Frequently I get asked about my office setup—being self-employed and all. I find it a curious question, but I suppose folks want to compare their systems and processes and find something that might work for them. My instinctual response is to lie—and lie big. However, the short answer is that you have to figure it out for yourself. The long answer illustrates a chaos that is not for the faint of heart. I may be a bit old-school in my setup, but there is a generous helping of new-school.
I happen to love paper. It’s crisp, clean and shoots out of the printer like it’s an Olympic event. I love scribbling on it in blue ink, and then crossing everything out in red. I write upside down, sideways, with printed letters, and with voracious scribbles using all available white space and then I scatter them around the room as part of this giant creative nest I’ve built for myself. It’s comforting for me to see everything. My thoughts down on paper, my tasks, and my plans— all in plain view—it’s inescapable. I have coloured post-it notes tucked in and around that contain all my EUREKA! moments. Those are the ones where I think I’ve just cured cancer or world hunger with some brilliant never-thought-of-before creative breakthrough. Seeing those remind me of the excitement that pulsed through me in those moments, and that there are more of those moments to come. It pushes me on when I doubt my choices.
To the outside world, I appear to be one stack of paper away from an audition for “Hoarders.” But to those who know me, they know I work best in layers. If I can see the walnut of my desk, I’m clearly not working hard enough. I know that if I need my chicken-scratch notes from a series webinar 2 years ago—they are in stack 7 next to the bookshelf about halfway down. Anyone who wants to steer clear of an ass-whoopin’ does NOT shuffle my papers around.
That said, I have also embraced some new-school and have immersed myself fully in progressive technology. I have all the old standard equipment; desktop, laptop, printer, scanner, fax machine, telephone, cell phone, etc. but these are all slowly being replaced with the next best thing. I purchased on-line dictionaries and references and only go to the shelf if I find a discrepancy. I do fear that my arms may atrophy if I don’t lug that big book out now and again though. My tired old fax machine (you know the one with the glossy-rolled paper?) finally gave me its swan song in the form of a perpetual cutter jam. I painstakingly took it apart to see if it was operable, but its dead carcass still lingers in the corner—with guts hanging out. It stays there available to be kicked around when clogged servers and slow response times dampen my spirits—and quite frankly, it’s thrilled to still have a job. For the once or twice a year that I’m required to fax something, http://www.faxorama.com/ does the job. It’s convenient and it’s free.
Instead of printed spreadsheets and databases filed in cabinets to keep track of my billable time, I use a virtual punch clock. http://www.xpunch.com/ I keep a copy of the program on my desktop, laptop and android. It’s broken down by client and then again by project and I’ve programmed it to populate my invoices with the accrued hours. Easy-peasy, right? Now if I could only remember to punch in.
I have about 3 or 4 websites, 4 or 5 social assets, 10 email addresses and all of it is funnelled to me through Google. Google is my BFF. Make no mistake, it takes care of me. It reminds me what needs to be done, it encourages me to keep going with endless information, and it stays up into the wee hours of the night keeping me company when I’m on a deadline. Truth be told, it wasn’t that long ago that I scoffed at Google. I was one of the unbelieving. How could a search engine have ninja prowess and an addictive personality? I was ignorant. Five minutes with Google and my heart was engorged in a new love-affair. This is a relationship that will outlast all others.
My new short answer is “paper stacks and Google.” And that’s no lie.