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, US writer Thorin runs through his favourite gadgetry, apps, hacks and tricks for bending said gadgetry to his will.
The last time we did this series I was new blood at Lifehacker, and over the last year I’ve settled in a bit and found my workflow.
Current gig: Writer for Lifehacker
One word that best describes how you work: Spontaneously
Current mobile device: iPhone 4/iPad
Current computer: 27″ iMac (2009), and 11″ Macbook Air (2012, brand new to me!)
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Hopefully I could actually live without most of these things, but a few things certainly make my life easier. Google Docs/Drive is where I do the bulk of my writing on my desktop/laptop. For mobile, I use Drafts for iOS all the time, as well as Ink for drawing out quick images for ideas. I also couldn’t live without Awareness. Since I do the bulk of my travelling by foot and bike, Awareness lets me listen to music and still hear my surroundings.
What’s your workspace setup like?
I keep my workspace as minimal as humanly possible. For writing work, I have a small desk with just the essentials on top: iMac, keyboard, mouse, speakers, light, and a few stupid toys. In my office I have a bookshelf so I can grab inspiration if need be, as well as a giant whiteboard so I can step away from the screen now and again (and let ideas spread out). On top of a cheap IKEA chair for lounging, I also have a Herman Miller Aeron chair.
For everything else, my workspace is my entire house. I have a basement dedicated to making music and sawing things in half, my kitchen table has side projects stacked on it more often than food, and my tiny patio is the best place to escape on a nice day where I can still get Wi-Fi.
What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?
Automating as much of my grocery shopping as possible. I hate grocery shopping, and Amazon Subscribe & Save means I can spend less time the grocery store. It’s simple, but the less time I spend in any store the better.
What’s your favourite to-do list manager?
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?
Probably my Xbox 360 or PS3. Both provide a large chunk of my entertainment (games and movies), and are essentially required to help me wind down after a stressful day.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?
I’ve become pretty good at BSing my way through 90 per cent of the conversations I find myself in. Want to talk business? Sure, we can do that. Banking? Yeah, why not? Let’s talk APRs. How about sports? I can do that too. Generally, I try my best to be a generalist, but conversing with anyone about anything really boils down to one simple tip: Ask questions. People like talking about themselves and what they do, if you’re interested, they’ll usually say interesting things. I’m still not the best at sparking those conversations, but at Ieast I can survive them.
What do you listen to while you work?
I have a Spotify playlist of instrumental music I listen to. I try to mix it up with upbeat rock, pop, metal, electronic, and whatever else. I have to have music on all day long, but I can’t really think straight when vocals are going. That said, if I’m doing manual labour or working on another non-writing project, it’s goofy upbeat pop and rock all day long.
What’s your sleep routine like?
My sleep schedule is insanely routine. I’m awake at around 5:15 am every morning, and I’m in bed by 10 or 10:30. I also usually read for an hour or so before falling asleep to clear my computer-fried brain.
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Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
I’m definitely more of an introvert. That said, I’ve been trying over the last year or so to be a little more extroverted, mostly by taking on a “why not try this?” attitude when dealing with other people. I actually enjoy talking with people, it just takes me a little while before I’m comfortable doing it.
Is there anyone you’d kill to see answer these same questions?
I think I’d like to see a couple people who operate on different sides of the productivity coin. On one end, people like Matt Stone and Trey Parker who create great stuff relentlessly would be fantastic, and then on the other end, someone like game designer Fumito Ueda who does things much slower would also be interesting.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I’ve received a lot of great advice over the years, so it’s hard to narrow it down to just one thing. As far as writing is concerned, two things stick out the most: “Simplify” was one of the first things former Editor-in-Chief Adam Pash told me, and it’s still something I work on all the time. A former professor also offered this: “Answer questions nobody is asking”.
Finally, “wait two days before buying anything expensive”. It’s amazing how easy it is to suddenly realise you don’t need something when you let the hype or atmosphere of a store fade away.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers?
I’m a huge fan of deleting/throwing away/donating everything and starting over. I’m definitely a “less is more” type of person when it comes to hoarding, clutter and general problem solving.