A day in the life- a tale of two tablets

I love to share how my gadgets tools fit into my work days so it’s time for another "Day in the Life" article. In these articles I walk you through my entire work day and fill you in on how I use my gadgets to be productive.  Strap yourself in ’cause here we go!

Cimg0178_2Alarm rudely awakens me at 5:00 (yes AM) and I stumble downstairs to the first cup of coffee of the day.  Having grabbed the coffee I spin into my home office and undock (pushing the little button on the side of the dock) the Lenovo ThinkPad x61 and spin the screen around into slate mode.  Settling into the Man Chair, I turn on the news to check when to expect the day’s flooding and hit up Google Reader to check my RSS feeds that have come in during the night (don’t you internet people ever sleep?).  I also open up Outlook 2007 and process any email that came in overnight.  Both of these tasks work well in slate mode on the Tablet PC.  I have toggled the x61’s d-pad to page up/down mode (as opposed to scroll up/down) so I move down my list of Reader items by paging down one screen at a time.  Google Reader automatically marks that I’ve read each item I pass as it leaves the screen so I am free to interrupt this process whenever I want and not miss any unread items.  As I spin through the feeds I tag (star) any items I want to follow up in greater detail later.  Clean and simple and even with a couple of hundred items I process it in less than 20 minutes.  I finish my coffee and feeds at the same time and head up to shower and get ready for my day.

8830I am now almost ready to head out for my busy day but there’s a few things I must do and decisions I must make before I leave.  I grab the RIM BlackBerry 8830 and turn it on.  I always leave it turned off overnight so it won’t make any noise and disturb anyone.  It only takes a minute to fire up and grab any new email.  There usually isn’t any email because I’ve already checked it on the Tablet.  I set the phone for Vibrate mode because if I don’t do it now I’ll forget and embarrass myself in my first meeting.  Hey, it’s happened a few times.  🙂  I also enable the Bluetooth radio and turn on my headset, currently a Samsung WEP-200, and make sure it connects to the phone.  Once that’s done I drop the 8830 into the belt holster which automatically puts it in standby mode so I won’t accidentally hit the buttons and do something stupid like call Moscow.

I"m almost ready to go but first it’s decision time.  Today, like any day, I can take either the Fujitsu P1610 or the ThinkPad x61 with me.  I keep them constantly synchronized with FolderShare so it doesn’t matter which of them I take, I’ll still have everything with me.  I have two bags, my old Booq Boa bag which is small and perfect for the Fuji and a Tom Bihn Buzz Bag that I use with the Lenovo. I keep each bag loaded with the accessories I need for the appropriate Tablet so I only have to grab those that I use every day no matter what.  That would basically be the Sierra AirCard 595 I use for EV-DO Rev. A goodness.  I mentally do the "speed vs. mobility" exercise and today since I am not going in to Big Oil Co. and will be attending several meetings all over town mobility wins out and I grab the P1610 and throw it in the Booq Boa bag where it lives when away from home.  In this bag I keep an extra extended battery and some other accessories that I usually only use with the Fuji.  I grab the TomTom on the way out and head out to the car for the commute.


Fuji P1610 vs. ThinkPad x61


Tom Bihn Buzz Bag


Booq Boa Bag

Traffic isn’t too bad although it’s threatening rain so I’m glad I have an umbrella in the car just in case.  If I had brought the Tom Bihn bag I would have put the umbrella in the clever water bottle pouch on the side of the bag but the Booq bag doesn’t have one.  I have set TomTom to provide a route to my first meeting and a soft British female voice keeps me on course and aware of upcoming turns in plenty of time to get in the proper lane.  I arrive for my first meeting a little early so while sitting in the lobby waiting for my colleagues I check my email on the BlackBerry.  I have to admit the BlackBerry has changed my work habits for the better, because before getting it I would have pulled out the Fuji and connected to the EV-DO network to check my email.  Now I just use the BlackBerry for this type of email checking, something it is designed to do well.  I answer a couple of emails and then it’s time to head into the meeting.  I should point out that the 8830 with it’s small but nice keyboard has changed my habits for the better.  I’ve read that good email should be five sentences or shorter and I do find that when I compose an email on the BlackBerry I am concise and to the point.

I pull the Fuji (Miyagi) out of the bag and fire up my Time/ Billing software, TimeTTracker MX, and start the timer.  There’s nothing worse than failing to bill for time spent on a project and TimeTTracker insures that doesn’t happen.  I also fire up OneNote from within Outlook 2007 by clicking on the "meeting notes" icon while the meeting appointment is highlighted on the calendar.  OneNote fires up with the appropriate meeting particulars properly noted at the top of the page I will use to ink notes for the meeting.  The notes in OneNote will also be linked back to the calendar item should I need to determine that in the future.  I start inking my notes as I always do much the same as the other attendees are doing on their note pads using pens.  The main difference is my notes are already filed in the appropriate project file and of course my notes are fully searchable using the awesome search function in Windows Vista.

