Organizing Your Digital Life (Part 2)

Random Observation/Comment #499: Personalization is a cornerstone of great design. I love the flexibility to make everything my own toolbox.

love lane

Part 1 of Organizing Your Digital Life gave a brief overview of my key content absorption and creation tips to keep things less cluttered. This 2nd part will look at my specific setups and my key toolbox I use to make sure everything works for me. Yes, I own all of these devices.

Overall Setups

Desktop (@Work)

Key Features: Keyboard+Mouse, multiple monitors, larger screen resolution, work-specific WPF applications, connectivity to closed off work network, ‘wired’ connection, it sits on an actual physical desk

Focused Purpose: Work stuff. PowerPoints, excel sheets, sharepoint systems, Lync online meetings, outlook emails, outlook calendars, testing harnesses, dev tools


  • Invest in a nice chair. If you’re sitting all the time, make sure you’re sitting with good posture and don’t put unnecessary stress on your back or neck.
  • Keep your monitors at eye level when you’re sitting straight. You should ideally be at least 2 feet from the monitor when you’re working to prevent poor vision.
  • Get a keyboard and mouse wrist beads. To prevent carpel tunnel, get the ergonomic beads for your wrists. I’ve been using Ergobeads for 5 years.
  • Get a headset. Whether for your phone or if your work connects all of it together, a headset is so crucial to taking notes or getting email information. If anything, you’ll save your neck from holding the phone while you try to fumble with two hands.
  • Make a physical system that works for you to store any print-outs. You don’t necessarily need a clean desk, but you should know where things are. I keep my to-do list on the right and all ‘active’ materials to my left. When something’s done or no longer useful, I take a picture of it and just shred it.  I’ve learned I almost never go back and look at old hand-outs if I’ve already digitized it.
  • On Outlook, create a folder and tagging system for easy search. I usually rename my email subjects with some tag words so I can easily search for them later. I also use categories and flags for task items.
  • On Outlook, use signatures creatively. If you’re sending a lot of the same email content for people who ask you similar questions, save it as a signature and then you’ll have a preset answer.
  • On Outlook calendar, create meetings for working on tasks. I use tentative meetings to put in uninterrupted time to do actual work. I usually need 1 hour to get into the groove and do something important. That’s why I usually get to work around 7:30.
  • Keep internet favorites updated. At the very least have a folder just for work-related misc sites (myLearning, booking rooms, expense reports, booking times, etc)
  • Keep your file folders organized. I organize by year and then major work project streams. I always have a “misc_folder” just in case someone gives me work that I don’t need to do, but wind up doing for “charity”. It’s useful to look at later on when you’re looking for partnerships.
  • Create contact lists. Maybe you don’t need full-blown distribution lists that are public, but if you message your team frequently, you can create your own contact list on Outlook so you’re not searching for those same 5 people. Trust me, the time you save adds up.
  • Learn how to use SharePoint or Confluence wikis. This is such a powerful tool for collaboration and reducing the amount of files that are only saved locally. If more than one person is putting together something, you should always keep them on a shared drive with shared access.
  • Use your multiple monitors. Super useful for large spreadsheets, but also great for putting together a dashboard of activities and tasks.
  • Use emails as a to-do list. For me, I will often create blank emails with subject lines or reply to existing emails before I finish doing the work behind it. Before I leave the day, I make it a purpose to send out all the emails and do the work behind them. This is similar to Inbox(0) or Google Inbox’s concept of labeling, archiving, and getting a practical task list.


Laptop/Desktop (Gaming)

Key Features: Full Keyboard, larger screen resolution, awesome graphics card, 16GB RAM, separate gaming mouse, Windows OS (most likely Windows 7) for games, STEAM!, usually plugged in due to 3 hour battery life, can support wired connection (17″ screen)

Focused Purpose: Gaming, photo editing, logging into work, web surfing

Recommended Purchase: Alienware ($1500 depending on how high end) or ASUS Republic of Gamers G750 ($1500-ish), build your own desktop $1750 can get you top of the line


  • Get a good mouse. If you’re a gamer, you should know a good mouse will change your world. Especially for FPS, I have the perfect weight.
  • Make sure your C:/ProgramFiles is large. Games take up a lot of memory and HD space. Partitions are sometimes weird, so make sure you put the majority of the games in the larger partition.
  • Use that RAM for multitasking. Look at all those open windows and zero lag. Beauty.
  • Extend this to photo, video, and audio editing. Large processing power gives you the ability to render – it all depends on your user type.


