Each week, we feature a new crazy awesome person to share how they get their work done and lay all their productivity secrets bare. This week, we’re turning the tables and sharing our own stories. Now it’s my turn to pull back the curtain. Pay no mind to man back there. Just how he works.
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Current Gig: Writer for Lifehacker and comic relief
One word that best describes how you work: Chaos
Current computer: Theseus, my custom desktop, continuously rebuilt for the last 15 years.
Current mobile device: Moto X (with a side of Nexus tablets)
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
For tracking ideas and notes when I’m out, Google Keep is my right hand man. I also use Google Now’s voice reminders to manage my constant, scattershot “I should totally do that” notions. To say that I’m a servant of the dark Google arts would be an understatement.
Also Twitter. I hate to admit it, but I sort of fell in love with Twitter. It’s stupid and I still can’t bring myself to say “tweet” out loud. On the other hand, it helps me keep on everything I care about on the internet, I’ve met a lot of awesome people, and it gives me an outlet for my very important and mature thoughts.
What’s your workspace setup like?
I use an L-desk with a multi-monitor setup. The most notable feature of my workspace is that I use a tablet (or sometimes phone) on a stand to manage most of my notifications. I reply to emails as they come in on my tablet so they don’t build up. Since I’m replying to most of them on my tablet, it doesn’t interrupt my desktop workflow.
What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?
I bought gaming peripherals originally to use for, well, gaming. However, I started using the dedicated macro keys to record common actions I use in regular work. While I loved Autohotkey, nearly all of my scripts became redundant now that I had separate buttons that I could devote specifically to recorded actions. Now, I swear by them.
What’s your favourite to-do list manager?
Starred emails. While I use Google Keep for more long-term tracking of ideas, if I need to get something done today, it goes in an email and gets starred. I sort my emails such that starred items come up first, so it’s always right in front of me. When an item is completed, it gets archived. The best part is that if someone sends me an email about something I need to do, it’s one click to add it to my list.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?
My collection of puzzle toys and doodads including Rubik’s cubes, a fushigi ball, Bucky Balls and baoding balls. Lots of balls, apparently. Do these count as gadgets? I don’t really know. But I need something for my hands to fiddle with. If it’s not one of these, then it’s twirling a pen or rolling a coin over my knuckles. If my fingers don’t have something to play around with, I start to get fidgety.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?
Inserting jokes into serious explanations. It sounds dumb, but people retain information and learn better when they’re laughing. I can’t write without jokes. My secret is years of low self-esteem and overcompensation. That and listening to too much standup comedy.
What do you listen to while you work?
When I have to get stuff done, Daft Punk gets my typing fingers working. Other times, though, I actually prefer to listen to television shows I’ve seen a hundred times. Shows like Firefly, half of Aaron Sorkin’s shows, or Futurama are full of not just clever writing, but excellent deliveries. I never tire of hearing smart dialogue delivered well and it inspires me not just to write, but to make my writing interesting.
What are you currently reading?
Currently I’ve been reading Game of Thrones because I feel guilty about watching the TV show first. Like I said before, I like hearing cleverly written lines in addition to reading them.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
I bounce wildly between both extremes. During the week, I hole myself up in my office and might not leave except for food for days. Stereotypes about writers have to come from somewhere. When the weekend rolls around, though, I’ll get anxious if I don’t see other people.
What’s your sleep routine like?
I tend to sleep much later than most people. I sometimes have issues with sensory and input overload which means that during the day, there’s too much going on and writing doesn’t come as naturally to me. I often hit my stride somewhere around 10pm. As a consequence, morning people are my natural enemies when we meet in the wild.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.
Louie CK. The comedian says he throws out all of his material every year and starts fresh, much like George Carlin, which is an incredible task to me. Since George Carlin has declined our requests to share how he works on account of being deceased, Louie would be a fine runner-up. (Video above contains NSFW language, speaks to my heart.)
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Two simple words: “Have fun.” The advice was originally given to me years ago in the context of a relationship, but it carries over into everything. I’m the type of person who overthinks and stresses over making sure things are done right. My mistakes haunt me. Those two simple words remind me constantly that if it’s not fun, make it fun. Even if it’s finding a way to enjoy something I hate, my attitude will change how my work gets done and that affects everything else I do.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers/fans?
Do things you don’t think you can do. Everyone sucks at everything when they first get started, but never forget Jake the Dog’s sage advice.