The workflow of a tech geek (aka how I work)
I was asked about my daily workflow in regards to this site and also about the services and programs that I use throughout the day. While I do not think that you will find anything spectacular in my workflow, it may still be interesting to some. First to see how I as a full time blogger spend my workday, and second which programs I use that assist me in that task.
I'd like to start with the systems that I currently use for that task. I have two desktop PCs underneath my computer desk that are connected to their own 24" screen. The PCs are not brand new but both are well equipped. My main work PC is powered by an Intel Core i7-860 cpu, 8 Gigabytes of RAM, a GeForce GTX 470 video card, a 128 Gigabyte M4 Solid State Drive and a 3 Terabyte data drive.
The second PC is powered by an Intel Core i5-2500K cpu, 8 Gigabytes of RAM,Â a GeForce GTX 560 Ti video card and a 256 Corsair Force GT Solid State Drive. The first PC runs on a 64-bit version of Windows 7 Pro, the second on Windows 8 Pro.
I also have a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 that I use for my Android tests and development, and plan on getting a Windows Phone soon to add tests for that mobile operating system as well.
How I work
I'm working from home which gives me lots of freedom and I could theoretically sleep in, sit in underpants in front of the computer or play video games or watch movies throughout the work day. That's however not what I'm doing as I would not get things done properly if I would.
I see it as a regular job and handle it exactly like that. I do get up between 7 and 8 each day and spend about 30 minutes or so eating breakfast, showering and getting dressed. I never really had any issues getting up at that time even though it is sometimes tempting to sleep in as no one is waiting for you or going to fire you if you do so.
I usually start the day by going through emails that I received during the night, replying to them immediately if necessary, and then moderating all the comments on Ghacks that accumulated while I was sleeping. Once that is out of the way, I start to fire up my RSS reader GreatNews to find out what's new in the world of technology.
RSS is just one source of information that I use to find inspiration for stories and articles. I hang out on a couple of sites regularly, Reddit and Hacker News for example, and also do lots of testing and tweaking on my own, especially when it comes to programs that I use regularly. So, if Firefox or Chrome have a new feature or changed in any way, I'm usually able to spot it and write about it. My motivation to write about these things is higher for programs that I use daily, as I'm interested in their development more than I'm interested in the development of programs that I use every now and then only.
That's the reason why you see more Firefox, Chrome or Steam posts here on the site than posts for Opera, Internet Explorer or Origin.
I try to publish one or two articles - at least - in the morning before I take my first break. I usually go out at around noon for about an hour to do some walking (great exercise) and grocery shopping. It helps me stay fit - sitting in a chair all day is not really the best way of achieving that goal - clear my mind and relax during that time. Combining a necessity (grocery shopping) with an activity helps me a lot and I usually buy only as much as I need for a single day so that I have to go out again and buy food the next day. It is a mind trick but it works fairly well for me. Plus, I tend to get fresher food on the table this way.
One of the things that I came to understand in the past years is that I do need these breaks from work to avoid burning out. The one hour break is great for that, as is my decision to spend less time on the computer on the weekend. I only publish two or three articles on Saturdays and Sundays, and try to spend the rest of the day doing things I like or need to do. It can happen that this means playing a round of Dota 2, but also to meet friends, play board games, go out and drink a cold German beer or simply go to bed very early. I do sports three times a week on top of that to stay fit (Krav Maga and Football), and some basic workout routines when I'm at home (pushups, situps, pullups and the like)
I try to post at least two articles in the afternoon, and another one or two at night. I do regular breaks throughout the day, to eat and spend time doing other things that need to be done.
When I work, I tend to do so in silence. I do not listen to music and try to blend out all distracting elements like my smartphone or things that happen on the computer screen. So, no email checking every five minutes during that time or checking out new messages on Facebook or Google Plus.
