I’m Nolan Bushnell, And This Is How I Work

I’m Nolan Bushnell, And This Is How I Work

You can’t talk about tech legends without including Nolan Bushnell. Best known for founding Atari, Nolan has several other companies in his decades-strong portfolio. A self-described “serial entrepreneur,” his projects include Etak, the first car navigation system; Androbot, maker of personal robotics; and ByVideo, an online ordering system. Nolan’s current focus is Brainrush, an online education platform that uses fast-paced games to teach subjects such as vocabulary, maths and science. We caught up with the pioneer to talk about workspaces, audiobooks, sleep routines and more.

Location: Los Angeles, CA
Current Gig: Brainrush, Inc. CEO and author
Current mobile device: iPhone
Current computer: MacBook Pro
One word that best describes how you work: Mancave

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Evernote, PowerPoint, and audiobooks.

With Evernote, I love the automatic syncing between devices. When I see an interesting article or a paper that I’m working on, I like having it available wherever I am. It makes me more efficient and organised.

I do a lot of speaking and PowerPoint is a great way to organise the speech, flush out the topic, and weave it together. And I like it as a tool to initially think through a project. It helps me know when an idea doesn’t have all that it needs to be a great idea.

With audiobooks, there are times that I consider “junk times” — like exercise, when you have to do something but you could do two things at once, like listen to an audiobook while working out. You get to work out and “read” a book — the best of both worlds. I like to use those “junk” times as an opportunity to use that time better.

What’s your workspace like?

I’m Nolan Bushnell, And This Is How I Work

A cluttered cave. People have said that I could probably build a rocket ship with all the stuff that’s in my office.

What’s your best time saving trick?

Audiobooks while driving and exercising. Get an Audible subscription. I just finished Wool by Hugh Howey and am now listening to The Innovator’s Solution by Clay Christensen.

What’s your favourite to-do list manager?

Stickies. Stickies. Stickies.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

Coming up with ideas and writing business plans around them, in order to build the future I want to live in. I like to start out with PowerPoint, with something that I see that’s interesting but now well executed upon. Then, I like to ask, “How would I do it better?” That’s the starting point for me. Right now, I create a million mini business plans and then I age them a little bit. If you maturate it, you get a tiny bit better. If you only have one idea, that’s one. But if you have multiple, then you can see trends around them that make them work better, and leverage one area over another.

What do you listen to while you work?


Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

I’m Nolan Bushnell, And This Is How I Work

I’m both. I like being in a crowd a little bit — I’m gregarious and have fun with people and I can tell jokes at a party…but I have to have my alone time. Being in my cave is my happiest place, and that’s an introverted experience.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I’m a night owl, but I can get up early if need be. I just prefer the quiet of the evening.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _______ answer these same questions.

Walt Disney.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Focus on doing. Act.

We’ve asked 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.

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