How I Work

April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

I’m a big fan of the Lifehacker “How I Work” series. Since I’ve just come into my office, I figured I would do my own little how-I-work post (because let’s face it, Lifehacker’s not going to be asking me anytime soon.)

Where I work
I’m based at what could best be described as a polytechnical university, and while I technically am in English Studies, there has recently been a conglomeration of a number of previously-indedepent departments (history, politics, law, modern languages, and English studies) into a Humanities and Social Studies faculty. I currently share an open-plan office with 100 other graduate students across the Humanities faculty, which in practice looks a lot like a giant computer lab. In this space we are all hot-desking, and we don’t have any bookshelves here. I mention all of this background to point out that despite all evidence to the contrary, my university is decidedly not optimized for digital work.

Here’s what my “desk” looks like today:2013-04-08 11.58.58

The university has kindly provided PCs for us to use, as you can see, but I don’t use them if I don’t have to. As I’ve grumbled about before, we do not have administrator’s rights on these computers. I use a lot of programs that run from scripts and/or require the ability to install something on your computer. I use my own Mac (OS X.6.8 if you care), where I can download, install, and run anything from Python to Mendeley (yes, really).

Despite the polytechnical university thing, we have absolutely zero IT support here. We only got a working wireless network this academic year, and it’s still not everywhere on campus. In my previous office I was attached to the wall using an ethernet cable. Allow me to point out that renovations have made this building into a “state-of-the-art” humanities space. Like I said earlier, I don’t work in here very much if I can help it. My desk at home looks very different, and I much prefer having a dedicated space I can make a paper nest out of.

How I work
I’m a multitasker by nature – I’m very bad at working on just one thing at once, and I need to keep myself busy with a number of projects otherwise I get bored. “Working”, for me, often means jumping between two or three different things. (It is really helpful that a lot of the work I do often involves triangulating information between multiple programs.)

I imagine that watching me work would be very stressful, because it probably looks like I’m doing about 75 things at once. I keep TweetDeck open at almost all times, though I’m not always reading it. I usually haveĀ  Open Source Shakespeare open in a tab, Google Scholar in another and a blank tab just in case/for the blank space. I might still have that window of interesting links open from this morning, too. If I’m working from home I have my university inbox open as well – in my office, I have it directed to my email client, which only works when I’m on the campus network.

I probably have three or four open files that I’m either reading, referencing, or working on. Depending on what I’m doing that day I might have a concordancer, Docuscope, or other digital tool open. I take notes in TextEdit and make lists on paper. I have nearly everything hosted on Dropbox, which I share with my colleagues in the US. It’s been useful way for a lot of us to collaborate and share files.

Every day around 3pm I take a walk for an hour to think. I live really close to my university (10 minutes from home to office, 5 from home to department), so instead of adding commuting time into my day I take an hour to walk around. This is such a staple of my work routine – it started just because I had some small errands to run, but I found myself working out small details on my hour-long walk every day that it just became second nature. If I’ve been working in my office, I’ve been coming back to work at home after my walk.

I like to listen to music while I work for background noise, so my headphones get quite a workout. I like to listen to hip-hop and pop music while writing, but anything goes for researching and reading. If I had ever figured out Spotify maybe I would have linked today’s work playlist here, but alas.

How do you work?

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