The way I work today

In the mid-90s, I would open Microsoft Word and Excel at the beginning of every workday, knowing that I would spend most of my day using these applications. That ended some time ago.

Today, I open the Chrome Web Browser as soon as I boot up my computer. It’s also the last thing I close before I shut down at the end of the day. So, what do I use it for? Well, the tabs that open by default at the beginning of the day describe pretty well why the browser is my mainstay tool.

I use my browser for the four major things I do every day: publishing, measurement and analysis, knowledge gathering, and community.


Publishing

I open a series of tabs for each of the blogs that I contribute to: ProPR.ca, Inside PR, Social Mediators and Corum. This helps me to focus first thing each morning on writing. And I find I am most able to write at the beginning of my day when I still can close more door and before I open any other applications that might prove a distraction – especially email. (I keep Outlook closed through most of the day, opening it only when I have a block of low energy time that I want to use for low involvement work.)

In addition, I have a tab for the Admin panel that 76design developed to enable me to curate the posts that go on the home page of the Thornley Fallis Website.

Measurement and Analysis

I look at several tabs at the beginning of each day: PostRank, Google Analytics and Feedburner. These give me a quick indication of the engagement and traffic on the various blogs I contribute to. Of these, I’m most focused on PostRank. Traffic to my sites is nice. But what I really strive for is content that engages people enough that they will want to act upon it – share it, comment or even just follow a link.

Knowledge gathering

Social media has made it possible for experts to self publish in a form that is readily available and shareable. I find that most experts I’m interested in say their piece on a blog or on Twitter. So I subscribe to their RSS feeds and Twitter streams. And so I’ll go to Google Reader and Twitter (I use both  Hootsuite in my browswer and Tweetdeck on my desktop) when I have the time to gather new knowledge and news of what’s happening in my world.

There’s one more knowledge gathering tab that I’ve kept open for the past few months – Quora, the question and answer site. I’ve answered questions and posted questions of my own. This could be a great resource if the questions and answers broaden beyond the tech roots of the early adopters. The jury’s still out. However, I go here late in the day when my writing and creative work is done and I want to be stimulated with new perspectives.

Community

We use Present.ly as our “behind the firewall” team collaboration software. I’ll keep this open throughout the day so that I can respond to requests and queries from my work teams.

I use Meetup.com as the online host for the Third Tuesday events. I’ll check this daily when we have upcoming events.

Twitter. Twitter. Twitter. My main social network, as well as a great knowledge gathering site. I’ll check into Twitter several times a day. Then sign out when I’m done. Must avoid distraction.

Yes, I open LinkedIn and Facebook at the beginning of each day. And then I mostly ignore them. Both seem designed to trap me in a mindless attention loop. Too much random noise.

Focus on one thing at a time

A final note. Even though I open several tabs at the beginning of the day, I close everything I am not using whenever I am trying to create content. I find it takes me some time to get into the flow of creation. So, I don’t want any distractions. No email. No pop up alerts. No skype. No telephone. I just try to focus on the one thing I am trying to create.

Your turn

What about you? Do you keep your browser open through the day? What tabs do I have set up to open automatically at the beginning of each day? How do you maintain your focus?

  • We open many of the same applications. No doubt that times and applications have changed. Today I think we spend a good chunk of time consuming information – only to create information based on what was inspired. In the past the white screen of Word would slow me down – today, with all of the inspirational content out there – it’s never a problem.

    • William, you strike a chord when you say that consuming content can be the launch pad for creating new content. I routinely review my RSS feeds and Quora throughout the day. When I see something that I want to spend more time considering, I tag it on Diigo to read later (I prefer Diigo to Instapaper for its superior tagging capabilities.) Then, when I am able to sit undisturbed, I’ll read and consider these items. Frequently, I’ll find myself leaving a comment – and this will in turn lead to a longer post on one of the blogs to which I contribute. And it’s blogs, not Twitter of Facebook, that provide the longer form discussions that spark my own creativity.

  • GlendaM

    I just got to work. The first things I open everyday – Firefox, Outlook and iTunes. Outlook for email and calendar. I have turned off notification for email and only check it when I am ready to process emails – typically once per hour. iTunes because I am in an open concept office and when I need to get work done especially first thing in the morning, headphones are in and music is softly playing. It indicates to others I am in work-mode. In Firefox, I open a few browsers that stay open most of the day – Google Reader, Basecamp, SharePoint, website, and sometimes LinkedIn but not as often. I check LinkedIN, Facebook, Twitter throughout the day but it’s not open all day. It’s interesting as this has changed over time.

    • Gland, I too have iTunes on all day. I find that instrumental music – jazz or classical – is perfect to create a active place away from the office. Even if there is activity around me, the music will help me to avoid distraction. Counter-intuitive, but it works for me.

  • Dear Joe, I thought I was bad, but this completely overwhelms me. Love, Gini

  • I love posts or discussions on this topic as I think it tends to get overlooked during a time when we focus more on the tools than on how to use them to do what we do better. I love getting a peak at how other people work and how they set up their environment for productivity.

    One thing that I have started to use to boost my productivity is multiple screens. Sure, this isn’t for everyone and can lead some people to get distracted but I find that having at least two monitors at my disposal helps me develop content easier because I can keep something I am referencing on one screen while keeping the content I am actively creating on the other and I save time not having to switch back and forth.

    Having multiple screens at my disposal also helps me keep track of the different communities, websites, email accounts and twitter accounts that I help manage without having to waste time find places and logging in. I keep a whole computer dedicated to listening off my left shoulder so that it is easy for me to keep my “ears” open for things I need to respond to.

    I found this post by Chris Penn on the topic of productivity to be a great help and how to effectively use different screens.

    http://blog.blueskyfactory.com/best-practice/getting-stuff-done-the-bsf-way/?utm_medium=ArgyleSocial&utm_source=TweetDeck

    • Hi Danny, I agree that multiple monitors can be a real productivity enhancer. At our company, we equip all people with either double monitors or a single 30″ monitor. When we set up a new notebook user, I encourage them to use their notebook screen as their home screen, set off slightly to the left, with the larger screen directly in front of them. Then the large screen can be used as a place to focus on one thing – with the smaller monitor on the side being available for reference to sources, etc.

  • I had never heard of several of the websites mentioned in this post and I didn’t know the benefits of the Google Chrome Browser before now. I enjoy posts that open me up to new PR resources. I really like how you showed how you centralize your everyday tasks into one place. There are a lot of great resources for PR pros, but some professionals do not know how to use them effectively and in a way that saves time.