Main software that I use for work
- Firefox both Nightly and Stable
- Chrome Canary and Stable
- Snagit 10 for screenshots
- Great News for RSS feeds
- Thunderbird for email
- KeePass for all password needs
- True Crypt for encryption
- Paint.net for basic image editing
- WinSCP for connections to my web server
- Dropbox for file storage
- F.Lux to avoid eye strain
As far as my desktops go: I prefer a minimalistic approach to that. I have pinned the important programs to the taskbar and prefer not to use any desktop shortcuts or anything like that. I usually work with two windows aligned next to each other so that each takes up 50% of the workspace. This is usually Firefox on the left with my site open, and another program on the right. The program on the right can be another Firefox window or a program that I'm currently testing.
I do not use many of the fancy tools that other bloggers and journalists make use of. I do not use a calendar, no to-do list, and stay away from social media as much as possible. As far as my smartphone goes, I use it mostly for app testing and development these days, and try to avoid it as much as possible otherwise. So, barely any messaging or calling while I'm working as it is too distracting.Advertisement
Hi Martin, it seems you like to keep things very simple, so why two PCs?
Do you use them for different purposes? Do you share a KB & mouse between them (with synergy) or have one set per PC? And why do you not use a dual-monitor setup for you main PC (using vnc to visit your second PC)? I would have thought this would be indispensible for research etc.
(I have three laptops dotted around, one phone, one tablet, one pi, one HTPC, one main PC, and three network servers comprising an old rig for backups and two dedicated NAS (one with a hypervisor and multiple OS for testing etc, the other an awesome synolgy). I’m not very good at keeping things simple, though this setup works for me and all data is synced and backed up as appropriate.)
I used to use programs to use a single mouse and keyboard between the two PCs, but since I ran into errors every now and then, I stopped doing so. I use the second PC exclusively for Windows 8 related topics and for gaming.
Martin, I can definitely see some similarities in our home work styles. Unless I am working on a task that is very mainstream to me (Windows, Firefox, etc.), I can’t have any music, people talking to me, or other distractions. It gets me quite irritable. Wish I could get silence in Albuquerque, NM to work–I find it’s better to work at night and sleep with earplugs all day! LOL! I never could multi-task, so when I blog or web design for clients or myself, I do nothing else on my computer.
Wish I had 8GIGS on ONE of my 3 computers! LOL! My wife likes the iPad–I’ve never really liked Apple even after Jobs (*ducking the fanboys*). Speaking of Apple, I don’t see you covering much on OSX or iOS, which doesn’t bother me a bit, is that a personal choice?
Been loving Feedly better than Google Reader. Lighter on my resources than a client and I can style it easily within my browser.
Damn, I need to take more physical breaks! Hoping to see Germany one of these years before I croak! LOL!
One last thing I was wondering about. I’ve torn the Internet apart, looking for and trying every program (even registry hacks) to edit my Windows right-click context menu effectively! Most programs I try fail to list every program in there, so I can’t effectively delete or reorder my programs in the menu. What’s your favorite way to do this? I know how busy you are, but I just thought I’d ask! Take care!
Karl thanks for your comment. I do not have anything against Apple devices but prefer to stay on Windows right now as this is what I know best. I would have a hard time writing about Apple related stuff at first because I do not know anything about the inner workings of the Mac operating system. I would have spend too much time getting to know the system.
If you plan to visit Germany let me know and I compose a list of tips for you to get the most out of your trip.
AS far as the context menu goes, have you tried ShellExView? http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/shexview.html
Thanks, Martin! I’ll look at ShellExView again–maybe I missed something a while back. By the way, hope you find the time to really delve into the web design languages! I can tell you, 13 years ago at the prodding of my then-AOL co-workers, it was one of the smartest things I ever did and stayed with! Later!
Wow..thank you so much for sharing your daily workflow. I am undergoing through a tough life career-wise and reading your workflow has inspired me. By the way martin which software you use for writing or researching. Do you use one-note or evernote. How do manage your data in between two desktop? Do you use any synchronization software?
