to, but it has happened once or twice. Usually my lack of dress is influenced by the time of day that I'm up and working. For example, if you've ever read one of my Apple live blogs, it's a fair bet that I wrote it in my underwear.
Which one teleworking annoyance would you like to see fixed in the future? The worst thing for a commuter is battery power. Over three years I have learned how to strictly ration battery power against tasks that I have chosen for myself and I have figured out workarounds to do various processes across two or three devices to spread the load. I'm usually effective for around 2.5 hours before I need to find a charger, but if I could spend all day detached from the plug, I'd be the happiest teleworker in the world.
For more Telework articles, go check out Lifehacker's "How I Telework" coverage.