If you've ever taken a museum tour, you know that they can be pretty dull. Nick Grey is out to change that. As the founder of Museum Hack, Nick leads groups through New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in what he describes as "highly interactive, subversive, fun, non-traditional museum tours".
Nick guides guests through the Met's lesser-known works, and the "strangest, wildest, sexiest stories hidden throughout the museum." We caught up with the dapper Mr Grey to find out what apps, gadgets, tunes and books keep him energised and inspired.
Location: New York City Current gig: Making a business out of my love for great museums at Museum Hack Current mobile devices: iPhone and iPad Current computer: 13-inch Macbook Air One word that best describes how you work: Reactive. I want to say something progressive, like "Standing", or something engaging, like "Alert". But as a reflection of time spent during office hours, honestly speaking, I'm most often replying to emails. I'm honored to be included in the How I Work series, but I'd like to first note that my routine and habits are a work in progress towards being more proactive.
What apps/software/tools can't you live without?
The Omega J8003 slow speed juicer, because it's so easy to clean. I like to start my mornings with a green juice for healthy energy before I start doubling down on my caffeine consumption.
Alfred software on the Mac is helpful for quick searches of Amazon, Google Maps, simple maths equations and launching apps.
I use a text replacement tool called TypeIt4Me to help type long strings of characters that I repeatedly use. For example, instead of typing out "the Metropolitan Museum of Art", I can just write "the Mmet" and the text automatically replaces "Mmet" with "Metropolitan Museum of Art". A lot of people use TextExpander for this purpose too.
I love using an external mouse that has auxiliary side buttons. With my laptop, I use the Microsoft Mobile Mouse 6000. I have my left aux button configured to be a back button, and my right aux button to close the current window. This works well for navigating the internet and cleaning out tabs in Google Chrome.
For navigating the New York City subway system, my favourite app is ExitStrategy. It tells you exactly which car of the train to stand in to be closest to the exit when you arrive at the station. Saves a few minutes during each trip, which adds up.
The Email Game is my favourite way to clean out an unruly Gmail inbox. That website has singlehandedly helped me to catch up on hundreds of emails.
Finally, I use email list software like Campaign Monitor or Survey Monkey. I have a "Friends Newsletter" that I use to keep in touch with best friends as well as the cool new people I meet around the world. The Friends Newsletter database has three variables: full name, email address and "we met". The "we met" variable is a plain text field where I can dump notes about how and where I met the person. It's fun to include in an otherwise mass message, and it adds a cool personal touch to the footer of the email. (For example, "We met via Arikia at Elizabeth Stark's apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2008.") I send out notes to my Friends Newsletter every few months, usually composed of cool projects that my friends are working on, but lately for self-promotion to help me launch Museum Hack.
What's your workspace like?
At home, I have this standing desk paired with an anti-fatigue mat and a large LCD. For focused computer time, I sit down. My company is in total bootstrap mode, so we often work at a cafe in the Metropolitan Museum of Art or at a shared office space in Manhattan.
Pictured above: a Museum Hack tour group.
What's your best time-saving trick?
Using virtual assistants for short tasks. I can send the thing off, forget about it, and not get trapped in a research hole. I like Fancy Hands for most small tasks, and SuperCalendar for managing my calendar. Starting to use a virtual assistant can be tough. I imagine it's like if you don't use a notepad and paper for notes. You might not know where to start or what to delegate. Here are a few of the most recent things I have sent to my virtual assistants:
Add all of these flight times to my Google Calendar, and include the airport code in the event title.
Find which retailers online sell a certain type of cologne. Send me pricing information including tax and shipping.
Find Twitter profiles for these 30 people.
Reserve these five books at the local library for me.
The Fancy Hands iPhone app with voice dictation is totally underrated. I love to use it to send quick tasks, like the cologne request above.
What's your favourite to-do list manager?
Trello and Evernote. Trello is great for project management, because you can add notes and due dates and sharing. Evernote works best for me in grocery lists and same-day assignments. I also carry a small pad of paper and pen almost everywhere I go, but that's mostly for interesting notes about life and cool things that people tell me (books, movies, etc).
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without?
Folding sunglasses. My friend Tynan introduced me to the Ray-Ban RB4105 Folding Wayfarers. They are a classic frame that is stylish and yet surprisingly compact and rugged when stowed. I consider these indispensable because my eyes are very sensitive. Plus, I look 100 per cent less geeky when I am wearing cool sunglasses.
What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
Making oatmeal — specifically steel cut oats. I learned this trick from my former roommate Jace Cooke: cook the steel cut oats in a Japanese rice cooker. I use the Zojirushi NS-LAC05XT. My recipe is 1/4 cup of oats and 1.25 cup of water. Add raisins, shredded coconut, salt and cinnamon to taste. Stir the mix and select the porridge setting. One hour later, your oatmeal is ready. For bonus points, mix all the ingredients the night before and set the Zojirushi alarm. You'll wake up to an amazingly delicious bowl of perfectly cooked steel cut oats.
Pictured above: Nick and a tour guest recreating Perseus with the Head of Medusa.
What are you currently reading?
Willpower, The Great Brain, Tiny Beautiful Things, The Only Way to Win and Elanor & Park. I checked out all of those books from the New York Public Library this week. I also love my Kindle Paperwhite. The Kindle ecosystem — which allows you to read the first few chapters of a book before buying it — is incredible. But if I download a lot of books at once, they just sit there and get lost in my Kindle. I forget about them.
So, I've developed a little macro to easily reserve books from the New York Public Library. Whenever I get a book suggestion from a friend or read about a cool book on-line, I add it to my Amazon Wishlist. Every few weeks, I dump that Wishlist to Fancy Hands and have them reserve all the books at the library. There's a beautiful branch of the NYPL around the corner from my apartment, so whenever I stop by, there are invariably books waiting for me. It's much easier to pick up and read a book when the physical copy is sitting out on my coffee table, reminding me of its presence. I rarely finish reading all of the books that I check out, but this little "hack" has increased the number of books that I read 10-fold.
Also, someone just gave me a copy of The Little Prince, which looks perfect for my reading level.
What do you listen to while you work?
If I listen to music, I like Mozart or popular tracks on The Hype Machine.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
Extrovert to a fault.
What's your sleep routine like?
I average about six and a half hours of sleep per night. I know that's not enough. I have a variety of systems and optimisations to try and improve the quantity and quality of my restful sleep. I've used a Zeo extensively, and that encouraged me to get a firmer mattress and a better pillow. Now that Zeo went out of business, I use my Jawbone UP to keep track of how many hours I sleep per night. My favourite pillow, after testing a dozen memory foam and latex models, is an old-fashioned Japanese buckwheat pillow. I also sleep with an eye mask and earplugs.
Fill in the blank: I'd love to see ______ answer these same questions.
Elon Musk. Jeff Bezos. Garrett Camp. Ari Meisel. Tynan. Leo Babauta. Dave Asprey. Alexis Ohanian. Dennis Crowley. Zach Klein.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
My parents are the hardest working people that I know. I worked with my parents for about eight years at Flight Display Systems before I left in April to start Museum Hack. They inspire me to never give up, to focus on customer service, and to give more than I take.
Also: Sriracha on everything.
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.