I use that search several times during the meeting as I have to find a few references from earlier project meetings.  OneNote finds them in less than two seconds in every case and my memory is refreshed with particulars of the matters at hand.  There is no substitute for this capability and it drives my whole effectiveness in doing what I do for my clients.  Throughout the course of the meeting I refer to documentation about the project that I have received from the contractor, something I can do because every single document or workstation screen image I receive gets "printed" into the OneNote project file using the virtual printer driver that is installed along with OneNote 2007.  I refer back to the latest status report and quickly point out some inconsistencies between that report and what we are being told in this meeting.  There is no argument so effective as one that is backed up by showing them their own report on my Tablet. This keeps the meeting on track and moving forward quite nicely and the two hours passes quickly. When it’s done I open TimeTTracker and hit stop on the timer which updates the time record and calculates the duration for billing purposes.

OwaNow it’s back in the car, set TomTom for the next destination and off I go.  I have a half hour to kill so I ask TomTom to find the Starbucks nearest to my current location, which turns out to be 1.2 miles away from my current location and in the right direction to get me to the next meeting.  So it’s a quick stop for a "Venti triple sugar-free vanilla non-fat dry cappuccino".  I sit down, pull Miyagi out and hook up to the WiFi.  I process email in Outlook and fire up Firefox so I can check my Big Oil Co. email using Outlook Web Access (OWA).  I deal with some minor issues from both email accounts and call some folks using the BlackBerry.  I also check my Big Oil Co. voice mail and return calls dealing with some issues that need addressing.  The free time passes very quickly but I get everything done so that’s a lot of tasks that won’t pile up for the end of the day reckoning.

I get to the next meeting and repeat the process used for the first one.  During this meeting I get a phone call from another client and I set it straight to voice mail as usual.  Two minutes later the same client calls me again and I repeat the process, because I don’t like to interrupt time that another client is already paying for.  Wondering if there is some emergency with this other project I fire up the Verizon Access Manager and once connected to the EV-DO network I check my email in OWA which is always running.  Sure enough, the impatient client has sent me an email asking me "where are you?" and to call him right away.  The meeting I am in has a natural breaking point while the contractor loads up some other data to show us so I step out in the hallway and call the impatient guy.  It turns out he had a question for me that I am able to look up in my project notes and answer right away.  He’s happy as I hang up, shaking my head because as usual with this particular guy the question really wasn’t that pressing.  Don’t you just love clients?  🙂

The meeting ends just before lunch time and although my 1 pm meeting is at the same location it is for a different project and involves another project team so I don’t ask them to bring lunch in.  I head out to a restaurant nearby and have a quick sandwich, and then I stop at a Starbucks to get some work done before I have to head back to the next meeting.  I get my coffee and sit down, opening the Fuji to laptop mode and pulling out the Bluetooth mouse.  One of the contractors I use has sent me 10 screen images that show before and after seismic images demonstrating the effectiveness of a particular process I had asked them to run on the seismic data.  The images were pulled from a 20-inch LCD monitor and collectively are over 5 MB in size and he sent them as separate images.

No problem for me, I open up PowerPoint 2007 and start creating a PPT file and insert the before/after images one to a slide.  I use this method a lot because it allows for easy toggling between the before and after pictures, thus making it quickly apparent what has changed with the new process.  There is no easier way to compare two images.  This only takes me 15 minutes counting the time spent adding my comments in the appropriate places for each slide.  Once that’s done I spin the screen around into slate mode and hit the rotation button to put it back in landscape orientation since the Fuji has automatically gone to portrait mode when I spun from laptop to slate configuration.  I grab the stylus and ink notes right on the PPT slides, mainly so I can circle in bright yellow the areas on the images that exhibited the greatest improvement with this new process.  That done, I spin back to laptop mode and email the completed PPT to the client.  He won’t see it until tomorrow morning most likely as he’s located in Scotland, but he’ll have it first thing.  The single greatest advantage in having the appropriate tools and mobile gear for me are moments like this.  I have been able to complete a major important task while waiting for my next meeting.  I find that if I use my time appropriately then my end of day cleanup is quite manageable and easily accomplished.

Now it’s time to head to my 1 o’clock meeting, which will last about 3 hours.  We cover a lot of ground and I take reams of notes in OneNote.  I am constantly referring back to earlier notes and screen images that have been captured in OneNote and more than once I realize that not only am I very fortunate to have such a powerful system for dealing with my work but that I have assembled the proper technology to leverage the most out of this system.  It’s one of the reasons I enjoy what I do so much, I waste very little effort on things that don’t matter in the long run.  It makes James one happy dude every day.  🙂

Work day is over, I head back to the home office and sit down at the MacBook Pro, my main desktop machine.  I jump in QuickBooks for the Mac and do some financial stuff, and then go back into Google Reader to check RSS feeds.  That’s the beauty of Google Reader, it’s online so it’s machine independent and I can step in right where I left off no matter what machine I’m using.  My whole setup is designed to minimize the duplication of effort, from using Google Reader to keeping everything in sync using FolderShare.  I don’t have to think about these things, they just work as designed.


Later in the evening I pull the ThinkPad out of the dock and sit down in the Man Chair to watch some TV with my wife, and take care of some site business.  Kevin and I exchange emails about the site redesign (shhh, it’s a secret) and some other stuff.  I spin around into laptop mode and using my mobile desk I write some blog posts for the next day.  I also research and write some posts for the Houston Chronicle blog.  When I get tired it’s time to go to bed so I pop the x61 back into the dock for charging and call it a day.