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Productivity inside 13 inches

Just say no to multi-monitor madness. Or - at least - be capable of working without it.

One of the first "real" jobs I had was in consulting. While some of our gigs were the plush remote kind, the majority required some kind of on-site presence at a large corporation, which in turn required portability of work environment and more precisely an ability to be productive in squashed and uncomfortable meeting rooms or offices.

Ever since then, I've valued the ability to be portable. I don't mind the office but I like and often prefer working from home, a coffee shop / cafe, or the deck of a rustic cabin in the North Cascades.

Work environment portability is not really compatible with single or multiple large monitors, various must-have input-output peripherals, and (faddish?) ergonomic aids. So I've come to make do.

On a 13" MacBook Pro:

  • Full-on tiling window managers exist but a) they can be a bit kludgy to use/install in macOS, b) they can cost money, and c) I haven't found them to be necessary. Here's a Hammerspoon configuration that will give you key shortcuts to snap a window 50%-left, 50%-right, 50%-up, 50%-down, or 100% maximized.

    (My standard layout is a terminal window 50%-left, and another terminal window 50%-right. Depends on the task/day, but typically one'll be running vim and the other will be executing a server/file-watcher or some such. A 100%-maximized Chrome is just a keypress away.)

  • macOS keyboard shortcuts include Command-Tab to switch between applications and Command-` to switch between windows within an application.

  • Command-Space (Spotlight search) is your gateway to your applications; your dock should have "Automatically hide and show the Dock" enabled.

  • Chrome keyboard shortcuts include Control-Tab & Control-Shift-Tab for cycling through your open tabs. Rule of thumb, 10 tabs is all you need. Kill unnecessary tabs that you'll never actually get around to reading mercilessly.

  • If you're often in UTC land (correlated system logs FTW!), netiks' UTCMenuClock is a useful addition to your mac OS menu bar.

  • Need more power? There's this thing call cloud which is pretty great, or you could go old-school with a VPS from ARP Networks.

Beyond portability, I've found the "single pane of glass" to help with focus. Much like the move from triple to single ring crankset on a mountain bike, it's mentally freeing and enhances flow if you can remove options and reduce complexity.

Pay attention to your body and make sure you shift position frequently; our bodies are made to move. Enable full-disk encryption for your laptop, don't leave it anywhere sketchy hands can grab it, and back up any data you care about frequently. And there you have it...

© Jamie Finnigan; opinions my own and not my employers. Built using Pelican. Modified from theme by Giulio Fidente on github.