Happy New Year! Wishing everyone a successful, peaceful and prosperous year.
Whilst 2016 wasn’t a great year for many things, there was some amazing music about.
Here are my top ten albums of the year, in no specific order:
- Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
- Lisa Hannigan – At Swim
- Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
- Kate Tempest – Let them eat chaos
- Joep Beving – Solipsism
- Keaton Henson – Kindly Now
- Olafur Arnalds – Island Songs
- James Blake – The Colour in Anything
- Rokkurro – I Annan Heim
- Tricky – Skilled Mechanics
I was listening to some music yesterday which reminded me heavily of listening to electronic music back in my early teen bedroom at home. I had an Alba music system, and a small stack of vinyl. I was in a transition from the ‘pop’ music of my childhood, into discovering something new. Gary Numan, John Foxx and Kraftwerk were becoming the music of choice for this teenager from the suburbs of London.
I tried to remember what came before. Further back than the music I chose.
I remember strangely silent Sunday afternoons, when my parents might sleep in front of the TV. A heavy silence that seemed to last forever until early evening TV took over. I remember the music from an 8-track player in my Dads car. Stevie Wonder, ELO and maybe Abba. I remember the noise of a house party at home with family and friends dancing around the hi-fi system we had, Carl Douglas and Motown.
So many influences. So many memories.
I’ve been reading a lot of ‘how I work’ posts recently, documenting the toolsets the people use. I thought I’d break mine into a couple of parts, the software I use locally to get productive, and then the online services I use to take care of business.
Lets start with my locally installed software:
- Microsoft Office – bearing in mind my employer, of course i use Office. It just does what it needs to do with very little fuss. If I was spending my own money, I’d buy Office. At work I use Outlook, Powerpoint and Excel all the time and live between those, and a browser. For personal work, I use Excel a lot, there is nothing like a list or a plan.
- PowerBI – becoming a go-to tool for information about my business on a daily basis. I run dashboards and reports there to keep me across multiple KPI’s
- Onenote – Open all the time, the notetaking app does everything it should do and syncs across multiple devices. I use it as a permanent library of reference material, all the details about work and personal projects get captured here and the lightning fast search facility helps me recall things. I clip interesting webpages for later reading, and storage and I can make notes on the fly using the docked view of Onenote. Indispensable.
- Windows Mail and Calendar – yep, personal mail and calendar as well as shared family calendar help me stay in touch and on schedule. I like to keep some separation between work and personal mail, and using two clients helps me retain some sanity.
- OneDrive / Dropbox – EVERYTHING is in one of these – replicated and backed up, as well as for collaboration.
- Greenshot – for screenshots, snips, etc – syncs directly to dropbox and gives me lots of flexiblity
- Adobe Creative Cloud – Mainly use Photoshop and Illustrator for graphics jobs. I am not a designer, and I probably don’t exercise these tools anywhere near enough, but it’s useful to be able to have the right tools for the job to hand.
- Edge / Chrome / Firefox – Multiple browsers for testing. Chrome is my go-to button, but Edge is fast getting there with really good performance and a clean UI. Now if people would start delivering more extensions it could be a true rival.
- Lastpass – so many sites, apps and services! So I try and keep a tight ship when it comes to long passwords. Lastpass helps me tame the many passwords and gives me near instant recall. The modern app version is very good and pinned to my taskbar
- Skype / Skype for Business – keeps me in contact with co-workers, collaborators, friends and family. I use voice and video on both and I love the collaboration tools on Skype for Business
- Tweetdeck – my window on multiple twitter accounts, often run this on a second PC so I can watch the world.
- Spotify – all the music, all the time.
Next time I’ll cover off the key services and sites that I use to keep things ticking over.
The way to get started, is to quit talking, and begin doing – Walt Disney
Alongside a whole list of tools and services (more to come on those soon), I rely on one simple thing to get me started when I work on a new project. Whether its a new website or a database project, a presentation or an online shop, they all start in one place.
A blank sheet of paper.
Designing anything is easier for me if I have a clear understanding of how the information needs to be laid out. Either on the screen, on a slide or in an e-commerce store, I like to have made a plan before I start committing things to screen. I’ve tried many tools to help me get started, but always fall back on one.
Laying out lists, menus, categories. Defining nomenclature, taxonomy and structure. It all starts with a blank sheet, a decent pen or pencil and the will to get going. Don’t understimate the power of the blank page to inspire, capture and organise your finest ideas.
One thing has helped my working productivity above all the systems, apps and techniques.
Or more simply, investing in a standing desk. When I refurbished my home office late last year, I opted for an Ikea Bekant sit/stand desk. With a simple design and relatively low cost, I was able to move away from spending more then eight hours a day sitting down.
I thought it would help my fitness a bit, stretching my legs and straightening my back whilst I spent the day on conference calls and emails. When I started using it, I realised that working in bare feet at home wasn’t going to be as easy, as I needed some kind of shoe for standing it. I soon found something suitable.
However, the gain I didn’t expect was in my productivity and concentration. Working standing up helps me focus, pay attention and not be distracted. If I need an hour of focused creativity, then I stand up. If I need need to join a complex audio conference, or a 1:1 with one of my team, I stand up.
The upright posture oxygenates me, and gives me more energy and I can concentrate better. Of course, I need to sit down sometimes – to relax my knees and ankles and rest a little bit, but I guess during an eight hour day I spend about four hours standing.
I can feel the benefits as I write this post.
A good friend asked me what my freshly redesigned site is for. It’s a very good question, what am I aiming for here? What is my mission statement?
Truth is, I’m not 100% sure yet. I needed somewhere to store some information about the work I’ve been doing with websites for people. I wanted a central place for some DJ mixes I’d made. I wanted a place for people to find me online, but away from the many social networks. Above all else, I wanted to make a new home online.
I’ve had personal websites before, and a blog that had a decent amount of readers, but I neglected it when some other projects took off. Now, I am more organised and I want to make sure I have something a bit more regular online.
So, here I am.
Thanks for stopping by, I hope you’ll find the latest steps on my journey enjoyable.