I’m Drew McManus, ArtsHacker Editor-In-Chief. This Is How I Get Things Done.

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how i get things done drew mcmanus

Welcome to the first installment in ArtHacker’s newest feature: How I Get Things Done, an ongoing series that examines how arts managers stay productive and outfit their workspaces.

When your business covers everything from data analysis, to communication, to programming and design, it is easy to get overwhelmed with stuff to get those jobs done.

At one point in time, my solutions to those tasks centered on expansion: bigger work surfaces, more peripherals, dedicated equipment, fancier chairs, etc. Somewhere along the way, all of that stuff started to have a counterproductive impact on day to day efficiency so the new goal became work smarter with fewer tools of higher quality.

The end result is a happier, healthier workplace that allows me to accomplish more each year.

Falcon Northwest Fragbox. Although this CPU is likely overkill for typical working environments, it fills the role of everything from programming, to graphic design, to crunching heavy duty spreadsheets. More often than not, all at the same time.

I can’t recommend Falcon Northwest enough, their machines cost more but their personalized service along with unparalleled quality and customer support mean you get what you pay for.

Because why wouldn’t you want a cat tree as a computer stand? The cat tree also serves as a ladder for the cats to get to the desktop when it is extended to full standing height.

I spend a lot of time on Skype and the Plantronics C720 is an excellent corded headset that auto sets my status to Do Not Disturb when on a video or voice call. It also auto answers calls when placed over the ears and the Bluetooth functionality means I can use it with me cell and iPad.

Drawers are where tools go to die or be forgotten about. Shelves keep things in sight and on mind. Using a 3U Vertical Rack mount provides room for two slotted shelves and a power station so electronics stay cool.

If you spend a lot of time typing, the Corsair K95 mechanical corded keyboard with Cherry MX Red keys is a fabulous peripheral. Yes, it’s technically a gaming keyboard but I’ve found that the quality and functionality is far superior to most business oriented offerings. I used to use all wireless peripherals but over the years, interference became increasingly annoying. Switching back to solid corded solutions was the way to go.

The Cougar 700M corded mouse is another device designed for gamers but even though it provides features I’ll never use, the build quality and accuracy are superb. As an added bonus, having the ability to customize the weight and resistance helped cut down on repetitive stress issues.

A luxury item, sure, but it delivers what it promises in the form of spectacular audio quality and allows me to use the full size jack on my headphones. The mini-tube design cranks out a wonderful warm sound.

Nothing out of the ordinary here other than the Ooma Trelo, which serves as the router for their VOIP telephone service. The pair of devices takes up more desk space than I would like but their phone service is better than anything I’ve come across and worth the hassle.

An inexpensive peripheral, the USB 3.0 Hub, HooToo 7 Port Hub with 2 Smart Charging Ports helps keep USB connections in reach and the pair of charging ports means I can keep the brick end of charging cables in my briefcase (no more forgetting!). Even if your computer has plenty of USB ports, a USB hub is a no-brainer addition.

Although difficult to see in the photo, the real star is the Bluelounge Design ML-WH-SUB Milo Micro-Suction Stand for iPhone, iPod, & Most Smartphones. It’s not only attractive but a wonderful space saver.

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad Air is a great little keyboard that doubles as a protective cover. However, it rarely leaves my desk outside of overnight travel and I use a standard iPad cover from Apple for day to day use. Tip: having the iPad with tactile keyboard handy is great for texting and multitasking emails.

This pair of Roland MA-8 stereo monitors are a bit dated but they still sound terrific and do the job.

I’m not a fan of monitors with integrated speakers and webcams, the latter of which are typically dubious in quality. The dedicated webcam here is a Logetech Quickcam Pro 9000 and the monitors are held in place by a dual monitor arm affixed to the desktop.

cat interns

Never underestimate how much space sleeping cats need...

...because an ill fitting cat bed never ends well.

I keep this set of Sennheiser HD 598 Over-Ear Headphones in reach but off the desktop thanks to the hanging stand that clips right to the edge.

I simply can’t recommend a standing desk enough. One of the happiest days of my professional life was when I gave away my office chair. The health benefits are well documented and the variety and price for high quality motorized units are far more affordable then even a few years ago.

