I get asked with increasing frequency (and incredulity) how I manage to do everything that I do. One of the key things I do is attempt to automate those things that I find myself repeating. To that end, I thought it would be useful to have a reference post to point people to when this question gets asked. I do have several posts about how I do this thing or that thing, but I find that the way I work evolves and changes over time, and some of those older posts are now out of date1. So, consider what is contained in this post how I work as of September 2013. As things change, I’ll create a new post with a new date. I’ll link to the current version of the post in the sidebar. If you are ever curious how I work2, you can find my most recent methods there.
My computers and mobile devices
- Home office: 27″ iMac (circa 2011) with a 1 TB external hard disk.
- Laptop: Samsung Google Chromebook
- Phone: iPhone 5
- Tablet: iPad 2
Other gadgets I use regularly
- Bose QuietComfort 15 noise-cancelling headset
- Fujitsu ScanSnap s1300i scanner
- FitBit Flex
- Gmail. The hub of my communication system. I use it in Chrome on my iMac and Chromebook. On my iPhone and iPad I use the Mailbox app.
- Google Calendar. The hub of my scheduling system. I use it in Chrome on my iMac and Chromebook. On my iPhone I use the Sunrise app.
- Google Docs. The hub of my writing system. I use it in Chrome on my iMac and Chromebook. I rarely use it on my mobile devices.
- Evernote. The hub of my paperless life. I use the Mac client on my iMac, the web client on my Chromebook, and the app on my iPhone and ipad.
- Kindle App. Where I do the bulk of my paperless reading. I read books there, and also PDFs of my story drafts, or other stories I am reading for comment.
- Audible App. Where I do the bulk of my reading while doing other things (like walking or chores around the house).
I’ve posted pictures of my home office before, but the best current picture is the panorama shot I took for the header image of the blog.
What doesn’t show in this picture is the large bay window just to the right of the desk, or Kelly’s desk, which is behind mine, on the opposite side of the room. I don’t work in here as much as I used to.
How I write
Fiction and nonfiction
Since late February, I’ve hit upon a routine that has allowed me to write for 197 out of the last 199 days3. I write every day. And I do the vast majority of my writing in the evenings after getting my kids ready for bed, but before putting them to bed, typically while they are watching cartoons. I have a window of 20-40 minutes in which to write and I’ve learned to take advantage of this time, writing anywhere from 300-800 words. Through this method I have, since February 27, written a total of 175,000 words.
I use Google Docs for my writing, where I have numerous scripts that automate the tracking of my writing so that I can spend my time actually writing.
I write first drafts and second drafts using Google Docs. First drafts are for me only. Second drafts are for the reader. Second drafts are what get sent to my first readers. I write third and polishing drafts in Scrivener.
I use a self-installed and self-managed version of WordPress for my blogging. I write my blog posts in WordPress and often schedule them so that they are posted at some point during the day, when I am typically working at my day job.
I use several plug-ins on the blog, and I’ve recently listed the most important of them.
My best time-saving trick
Practical multitasking. I combine exercise and reading into useful mental breaks throughout the day. About three times each day, I leave the building to walk. At 10 am and 3 pm, I walk a brisk 20 minutes or so. At noon, I spent my entire lunch hour walking. While I walk, I listen to audio books. This allows me to get in exercise (the only exercise I get, really) amount to about 100 minutes of “very active” walking each day. It comes out to about 7 miles/day. At the same time, it allows me to read far more books that I have ever been able to do in the past. And it gives me a good mental break from work so that I come back to my desk refreshed.
Things I avoid doing
- Going to movies
- Watching television
- Playing video games
I am perfectly willing to sacrifice these things if it means I am able to write every day. And the truth is, I don’t really miss any of them.
This is how I work as of September 2013. If things change, I’ll write another post, but if you have specific questions, feel free to ask them in the comments.
- A topic for a post in and of itself, sometime in the future. ↩
- I love Lifehacker’s How I Work series, and while this post is not modeled on that series, I am borrowing elements of what tends to show up there because it is a useful guide for what kind of information to provide here. ↩
- As of the date of this post. ↩