Every week we highlight how some of our favourite life-hacking heroes work, but now it’s our turn to spill the productivity beans about our own habits and gear. I’m Andy, the newest on the Lifehacker roster, and I spend my days helping the team find stories, sweeping up mistakes, and following other breadcrumbs. This is how I work.
Location: New York, New York
Current Gig: Editorial Assistant at Lifehacker
One word that best describes how you work: Scattershot. I don’t mean haphazard, I mean broadly and quickly and widespread. Like a Cheney shot to the face. The thing is, you see, is that sometimes you need to use a leaf blower instead of a blow dart when working on the forest instead of the trees.
Current mobile device: iPhone 5s (with no case — iPhones should run naked and free without ugly rubber bumpers). I just upgraded from a iPhone 4, and the difference is magical.
Current computer: Sony Vaio VGN-FW, a 16 inch laptop with a Blu-ray drive, running Windows 8. It’s a hefty plastic tank named Big Kahuna, but it’s on its last legs so I’m thinking of getting a Macbook Air (running Windows, of course). OS X is fine; it’s just not my jam. I also use an Asus Memopad tablet (essentially a cheaper version of the Nexus 7).
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Why?
I use Gmail and digital Sticky Notes for everything. I hate keeping stuff on my desktop so I am motivated to fulfil the Sticky Note’s purpose so that I can unstick it and send it back from whence it came. I usually carry a Moleskine too, but that’s more of a security blanket than a tool. I also use Twitter (say hello!) and Feedly all day long to see everything on the internet. Between Gmail and Evernote, I actually rarely use any desktop text editing software. I do dabble in Final Draft in my civilian life sometimes, and I do love using Ommwriter (but I use it for five minutes and then forget about it for a year). I also love playing with Camerabag 2 to edit photos — I’m underselling it, but it’s like having Instagram filters on your desktop.
What’s your workspace setup like?
For Lifehacker I typically work deep in the blog mines of the Gawker office in Manhattan on an iMac. The office is a dimly lit, library-like setting (the ambiance has been referred to as “dangerous library”) , dense with intelligence, chortles and healthy snacks. At home — this is a little silly, I guess — I use an ornate fireplace mantelpiece as a standing desk. I found it on the street outside an old brownstone that was being gutted, and dragged it home. Will share on Pinterest. I also have a plastic lawn chair in my bedroom because I haven’t bought any furniture aside from the bed. It’s exhausting to even think about buying real furniture. So it’s basically like Matthew McConaughey’s apartment in True Detective (which you should totally be watching).
What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?
I walk fast. No patience for slow walkers, dawdlers, map gazers, and phone zombies. An Oxford architectural historian once complimented my pace when we continually found ourselves walking together, leading the tour through Edinburgh and then Dublin (how’s that for a pretentious aside?). And I usually skip lunch in favour of a humble granola bar or something like that; a cup of coffee in an empty stomach and you can practically see around corners.
What’s your favourite to-do list manager?
Primarily I just use Gmail with the occasional coloured label and star to mark stuff I need to do, but I also use Evernote to save memos, links, works-in-progress, and other nonsense across different platforms. I really don’t use anything that’s designed to be a to-do list, aside from Google Calendar. Post-it notes are also very helpful. And a Spacepen (in case of errant gravity fluctuations) to write on the back of my hand when it’s really important to remember to do something. I like the idea of someone on the subway reading the things written on my hand and wondering about them. “Buy milk” she read. How mysterious! Whatever could that mean?
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?
A real computer mouse. Despite living a laptop-centric lifestyle, I cannot believe that there are people who prefer trackpads full time. Maybe they just hate accuracy. Maybe they have intense rodent phobias. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the usability of Apple’s Magic Mouse, and Logitech mice are always good options (I don’t know what model I have, but it literally has a 2-year battery life on a single AA). Otherwise, an Aeropress has been my constant companion for many years, but honestly I’m not too concerned about precise, scientific coffee brewing. I do a lot of reading on the aforementioned Asus Memopad tablet — that’s almost all I use it for, really. For fun, I have a Nikon D5000, which is nothing fancy but fun to lug around and pretend to be a war photographer while I take pictures of cats. The above picture is what fills my pockets, though the phone is newer. I like simple watches.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?
I really cannot think of any everyday thing that I am good at outside of this realm of online information brokering. I lead a life of embarrassing missteps punctuated by excelling at esoteric skills when chance arises. Such is why I need life hacks. I’m pretty good at befriending cats though; there’s no doubt about it.
What do you listen to while you work?
I work to silence about half of the time. Even instrumental music can be a distraction so I pause it when I need to focus. I admit that I’ve been listening to Lorde frequently while working (no haters), and Arcade Fire’s recent Reflektor album. I jump around a lot on Pandora; I’ve had Otis Redding, Louis Armstrong, Art Tatum and Daft Punk stations going. I’m listening to these chiptunes right now. On the subway this morning I was listening to Rage Against the Machine (take that, the man). A lot of Christmas radio too — but I put a moratorium on that for at least the next few months.
What are you currently reading?
I spend the majority of reading time just catching up with my Instapaper queue of articles that I don’t have time to read during the day, which is frequently comprised of The New Yorker, The Verge, Buzzfeed’s FWD, The Awl, The Atlantic, Wired, Boingboing, and the Hateful Eight Gawker Media sites. When I do find a moment for word indulgence, I’ve been dipping my toes in The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol II. You don’t chug a book like that though, you just sip it by the fireplace now and again. Oh, and recently Katie Heaney’s book Never Have I Ever, it’s really funny.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
As much as I appreciate Susan Cain and the subsequent wake of TED talk feel-good Thought Catalogue introversion lovefests, I think this is often an oversimplified view that can become a false dichotomy of utter inward solipsism and outward social interaction. But! I’m a very quiet person. You would probably say I’m as introverted as a black hole. Believe it or not — and despite having the stoic countenance of an emotionless ice demon sometimes — I’ve enjoyed making people laugh on stage. A crowd can be easier to deal with than a few individuals. TL;DR, introvert.
What’s your sleep routine like?
I try to keep a fairly regular schedule of sleep, around midnight to 8am, pretty much always, plus or minus an hour on either end. I need the 8 hours or so. Sleep is great, you guys. The morning is my favourite time of day, so long as I don’t have to be up too early.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.
Walt Disney, Shigeru Miyamoto, Hayao Miyazaki.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
What Conan O’Brien said on his last Tonight Show always stuck with me: Work hard and be kind and amazing things will happen.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers/fans?
I have no plans or specific ambitions or goals and I don’t know what I’m doing. Just a dog chasing cars, trying to stave off awareness of our slow inevitable march towards our own personal winter in a harsh and indifferent universe! But really I’m just a sweetheart.