Sometimes, there's stuff you just don't have time to do, such as researching travel destinations, planning a family member's birthday party, finding the perfect Christmas gift or scheduling a dentist appointment. It would be nice to have a personal assistant to knock these things off your to-do list, right? Enter Fancy Hands.
For a flat monthly fee, Fancy Hands is your do-it-all (as long as it can be done via web or phone) virtual assistant. Assistants are located all over the US, and delegating tasks to them is as easy as sending an email. The service has been praised as "the most helpful startup in the world" and "the definition of heaven". Yeah, it's that good. We caught up with the guy behind it all, Ted Roden, to find out his best productivity tricks, greatest life hacks, favourite work tunes and more.
Current gig: Founder/CEO, Fancy Hands Location: New York, NY Current mobile device: iPhone 4S Current computer: 11-inch MacBook Air, occasionally plugged into the 27-inch Apple monitor One word that best describes how you work: slouching
What apps/software/tools can't you live without?
I spend most of my day inEmacs, which is the only text editor ever invented (it's also a Tetris client, operating system and punchline). I use Alfred mostly for launching programs and finding files, but I recently started using it to view and edit my clipboard history. That's been a game changer. I take a lot of screenshots for some reason and use Skitch for that (version 1 — the new version is a totally different app). And, of course, OmniFocus, Evernote, TextExpander, 1Password and Chrome.
Pictured at right: One of Ted's favourite workspaces.
What's your workspace setup like?
At the office we have one 12m long table that we all sit around. I'll sit there part of the day, at the shared standing desk part of the day, and I'll spend some time on the couch. At my apartment, I have this super-old desk that I bought from a Goodwill in Portland. It doesn't really fit (space-wise) in our apartment, but I love it.
What's your best time-saving trick?
I try to never do anything twice. If I find myself doing something over and over, I figure out a way to automate it (via Fancy Hands, Text Expander or IFTTT). If I find myself thinking, "I should do that thing" more than once without actually doing it, it's pretty clear that I'm not going to do it. So I figure out a way to hand it off to someone else or realise it's not worth thinking about anymore.
Pictured at right: Ted's iPhone homescreen.
What's your favourite to-do list manager?
I put everything into OmniFocus, but I'm less consistent with working on things on the list. Occasionally I'll go through the list and purge almost everything.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without?
That would be my wife's camera. It's not that I use the camera itself, but she takes lots of pictures of our two kids, and I'll check her Flickr feed a few times a day or more often when I'm working longer hours. I get more enjoyment out of that gadget than almost any other. I'd probably give up my iPhone before her camera.
What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
I'm really great at ignoring the badge numbers on my phone. I don't care how many app store updates there are or unread texts I've received.
What do you listen to while you work?
We have a company Sonos, and everybody adds albums to that, but when it's time to put headphones on, I listen to Menomena almost exclusively. I'm a bit obsessed.
Pictured above: Ted's desktop.
What's your sleep routine like?
I go to bed between midnight and 2am most nights. I have two of the world's most amazing alarm clocks to ensure that I never sleep in. They wake me up between 5am and 6am to do things like "have juice", "play with trains" and "go to the playground".
What's the best advice you've ever received?
"Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way... turn."
We've asked a handful of heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Every week we'll feature a new guest and the gadgets, apps, tips and tricks that keep them going. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.