Software & Apps

I’ll just boil this down to the programs and apps I use at least once a day otherwise, this list will be ridiculously long:

  • Microsoft Office 365 (mostly Word, Excel, and PowerPoint)
  • Adobe Creative Cloud Suite (mostly Photoshop, Bridge, Illustrator, and Acrobat)
  • Skype
  • SnagIt
  • Chrome/Firefox/Safari/Edge/Internet Explorer
  • Mailbox (email client)
  • Rhapsody
  • Windows Media Player
  • FileZilla
  • Cortana/Siri
  • Outlook (iPad)
  • Android/Verizon Messaging
  • A few dozen additional browser based programs/apps (WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Basecamp, Freshbooks, Google Analytics, etc.)

What’s the most interesting or unique part of your workspace?

Cable management is a high priority and after a few decades of trying just about every option I could, the best solution has been a combination of large privacy panels with built in channels and attaching equipment under the desktop. To that end, <big breath> I have a UPS, Surge Protector, wireless router, cellular booster, cable modem, two USB backup drives, a power strip, and the standing desk motor bolted to the bottom of the desktop surface along most of the associated cables wrapped in color coded Velcro ties and stored inside the metal privacy panels.

As a bonus, the motorized standing desk raises high enough that I can access all of those items without needing to bend over much.

Beyond that, it’s probably a toss-up between using a cat tree as the CPU stand and the vertical rack mount. The cat tree stand is one of those things that just worked out that way; simply put, the cats didn’t want to give up their space on the desk and I wanted the CPU within reach so finding a cat tree that functioned as a stand ended up becoming a multi-task device.

The vertical rack mount is the result of not really liking drawers. Over the years, one of the know thyself moments that became increasingly clear was realizing that putting something in a drawer meant it ended up being rarely used. But having items like my calculator, a legal pad, iPad cover, USB hard drives, and a few other odds and ends on open shelves solved that problem.

3U vertical rack mount

3U Vertical Rack Mount

Two shelves keep frequently used items at hand and provide air flow for electronics.

It became a useful solution thanks to a habit formed back in the 90s when computer hardware placed power switches in difficult to reach locations. Having a rack mounted power strip solved that problem and it’s something I’ve used ever since (albeit the actual need is much lower these days). If nothing else, it helps keep cables off the ground and the desktop.

Is there anything about your workspace you would change?

I’d love to ditch the cordless phone and use the USB headset instead; but as of now, my VOIP provider (Ooma) does not offer a softphone solution (the only real negative I can say about their service).

Although I love my Roland monitors, it would be nice to replace them with a smaller, portable Bluetooth speaker.

Those two changes would free up a good amount of desktop real estate and thin out the cable underbrush, all of which would move my workspace one step closer to the goal of less being the new more.

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  • Are You Interested In Having Your Workspace Featured?

    That’s good to hear because we plan on making the How I Get Things Done series a monthly feature that examines how arts managers stay productive and outfit their workspaces. We’re especially interested in featuring workspaces for professionals with unique or unusual job requirements.

  • A Submission Form Is On The Way

    Once complete, the form will allow you to submit all of the necessary content right from that single point of contact. Keep an eye out here and our Facebook and Twitter accounts for an announcement. In the meantime, feel free to get in touch with any questions you may have via our contact form.

  • A Special How I Get Things Done Archive Page

    We’re all about making things easy and to that end, you can find a special How I Get Things Done page that will archive each of these articles. Stop by and  bookmark the page today.

About Drew McManus

In addition to my consulting business, I'm also the Principal of Venture Industries Online but don’t let that title fool you into thinking I'm just a tech geek. I bring 20+ years of global broad-based arts consulting experience to the table to help clients break the cycle of choosing one-size-fits-none solutions and instead, deliver options allowing them to get ahead of the tech curve instead of trying to catch up by going slower.

With the vision of legacy support strategy and the delights of creative insights, my mission is to deliver a sophisticated next generation technology designed especially for the field of performing arts. The first step in that journey began in 2010 when The Venture Platform was released, a purpose-designed managed website development solution designed especially for arts organizations and artists.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, lead a team of intrepid arts pros to hack the arts, lead an arts business incubator, and love a good coffee drink.

Don't Stop Hacking The Arts Yet...

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