Every week, we share the shortcuts, workspaces and productivity tips of our favourite experts and internet personalities in our How I Work series. Throughout this week, we’re giving readers a glimpse into how we work. Today, Lifehacker US’s contributions editor Tessa Miller explains her tactics.
Top photo by Benjamin Gustafsson
I’ve chatted with lots of productivity heroes over the past six months for the How I Work series, and though I’m much less interesting than most of them, I’m still excited to share my own tips, tricks and favourites. Here’s what keeps me chugging along.
Current gig: Contributions Editor, Lifehacker
Location: New York, NY
Current mobile device: iPhone 4S
Current computer: 13″ MacBook Air at home; 21.5″ iMac with wireless keyboard and Razer Taipan mouse at the office
One word that best describes how you work: Curiously
What’s apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
The Google dream team: Chrome + Gmail + Reader + Calendar + Docs + Maps. I could work and live really efficiently using just these.
Extras: Twitter, Instagram, TextExpander, Dropbox, Evernote, Wikipedia, Spotify, Yelp, and good ol’ pen and paper. I always carry a notebook and pen to jot down random thoughts and to-dos. My current favourite is this leather-bound one from Barnes & Noble. It costs less than $20, but looks and feels expensive.
I’m very noncommittal when it comes to apps, so a lot of stuff gets downloaded and quickly deleted. I’ll give anything a try, but if it doesn’t scream “USEFUL” almost immediately, it gets the boot.
Pictured at right: My phone’s homescreen.
What’s your workspace like?
I work out of Gawker HQ in Nolita most days. It’s a big lofty space with multiple tables — as Nick Denton saidL “We wanted a space that felt a bit like a library. The theory was young writers — recently out of college — would find the long rows of desks comfortingly familiar.” I’m the only Lifehacker US staffer in NYC (not counting our awesome editorial fellow, Josh), so I share a table with io9, Jalopnik, and some of our editorial operations staff. A lot has changed since these photos were taken, but this Business Insider slideshow gives you a look at the office (and killer roof deck).
At home, I use a writer’s desk with a surprisingly comfortable metal chair, but I almost always turn it into a standing desk with a couple of cheap cardboard boxes. I’m also guilty of working from bed far too often. As bad as it is for productivity, posture, and sleep, I can’t give it up!
What do you listen to while you work?
Silence is best when I’m on a tight deadline or need to really concentrate on something — otherwise, I’m listening to music. I try to throw a Spotify playlist together in the morning and add to it throughout the day. A song or artist will remind me of another, a friend will share a track with me, or I’ll just want to hear a certain something depending on my mood or what I’m working on. By the end of the day, it turns into a pretty eclectic lineup. (Check out this one for some odds and ends from this week.) The Gawker office uses a Sonos system that any of us can control, so there’s always something good playing when I take a break from my headphones.
What’s your best time-saving trick/life hack?
When I first moved to New York, I was making $12 a day as an intern and living off savings from my college job. I could barely afford to go to the laundromat every couple of weeks. My mum would send me a roll of quarters every so often and I’d use it to get a tall boy and a six-inch from Subway. (Sorry, Ma!) Now that I make a little money, it’s a huge luxury and major time-saver to drop off my laundry. It comes back smelling 100 times better than any laundry I’ve ever done and is folded into impossibly perfect squares. Best thing ever.
What’s your favourite to-do list manager?
My brain, mostly. I’ll star stuff in Gmail if it needs to get done that day, and if it’s extra important or time sensitive, I’ll write myself a Post-It note.
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Besides phone and computer, what gadgets can’t you live without?
A humidifier. It’s a must when you have allergies. I bought this one a few months ago — it lights up and kind of looks like a spaceship.
A pill organiser. I was very recently diagnosed with IBD and Celiac disease, so I take about 15 prescriptions and supplements every day. This simple little case helps me remember to take everything, and I don’t have to tote multiple bottles around. I’m still adjusting to taking so many pills, but the case makes it a bit easier.
What’s your sleep routine like?
When I’m sleeping well, I stick to a consistent midnight-7 AM schedule, and set my iPhone as an alarm. My bedroom has big windows, so I usually wake up to a sun/alarm combination. Just this week, I started taking melatonin to help with a bout of sleeplessness, but I can’t quite tell if it’s worki…zzzzzzzzz.
Are you more of an introvert or extrovert?
Naturally, I’m an introvert — sometimes to a painful extent. That’s not to say I don’t find a lot of value in being around people and sharing stories, I just need solitude to recharge. My friends bring the extrovert out of me.
Most of my personal and professional heroes are, I’d suspect, introverts. It’s something I’m becoming more comfortable with (and maybe even proud of) as I get older, rather than something I feel the need to fight against.
What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else? What’s your secret?
Listening! The secret is to, um, shut up.
Who would you kill to see answer these same questions?
My two favourite blondes — Hillary Clinton and Stevie Nicks.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Never underestimate scrappiness.
Also, some hippie zen stuff my dad used to tell me: In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. Always begin, again and again. (An idea from Shunryu Suzuki’s classic Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.) As a teenager I would roll my eyes at this kind of thing, but now I like the idea of being an eager, constant learner.