In this post, I link to products. I’m not an affiliate and make no commissions. Phhbbt
Ho hum, you say. Another tools post? Come on, Ian.
Stay with me! I promise cats, dogs, drugs, Starcraft, and atomic leafblowers.
Last week, I was working on a long, soulful post about life as a consultant. Then I started to get these excruciating pins-and-needles pains up and down my legs and found out I have three compressed spinal discs (L5 or thereabouts, if you’re curious). Yes, I’m now 1/8" shorter.
Which is highly relevant, because I’m now stoned on painkillers. Or batty with cycling withdrawal. So I’ve jettisoned the soulful post for a List Of Tools I’m Using Right Now.
Sanity & Productivity
The perks of working from home include:
- Cats jumping in your lap (awww)
- Barking dogs (OK)
- Dogs barking at the cats in your lap (dammit)
- The lancing pain as your cats, fleeing the barking dog, flay you alive (oy)
- Someone across the street using a leafblower that sounds like a nuclear holocaust played through a bullhorn
- Sony MDR100 Noise Cancelling Headphones. Highly recommended. They block out background noise, and the mic is great for Zoom calls
- aSoftMurmur.com. White noise generator. I like crickets + wind, myself. Shuts out the barking dog like a champ. I haven’t found a solution for the leafblower
- Freshbooks time tracking. It doesn’t have the whiz-bang of some specialty tracking tools, but it logs time straight to clients, and RescueTime tattles if I’m unproductive
- RescueTime. Since leaving Portent, I’ve cut back on meetings. I filled that time watching True Facts videos. RescueTime makes me feel guilty about it
- Marinaratimer. I’ve always worked in sprints. This is still my go-to timer
- Levis 501s. I always loved these jeans. Turns out, they’re claw-proof. I kid you not. Try a pair
This is the software I use to do my job. Some of these might fall under “productivity.” Sorry, no one’s perfect.
I was a plain text command-line geek for years. These tools cured me:
- Things for to-do list management. I love watching people try to parse statements like “I’ll put you into Things.” It also integrates with everything and runs on all my iOS gadgets
- Bear for note-taking. It automatically uses a D20 as the icon for all content tagged “D&D!!!” It also imports email, integrates with Things, lets me include images and other files, and has a flexible tagging mechanism. Again, runs and syncs across all my iOS tools. Plus, D20 icon!!!!
- Fantastical as my calendar. Natural language scheduling sold me: You can type “Spine MRI at 7 AM on Friday,” and it inserts the appointment. Connects to multiple Google Calendar accounts and has other features I haven’t tried yet
- Spark for email. Easy interface, works offline, integrates with Bear and Things, and merges multiple mail accounts in an interface that doesn’t make my eyes bleed
- Freshbooks for invoicing. I thought I’d want something with more features. Nope.
- Zoom for video conferencing. Clearlink got me hooked on this tool. It’s still the best I’ve found
- Atom. I keep looking, but I haven’t found a better text editor. I’m writing this post in Markdown using Atom. I use it to code (of course) and integrate it with Git for the propeller-head trifecta
- Grammarly saves me endless embarassement. Er, embarassment
- Calendly streamlines scheduling, and makes me look cool
- Project management. For me, Things + Fantastical handles project management like a champ
My home is now my office. “Facilities” sounds like I’m not writing this post wearing old jeans and a Keep Calm And Roll Initiative t-shirt.
I’m a cyclist, and the all-you-can-eat buffet in the kitchen is a problem. So is working out in your office when the verb “sweat” really means “detonate.” I rebuilt our garage as a kind of nerdy gym (seriously) with a Wahoo Kickr and my trusty bike, Shadowfax. Like I said: Nerd.
The setup includes:
- Wahoo Kickr Smart Trainer. Yes, that’s the name. Expensive, but if you own $15k worth of bicycles, what’s another thousand? If you’re a serious cyclist or spin person, check this out
- The Sufferfest. More silly names! Just for cyclists, includes yoga, strength training, etc. etc.
- Amazon Basics yoga mat. Included as the only normal-sounding fitness product I own
This gym setup may sound expensive, but I did the math, and it averages out to a decent four-year gym membership. And I don’t have to find parking, have a stroke when people throw weights on the floor, or sit in anyone else’s perspiration.
I need a setup that lets me work and play games, minimizes repetitive stress, and makes me giggle madly when I sit down to write an SEO audit.
Some of this stuff is pricey. You can probably find cheaper alternatives and do just fine.
- Azio Retro Classic Keyboard. Real wood, round keys, and mechanical switches make this thing so cool even my kids admit I’m not a total loser
- Apple Magic Trackpad 2. When working, I use the Trackpad left-handed to avoid repetitive stress. I switch to the mouse when I want to get my ass kicked by fifteen-year-old Starcraft players
- Razer Deathadder Elite. Imagine buying Jabba The Hut a Lamborghini. That’s how much sense it makes for me to use this mouse. But, as an aging gamer, I need all the help I can get
- Amplifi HD Wifi with Meshpoint. Xfinity’s wifi router is a joke played on all of us. Amplifi’s mesh network is the only one I’ve found that works
- LG Ultrafine 5K. Absurdly cool, a bazillion pixels with covfefe X 200 colors. It also has an excellent camera for video conferences. It can’t filter out the cat that walks across the desk, though. It has multiple USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports for you Macbook users
Still working on it
I’m still tweaking things. I put a cat condo next to my desk, which minimizes cat-dog violence. I’m trying to declutter (and failing).
Ask me questions, make suggestions, and I’ll update this when I can. I have a day job, after all.