productivity

Productivity by Sean MacEntee on Flickr

I’ve been writing my column on productivity for CILIP Update for almost a year now, and I’m really enjoying writing it and getting comments from people – it seems to be encouraging people to try new ways of working, sometimes with real day-to-day benefits for them. I’ve been getting really good feedback and I’m so pleased. My columns so far (also available on my Publications page) have included:

I’ve tried so many different tools and ways of working and am always interested in finding ways to improve, so I’m glad I can now use some of the things I have learnt to help others on their journeys to a more productive way of working. I came across a blog post from Lifehacker a little while ago inviting people to share their own techniques, and thought I’d take the opportunity to use their questions to share mine.

Location: West Midlands, UK.

Current gig: Evidence Based Researcher for Evidence Base, Birmingham City University (also currently on part-time secondment to Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals as a Future Skills Project Worker).

Current mobile device: iPhone 4S and iPad (I also have a Nexus 7 but rarely use it).

Current computer: iMac at home (this is my main computer), PC at work.

One word that best describes how you work: Flexibly.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without: Omnifocus (to do list manager), Dropbox (to sync documents between devices), Google Drive (for collaboration), Evernote (for meeting notes and image capture).

What’s your workspace like? I work from a variety of different places, but my main workspace is at home in our spare room which is fitted as an office. I share it with my partner and have plenty of desk space (my space is to the left of the computer as I’m left handed), and a set of drawers. I don’t really need much physical space as most of my work is electronic, but I like to have clear space around me to help me work more productively (currently I have some tickets on my desk waiting for me to sort claims for and even just those are driving me mad!). Here’s what my desk looks like at the moment (mine is the computer to the left – spot the essential glass of Ribena!):

Home office

Home office

What’s your best time-saving trick? Inbox zero. Before I start working on anything each day, I sort through my inbox and move everything to the right place. That way I know my calendar and to-do list are completely up-to-date and I know exactly what tasks I have to do. Then as all my tasks are in one place I can focus on prioritising things to focus on based on importance and urgency, and won’t get distracted by looking through my inbox. It really helps me in terms of knowing what I should be working on, and now that I have a process in place for organising my emails it saves me lots of time.

What’s your favourite to-do list manager? Omnifocus. I particularly like the iPad app and am currently using the beta version of Omnifocus 2 for Mac. The one downside is that it’s Mac only so no good when I’m in my office at the university which has a PC. I always have my iPad with me though so access it from there. I live in the Forecast view so I can see at a glance what I have on that day – tasks and appointments in my calendar.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without? My iPad. I take it everywhere with me and use it at meetings, for working when away from home/office, and for keeping me connected (and able to work) whilst travelling. I seem to really enjoy writing on the iPad so often use my iPad to write blog posts and to transcribe interviews.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else? Within my team I’m the one who tests out new tools/software/techniques to see which might work for us and I often take on this sort of role in other projects I work on. I love trying out new things and figuring ways of using them to save me time or help me stay organised.

What are you currently reading? I’m reading Why Should Anyone Be Led By You? What it takes to be an authentic leader (for the Library Leadership Reading Group), and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

What do you listen to whilst you work? I listen to a variety of different playlists on Spotify. I use music most when I’m writing (e.g. research reports) and absolutely love this GTD playlist for when I need to focus. Instrumental soundtracks are perfect for this and I often end up looking up music I hear in films and TV documentaries.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? Introvert. I need to have time to myself to recharge, and now always build time to do this during conferences.

What’s your sleep routine like? Not so good. At times I struggle to sleep at night and often spend a good 2-3 hours trying to get to sleep.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see __________ answer these same questions. Emma Cragg – I know she shares an interest in trying new tools and ways of working to improve productivity and I’d love to hear her tips.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? That you should stop beating yourself up about things because you can’t have it all. This blog post by Jenica Rogers is really excellent advice, and something I need to remind myself of often. There was a lot of great advice in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book too, much of which I think about regularly.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? I’d be really interested in other people’s response to these questions (partly maybe because I’m nosy, but also because I think there’s a lot we can learn from each other). If you decide to blog your own responses, you can get the questions from the blog post on Lifehacker, and please share a link in the comments on this blog post once you’ve published your own How I Work.

I travel quite a bit and need to be able to work on the go. Fortunately I have a tablet and a smartphone so between the two devices I pretty much always have access to my email, social media, documents, and note taking apps. I take notes digitally at meetings, use mobile devices to work out where I am and how I get to where I need to be (by foot or by public transport), create presentations on my tablet, present from my smartphone, contact people in various different ways via them (email, social media, Skype, and even occasionally SMS or phone calls) and use them for entertainment purposes too. I use mobile devices a lot. I love them.

However, I do have a frustration; the battery life. The tablet isn’t so bad and can last a day of heavy use without being charged, but the smartphone struggles. I therefore usually carry a charger with me when I’m working away for the day. You’ve perhaps seen me huddled next to a plug socket at events or sitting right on the edge of a row just to get a little bit of a top up of power (yes, I realise I sound like an addict!). I was therefore delighted when I was invited to test a portable charger. I bought something similar a couple of years ago, but it was very bulky so I found it easier to carry a plug. This one, the Innergie PocketCell is really light and compact.

Innergie PocketCell

Innergie PocketCell

In the box you get the charger itself and a short connector which has three different types of adapter: Mini USB, Micro USB, and 30 pin Apple connector.

Innergie PowerCell cable in box

Innergie PowerCell cable in box

To charge the PowerCell, you simply plug it into any USB – either one on a computer, or a USB plug – using the cable (it has a Micro USB input). It has blue lights on the side to indicate whether it is charged or not so you can check the level and see when it is fully charged – the image below shows it at 2 blue lights (out of a maximum of 4).

Innergie PocketCell lights

Innergie PocketCell lights

Charging a device seems really quick – I haven’t timed it from empty to full but even just 10 minutes charging increased my iPhone battery from 52% to 65%. I have a new iPad so unfortunately it doesn’t have a connector for this but I have tried it with my own USB to lightning connector. It does work with the iPad but the charger seems to get hot so I’ve only used it for a quick boost.

The one downside is the short cable. It’s a tricky one as obviously a shorter cable makes it more portable and in most situations is fine for a portable charger, but it can make charging the battery tricky. I previously reviewed the short cable, and although it isn’t as much of an issue in this product I’m still not a huge fan – I’d like it to be a little longer so that’s it’s still portable but means you can have a little bit of distance from the plug socket so that it can fit onto shelves or the floor rather than hanging when it’s charging.

Innergie PocketCell charging iPhone

Innergie PocketCell charging iPhone

Overall, I’m really impressed with the Innergie PocketCell. It’s very portable and means I may no longer have to hunt out plug sockets everywhere I go. I’ve been carrying it around with me and found it a really useful thing to have – I haven’t had to worry about preserving my use of mobile devices as I know I have extra power there if needed. As mentioned, I received this to review – it’s currently available on Amazon for £70. I have to confess this is more expensive than I thought it would be (I previously bought an external battery for around £25), however the Innergie PocketCell a really good bit of kit, and much better than the external battery I bought, so I would definitely recommend it if you’re in the market for an external battery.