I’ve interviewed a lot of brilliant people for our How I Work series. Today, however, I’m interviewing… myself. Here are some of my favourite tips and tricks for getting stuff done.
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Current gig: Contributions editor at Lifehacker
Current computer: 13″ MacBook Air
Current mobile device: iPhone 4S
I work: Gratefully
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
This hasn’t changed much from last year’s answer — when I find something that works for me, I stick with it. I stay sane and organised with all things Google: Chrome, Gmail, Calendar, Docs, and Maps, plus Feedly instead of Reader. Other stuff I like: Coursera, Twitter, Instagram, Spotify, TextExpander, Dropbox, AccuWeather, Yelp (only for reading, never for writing), and pen and paper.
There are two health apps I’ve added in the past year. The first is My Fitness Pal. If you follow me on social media or read this piece, you probably know that I was diagnosed with IBD and Celiac disease a little over a year ago. Instead of using My Fitness Pal as a weight loss tool, I use it for journalling what I eat during the day. That way if I have a gluten reaction, I can look back to find the culprit. It helps me recognise good and bad patterns — so if I have a flare up and I’ve recorded a lot of caffeine, that’s the likely problem. Or if I’m feeling great, I can take note of what I’ve been eating and drinking. It’s a delicate balancing act that I don’t have down perfectly yet, but keeping track helps.
The second is Period Tracker (the free version), which tracks hormone cycles and allows you to record daily moods and symptoms. It sounds silly, but using this for almost a year has made me understand my body better. IBD can flare up due to hormone fluctuations and stress, so this app helps me manage that too.
Pictured above: My workspace
What’s your workspace like?
I work from home these days. My gear hasn’t changed since last year, but my location has — I moved apartments last July. Now I’m on the top floor of a brownstone, so it’s quiet and gets lots of sunlight. I stand for part of the day, and I have a mini stair-stepper that I use for an hour or so while I work (I’m sure I look ridiculous). My favourite desk addition is a betta fish named Gilbert who gives me the stink eye all day. He’s a charmer.
What’s your best time-saving trick?
Last year I said dropping off laundry, but I’ve stopped doing that! I’m learning to enjoy the laundromat — it gives me an excuse to sit and read a book for a couple of hours.
My email system has improved in the past year and it saves me quite a bit of time during the week because I’m not wading through a backlog of emails. I have one Gmail account for everything but work — emails from friends and family (which get priority labels) and anything that requires me to sign up (deals, banking, stores and so on) gets directed there. The inbox number on that account is embarassingly huge but I don’t sweat it. My work account, on the other hand, is at zero. I stay on top of it to the point of obsession. Junk gets deleted immediately and most everything else gets responded to as quickly as possible. I also label every email and star the really important stuff.
Oh, and I never listen to voicemails.
What’s your favourite to-do list manager?
The boring answer: pen and paper. I do everything else via keyboard or touchscreen, and if I didn’t keep actual lists I might forget how to write by hand! If I’m without a notebook, I use Notes on my iPhone.
Pictured above: At-home juice bar
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?
Everyone is soooo over hearing about juice, but I got a Breville juicer for my last birthday and it’s my favourite kitchen gadget. (I’ll admit it — I watched Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. I thought it was going to be terrible but found myself ugly crying and online shopping for a juicer by the end.) I just wish the thing was easier to clean and I knew what to do with all that pulp. Anyone need pulp?
What do you listen to while you work?
I listen to/watch the Daily Show and Colbert in the mornings while I get organised, then Spotify or GrooveShark plays most of the day. Looking at my recent plays over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been listening to a lot of: Blood Orange, Disclosure, Kindness, London Grammar, Bjork, Nina Simone, Burial, Diiv, Antony & The Johnsons, Television, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Tim Buckley, Sepalcure, Beyonce, Fiona Apple, Dum Dum Girls, Billie Holiday, The Walkmen and Van Morrison.
If I’m line editing, reading intently, or approaching a deadline, I need silence.
What are you currently reading?
I’m revisting some Russian lit I read in college: Anna Karenina, Brothers Karamazov, Omon Ra, Heart of a Dog, Another Life and The House on the Embankment, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and We Never Make Mistakes. I’m also reading Charles Duhigg‘s The Power of Habit.
Daily, I read the New York Times, Chicago Tribune (for hometown news), the Verge, Wired, the Atlantic, the Awl, every Gawker site, Refinery 29, and dozens of blogs in search of content to republish. Weekly/ monthly, I dig into the New Yorker, the Gentlewoman, New York Magazine, the Wirecutter, Popular Science, various science journals, and longreads that I keep track of in an email draft. (I know, I should probably get back into Pocket.)
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
Introvert, for better or worse. I live inside of my head most of the time — too much, maybe — and I need solitude to reflect and recharge. That said, I still find a lot of value and great joy in being around other people. According to Myers-Briggs I’m an INTP, which means I’ll probably end up as an eccentric professor.
What’s your sleep schedule like?
I love sleep, but I’m no good at it. A lot of that is my fault — I watch Netflix in bed and mindlessly look at my phone when I should be closing my eyes. I also leave a small light on in my apartment and I know humans sleep best in total darkness… but I live alone and I get scared, OK?! Most nights I fall asleep around 11 or 12, wake up a few times throughout the night, and get up by 7:30.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _______ answer these questions.
Louis C.K. (swoon) and Neil deGrasse Tyson (swoon).
What are some of your favourite Lifehacker posts?
I’m incredibly lucky to work with not only our Lifehacker staff writers, but authors from all over the place. I republish stuff from around the web at least twice a day, and I work with writers on original posts, too. It’s impossible to list all of my favourites, but here are some from the last year or so:
- Confessions of a Hotel Insider
- Drink Beer For Big Ideas, Coffee To Get Them Done
- Why You Should Think Less Like a Superhero And More Like A Villain
I also get to interview smart, funny, inspiring people for How I Work and Behind the App. Here’s a handful of favourites from the past year:
- I’m John Hodgman, And This Is How I Work
- I’m Tina Roth Eisenberg, And This Is How I Work
- I’m Greg Pierce, And This Is the Story Behind Drafts
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Copying and pasting last year’s answer:
Never underestimate scrappiness.
Also, some hippie zen stuff my dad used to tell me: In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. Always begin, again and again. (An idea from Shunryu Suzuki’s classic Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.) As a teenager I would roll my eyes at this kind of thing, but now I like the idea of being an eager, constant learner.
Pictured above: A high school graduation gift from my dad
Is there anything you want to add?
I really connected with something Charles Duhigg said in his How I Work interview: “Productivity is, ultimately, about thinking more deeply.” I like to think that’s what Lifehacker and the work I do is all about.