Running a startup requires an unparalleled amount of energy and drive. You need to feel constantly connected to the idea and keep the passion going. It’s hardly a surprise, then, that so many early startup directors wind up doing much of the initial work from a mobile device – usually a tablet or smartphone. While this makes sense for quick catch-ups and day-to-day administration, I couldn’t stand to be away from my desktop set-up for longer than a few days. Why? Because it’s the central hub for everything that’s happening – it gives me an incomparable overview of what’s going on. Add to that the importance of structured thinking – the sort of thing a desktop environment is perfectly amenable to – and you have an ironclad reason for owning at least one desktop computer in your early-stage startup. Here, I’ll share some tips and tricks I’ve learned for combining desk-based and mobile environments to keep everything running smoothly.
- Differentiate your desktop environment from your mobile one. Videos of early-stage creative startups usually pan around offices replete with a million external displays, while staff wander around clutching laptops. There’s a reason for this. I can get a lot of work done on my laptop, but when it comes to important decisions the desktop environment helps to structure my thinking. According to Lominger, who are the developers of the Leadership Architect Suite, even the best decision-makers are only right around 60 percent of the time. Structured thinking and correct information appraisal can help to boost that by around five percent – potentially an important amount, given the importance of your early-stage decisions. The desktop, with multiple monitors, full-range speakers and all the peripherals I could ever need, helps me to make important decisions while surrounded by the appropriate advice, and the appropriate tools. In addition, desktop computers can be more affordable than laptops, which is an especially important consideration for start-ups! You might be tempted to save money by getting used laptops, but this might not be the best solution. A few desktops can help save you money as well as time.
- Make extensive use of cloud storage and remote viewing. Box, Dropbox, Drive, SkyDrive: the list of cloud storage providers is hardly thin on the ground. I use SugarSync as it is capable of copying my existing file structure to the cloud with no overhead, which makes it indispensable for pulling work I’m halfway through on another device on to another for editing. Other apps to help ease the gap between mobile and desktop include SplashTop, a remote viewing platform that permits viewing over 3G and WiFi from a range of devices (they have quite a few apps littered across the app stores) and Google Docs, which allow me to make edits to cloud-hosted documents in collaboration with others in real-time.
- Remember that mobile doesn’t mean single-screen. AirDisplay and Splashtop Streamer are two VNC servers that will sit on your laptop and allow you to extend your display over WiFi to a tablet or smartphone. Best of all, those devices retain their touch-sensitivity, which means you can frequently move tools and other HUD elements on to one device to use with your fingers while your main screen remains uncluttered.
- Double- and triple-check your email settings. I’m assuming that your email is pushed to your smartphone (if not, it’s a tremendous help), but if you’re running several domains or several e-mail providers, keep an eye out for sudden changes in settings leaving your accounts bereft of new mail. Triple-test every change you make: it’s much, much better to be safe than sorry.
- Schedule ‘desktop time’. A structured period of time – maybe only twenty minutes each day – in which you can be creative in your desktop environment can yield tremendous results. Spend half an hour browsing websites and saving important ones to Pocket, or correcting the tags in your Evernote notebooks, and you’ll reap those rewards when you access those services from your mobile devices when out-and-about.
Thanks to the way I’ve demarcated my desktop environment as a creative, structured space, I couldn’t imagine running a startup without it. For the time being, working at a desk is an indispensable part of my working process.