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2×4: An Interview With Stephen Hackett

2×4: An Interview With Stephen Hackett


    2×4: One series that examines two topics, creativity and productivity, by asking those who make things on the web the same four questions on both subjects.

    Many of us appreciate the devices in our hand, on our laps and upon our desks. Few understand their heritage. Now heritage may seem like a strange choice of word for describing technology, but as the industry of personal computing matures, its history becomes more and more important, as do the people who truly know and understand their evolution. One such writer, a man so dedicated that he has Clarus the Dogcow tattooed on his ankle, is Stephen Hackett of 512 Pixels fame. The site that is named after the number of pixels across on the original Macintosh (which boasted a 9-inch, 512×342 monochrome display for those of you who aren’t running to Wikipedia).

    Now with heritage and history often comes with an air of pomposity. Hackett has none of this. In fact, in both his writing and his various podcasts, the guy is relatable, inventing and often outright hilarious. He has the knowledge, but not the airs. His passion for technology encourages you (or at least me) to learn more about the devices I take for granted on a daily basis. If you’re at all interested in technology, journalism or design, you won’t do better than his 512 Pixels blog. Or the newly created 512 Podcast along with fellow 2×4 alum, Myke Hurley of the 70 Decibels network for that matter. His passion for knowledge also goes beyond technology and into a variety of (often unusual) topics on his podcast, Ungeniused.

    Without further ado, here’s a look at informative look at the world of Stephen Hackett.

    Creativity

    Have you always considered yourself a creative person?

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    I have. As a kid, I always was writing or sketching.

    What mediums and inspirations do you gravitate toward to realize your creative goals?

    Sometime between 7th grade Art Club and giving up on my art degree two years in to it, I thought I could become some sort of artist as a living. You know, a hip graphic designer who could draw and paint, too.

    It turns out while I am pretty handy with a Wacom tablet and Adobe software, I can’t draw or paint. Not even a little. I can, however, write. So I suppose my mediums of choice are the pixel and the written word.

    If you had to point to one thing, what specific posts or creations are you most proud of and why?

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    2011 marked the first time I ever really wrote a lot of personal posts on 512 Pixels. That said, I am super proud of Two Years and The Fifth Floor, which are both posts about my wrestling with the fact that my three year old has brain cancer.

    Any suggestions for those who feel they may not be creative enough to unlock their inner artist?

    While I’m sure most people would say “Don’t give a shit about what others think,” for me, not caring what I think is more important in many ways. I often find myself dismissing one of my own ideas before I act upon it, censoring myself. Sometimes, that can be good, but for me, it often means that I don’t do things that I probably should.

    Productivity

    Can you describe your current personal and professional responsibilities?

    Sure. First and foremost, I’m a husband and the dad of two small kids. With our son still in and out of the hospital for various tests and things like physical therapy, we’re busier than the average 4-person family, I believe.

    From 9-5, I work for The Salvation Army as the IT/Multimedia Director for The Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. The building is currently under construction, and is slated to open late this year. I oversee all of the IT, audio video and multimedia stuff. If it involves data, pixels or electricity, my department is there, ready to work.

    How do you go about balancing the personal, professional and digital?

    I get it wrong all the time. I am late to work because I can’t tear myself away from breakfast, but I check work email before bedtime. The system I outline below helps, and I’m trying to be more intentional about separating work from home.

    What tools and techniques do you find yourself counting on to get through your workload?

    I say this often: my life is in OmniFocus. I have folders for home, work and the website. Inside those folders, I have dozens of projects, with lots and lots of tasks.

    For capture, I use Field Notes notebooks. There’s always one in my back pocket. A couple times a day, I take any tasks and move them in to OmniFocus. When in the car, I use that Siri-on-the-keyboard feature to get things in to my OmniFocus Inbox without crashing my truck.

    Notes and reference information live as plain text files in Dropbox. I get to them via nvALT on my Mac and Notesy on my iPad and iPhone.

    What is the best starting point for the unproductive amongst us, who are looking to get more organized?

    Something like OmniFocus isn’t going to help you get off the ground. Get some colored index cards, assign a color for work, home and other and go to town writing stuff down.

    More by this author

    2×4: An Interview with David Sparks 2×4: An Interview with Myke Hurley 2×4: An Interview With CJ Chilvers 2X4 Interviews 2×4: An Interview With Gabe Weatherhead 2×4: An Interview With Brett Kelly

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    10 Smart Productivity Software to Boost Work Performance

    10 Smart Productivity Software to Boost Work Performance

    Productivity is the ability to perform tasks efficiently and in a timely manner. In today’s busy and competitive business world, productivity is paramount for any business, organization or corporation.

    Productivity is more than just performing tasks successfully. It is about investing and allocating resources, so the company or business can perform to meet its core goals.