Laptop (Ultrabook)

Key Features: Windows OS (most likely 8.1), lightweight, smaller keyboard, portable, 13-inch screen, long battery life

Focused Purpose: Photo editing, logging into work, writing, web surfing

Recommend Purchases: Dell XPS 13 (2015) – $900-ish, Macbook Air 13-inch – $900-ish, Samsung Series 7


  • Uninstall all bloatware. If you buy from HP, Dell, Lenovo, etc, you’re bound to get tons of other applications added in. I’d basically uninstall all of it.
  • Work from the road. Ultrabooks are super powerful for WFH experiences. Especially in a studio apartment where you may not have a real desk, you can work from your couch, floor, kitchen table, or bed.
  • Optimize your machine. Read forums on how to get the most out of your hardware. You’ll have a speed demon up and running before you know it.
  • Code. If you’re into that type of thing – coding is fantastic on an ultrabook.



Key Features: ChromeOS, Smaller keyboard, touch-screen, track-pad, 11-inch screen, regular screen resolution, light-weight and portable, 8 hour battery life

Focused Purpose: Perfect for writing, Great for all things Google, Super fast for surfing the web and using cloud services

Recommended Purchase: Each at $300 Acer C720P touch-screen, HP Chromebook 14, Samsung Chromebook 2


  • Go All Google. I think this “Google Office” is pretty comprehensive and provides that extra collaboration and cloud storage factor.
  • Write. If you ever wanted a lean mean writing machine, the Chromebook is the last place you’ll need to look.
  • Surf. Ride the wave, man. Chrome is powerful and syncs across all your devices.



Key Features: Larger screen resolution than smart phone, compatible for work emails, no keyboard/mouse, wifi only, apps (iOS based since this is a shared iPad)

Focused Purpose: Bedtime web surfing, work email incremental checks

Recommended Purchases: iPad mini, Nexus 7


  • Only install work stuff on one device you don’t always have at hand. I am personally against having work email on my smart phone. I like disconnecting from work and having Good next to me all the time means I will never truly disconnect.
  • iOS apps. I prefer the iPad tablet with an Android phone because I feel Apple has better tablet-specific apps. Android, while not doing terribly sometimes has issues with versions and backwards compatibility on different sizes
  • Travel companion. Use an iPad mini for travel. It’s a bigger screen and lightning fast with reliable wifi.


Smart Phone

Key Features: Swiftkey predictive typing (faster for me), Apps (Android since i use a OnePlus One), Full day battery life, Compact and always at hand, LTE data plan

Focused Purpose: Everything on the go, Basically everything except work (but only because Cyanogen mod)

Recommended Purchases: OnePlus One, iPhone 6, Nexus 5, Samsung Galaxy Note 4, Samsung Galaxy S5, Moto X


  • Uninstall all carrier’s bloatware. I usually buy stock Android because it’s better. AT&T Navigation? Nope.
  • Explore awesome apps. “There’s an app for that” for a reason. Here’s my list of top 30.
  • Turn down screen brightness. Saves batteries and will probably help your eyes.
  • Get a light case that covers screen edges. We all drop our phones and if it hits at the right angle, it’s a headache to replace. I like simple bumpers.
  • Put a password on it. This should be obvious and if it’s not: What are you? Crazy?
  • Set different ringtone/vibration patterns to contacts. Super important for me to know who’s calling.
  • Buy a nice pair of headphones. Now that the ipod independently has just become a feature of all phones, it’s not a bad idea to have these handy for audiobooks.
  • Schedule things in your calendar for reminders. Calendars are super useful. I always set reminders for special birthdays, calling my parents, working out, or any events with others.
  • Use IFTTT. The IF This Than That app is very powerful when integrated with Android services. You can do cool stuff like turn off wifi when you’re outside of your Home area.
  • Don’t install too many games. Yes, unwinding is necessary, but you don’t want to look at your phone and automatically jump to entertainment. Narrow it down to a few reading apps or watch a TED talk.  Your phone could be a productivity tool or a huge time waster.
  • Know phone etiquette. Put it down if no one else has it out or tell someone why you need to use it instead of, y’know, talking to people.

~See Lemons Digitally Setup