Rahul, hope you can resolve the situation you are facing in a positive manner.
I’m writing my articles directly in Firefox and the WordPress dashboard, at least in regards to articles that I publish here on this site. I do not use note-taking software at all, as I said before, I’m rather minimalistic in this regard. If I stumble upon something that I want to investigate in the future, I bookmark it for that or keep it open in tabs. If I have to add notes, I add them right to the article that I’m going to write.
I do not exchange a lot of data between the two PCs. I have set up a shared directory so that I can move screenshots and files between the devices.
Well it’s not really bad to be minimalistic..Too many apps sometimes may lead to confusing workflows. But there is one service which really deserves excellency is pinboard. Have you given a try to this martin
Greetings from Ireland.
Thank you for a very interesting article – I wish I had your discipline and ability to avoid distraction when working.
One question about KeePass – do you use any browser extensions with KeePass ( eg Passifox or KeeFox) or do you simply use the KeePass auto-type ( a little cumbersome ?)
Thanks again for your articles – I enjoy checking in with Ghacks each day.
Rocky, I’m not using any extension or add-on for KeePass. I do copy the passwords manually, or use the auto-fill shortcut that it supports.
Thanks Martin for this interesting article.
Hopefully you find the time and inspiration in the coming months to write also about the ‘new’ Opera web browser (based on a new render engine). I like to follow news about Opera, because I’m not confident about Mozilla’s direction with Firefox.
For the rest I can only say: keep up the good work !! I visit every day your site to learn about news and interesting developments/features/testing, etc.
great share, Martin! Inspiring and it seems that of wee that work from home have at least similarities on our work routines.
keep on the excellent work!
Hi Martin Brinkmann
Thank you for sharing your workflow: ther’s many interesting tips here.
Another great article from you: thank you Sir. Nice day. :-)
Thanks for sharing Martin! It’s always interesting to see how other developers and tech bloggers work.
I have a couple of other questions though. What software do you use to send out your daily email newsletters? I know there are quite a few packages out there, but which do you prefer?
Also, and if you don’t mind me asking, roughly how much money would you say you earn as a result of your work? I’ve been a web developer for a few years now, and have often thought about working for myself, but I don’t know how risky it is to leave a full-time job to become my own boss. As you seem very successful at it, I though’t ask.. but don’t worry if you’d rather not say!
Thanks, and keep up the great work!
A third party handles the newsletter for me, so can’t really say what software they use. I probably would use Aweber for it if I’d had to do it on my own.
I do not want to reveal what I earn, but I can tell you that I earn more than in my previous job.
No problem, and thanks again for the article!
Hello Martin, thanks for sharing this information with us.
I’m a big fan of your site, and I’ve been a reader for quite a long time. As a blogger myself, today I’ve realized that I’m doing things wrong. I tend to write a bunch of posts on a single go, without taking a break, which obviously is not the best approach. I wanted to ask you, how many breaks do you take during the day?. I find quite challenging to write 5 or 6 posts every day without taking a break. Sometimes I even feel dizzy haha.
Alan, I try to fit in three larger breaks each day, and a couple of smaller ones. Usually, I start to write one or two articles in the morning before I head out to buy groceries and do my one-hour long walk to clear my head. On two of the days, I add my Krav Maga training to that list so that I’m away from the computer for a couple of hours.
When I’m back home I prepare a meal and start to write again, usually another 1 or 2 articles. I also sneak in other activities here, like updating articles, replying to comments or emails and the like.
I then take my second large break, to eat again, relax and do other things like chores around the house.
Then there is a third round of writing, which usually lasts til the evening. I then eat dinner and while I still monitor what is going on in the tech world, tend to spend most time doing other things, like playing a computer game, watching a move, reading a book or Android app development.
When I started out I took fewer breaks and it was hard at times as I felt the impact of that. So, breaks are really important.