    As part of 2019, it is important to commit to new goals. When shopping around for new productivity software keep in mind the following things: cost, reliability, cross-platform compatibility, on the go, technical support, etc.

    In the subsequent sections, we will examine the most recommended productivity software in the marketplace. In addition, we will look at what makes them tick and what separates them from the rest of the pack.

    Projects and Tasks Management

    1. Monday dot com

      Monday dot com was founded to create a team management solution so people connect to workplace processes across any industry. The productivity tool is used in more than 140 countries.

      The user interface is intuitive and impressive. It makes collaboration productive and fun because of its simplicity.

      The tool is deemed to have one of the best user experiences across the mobile and online project and task management platform.

      The product includes usability, customization, admin control, group management and control, private or public control, in-group messaging and more.

      Check out the software here!

      2. Asana

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        The mantra behind Asana’s product is to enable teams from across different organizations to work together effortlessly.

        The software comes with lots of customizations. When you create a project as a user, you can choose between a traditional task view and the kanban-style board view. The dashboard allows you to see the progress on a project, and it includes an excellent advanced set of search tools.

        Also, Asana’s Android and iOS apps do retain the web interface’s clean look and feel.

        Check out the software here!

        3. Trello

          Trello was founded in the summer of 2010 and two years later the platform added 500,000 members. Anyone within sales, marketing, HR and operations can collaborate successfully with this product.

          Moreover, the tool has over 100 plus integrations with Google Drive, Slack, Jira and others. The product works flawlessly across various platforms.

          Some of the well-known features includes is speed, easy-to-use, and set up. The interface includes due dates, assignments, file storage, checklists and more.

          Check out the software here!

          4. Jira

            The Jira software is flexible and heralded as the next-generation project.

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            The software allows teams to design and adapt the software to an organization’s needs. This includes having visibility into long term goals, project roadmaps, status of work, real-time release information and more. In addition, the interface is customizable.

            The Atlassian Cloud does not support multiple separate domains, subdomains or domain aliases in Google Apps.

            Check out the software here!

            5. Evernote Business

              Evernote was founded in 2008 and reached 11 million users by 2011. The company was founded on the premise that their product should address the ever-increasing volume and speed of information.

              The product helps bring together groups of teams because of versatility and functionality. It creates documents, collaboration on projects, store information all a single location.

              Moreover, you can find information quickly and includes effective search capabilities and integrations with existing tools you may already use.

              Check out the software here!

              Communication

              6. Slack

                Slack was founded in 2013 and the tool is heralded as a collaboration hub. Slack is where productivity happens. When you start a new project, hire new staff, deploy a code, review a sales contract, finalize on a budget, Slack covers all of these. Some of the major highlights include highly customizable notifications and seamless integrations with other collaboration and office tools. The free version of the software comes loaded with features, but does not archive old message. So, you have to review what are the best options for your organization or business.

                Check out the software here!

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                7. Spike

                  Newcomer Spike makes emails more conversational by helping teams maintain productivity, communication, and collaboration. All of these are achieved from within their inbox.

                  Spike works on top of any existing email (O365, G suite, and IMAP) turning it into a real-time messenger and making your communication much more functional and efficient.

                  Spike’s features include built-in groups and channels, voice and video calls, email encryption, instant access to all your files, and much more.

                  Check out the software here!

                  Creation

                  8. Office 365

                    Microsoft’s Office 365 could not be excluded from the conversation and especially as it pertains to productivity software.

                    Of course we are all familiar with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. But there is more capabilities that come with it.

                    You have business-class email, online storage space, and teamwork solutions. These services can be accessed from just about anywhere.

                    Within this suite is Microsoft Sway, which is a presentation software and a step above PowerPoint.

                    Check out the software here!

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                    9. Grammarly

                      Grammarly helps to cut down time on editing. Professionals in several industries like law, healthcare, academia, marketing, engineering and journalism use it to provide instant feedback on the accuracy of writing in English.

                      Once you install the extension from Google Chrome, you can get corrections when you are drafting an email, using social media and other apps.

                      Grammarly is AI powered and it’s a wonderful tool to have to check spelling and grammar before a presentation.

                      Check out the software here!

                      Team Analytics

                      10. ActivTrak

                        ActivTrak is a business intelligence tool that allows you to access team behavior analytics. In other words, it is data-driven.

                        The pros include two-factor authentication with active directory integration. You can also automate your alerts and it has an intuitive interface with easy-to-use admin controls.

                        Furthermore, it comes with Google sign-in, iOS app, productivity track, and more. The bottomline is the product offers employee productivity metrics along with team behavior analytics.

                        Check out the software here!

                        The Bottom Line

                        Depending on the size, budget, resources, and immediate needs of your company, not all productivity software will exactly solve your problem. You will have to contact any of the providers above and probe extensively to find the right product that is made for your business.

                        More Productivity Tools

                        Featured photo credit: Domenico Loia via unsplash.com

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