At the age of 28, Kathryn Minshew is growing her career advice and job search tool The Muse at warp speed. Launched in 2011 with less than $3000 and a small team of writers and editors, The Muse now has over one million monthly users. Prior to The Muse, Kathryn worked at The Clinton Health Initiative, focusing on vaccine access in Africa. I caught up with the always-on-the-go entrepreneur to talk about time saving tricks, workspaces, Taylor Swift and more.
Picture: Erica Gannett Photography
Location: New York, NY
Current Gig: CEO; Co-Founder of The Muse
One word that best describes how you work: Adventurously!
Current mobile device: iPhone 5s
Current computer: MacBook Air, since I’m constantly on the go
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
I use Boomerang, a Gmail plugin for removing emails from your inbox and returning them at a time in the future, on an hourly basis — it’s one of the few things that really helps me carve some order into the chaos that is a startup. I also really like Pocket for saving articles to read later, and Hackpad (a Google Docs competitor) for organising and sharing brainstorm ideas or partnership plans with my team.
What’s your workspace like?
My actual desk can get pretty messy. I have a reputation for being “snacky” so I generally have a few small snacks on my desk or in one of the drawers, and there’s generally a book or two that I’m reading, and probably a few free things I’ve gotten as swag to share with my team. I really like switching up my working environment though, I find that it makes me more creative. Moving to an armchair near the window, or to a comfortable couch definitely helps me re-energise when I hit a wall.
Pictured above: Kathryn’s workspace
What’s your favourite to-do list manager?
My to-dos live in my inbox. I have a draft email I use like a plain text app (I used to use TextEdit on my Mac, very similarly). The benefit of having access to it on any computer or device if I need it is invaluable. I’ve also been trying out a system called 3×3, where I write down three must-do’s on a post-it note every day, and then make sure I tackle them. It hasn’t been long enough to know if I’ll stick with it, but I like the feeling of crossing each one off!
What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?
In total honesty, my best life hack is my co-founder Alex. She’s brilliant at all things productivity, and our friendship/professional relationship has taught me more than any other single source about how to be more efficient. So I guess my best tip would be to find an amazing cofounder.
Short of that, I find it’s been immensely helpful for me to pay attention to when in the day I’m most productive (what hours, under what conditions) and aggressively guard that time for focused work. I schedule meetings in the afternoons or late morning when I tend to be a little less likely to get in the zone.
Pictured above: Alex and Kathryn
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?
Tough question. I’ve been curious to try a Fitbit , but I don’t own one yet, and there’s honestly not much else in the realm of “gadgets” that I carry around (other than my company MiFi, for solid internet nearly anywhere in the US).
That said, I love travel — the more adventurous the better — so there are a few things I’d probably consider essentials on that front: a little portable LED headlamp for when I’m somewhere without electricity, my backpack (for rugged trips) or TUMI carryon (for business travel), a well-stamped passport, and a few pages torn out of a guidebook.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?
I’m secretly really good at accents, both hilarious and realistic, and when I was younger I convinced British people that I was British and French people that I was French on a few different occasions. You’ll have to meet me to see if this is still true… but I’m told it is.
I am also, for the record, apparently very good at swapping things (e.g. exchanging things in a mutually beneficial way so that no one pays and everyone is happy). This came in very handy during the early days of The Muse.
What do you listen to while you work?
I tend to prefer having ambient noise in the office. If I’m home, working late at night, I’ll put Taylor Swift into Pandora or Spotify and rock out to some cheesy pop. Embarrassing but true.
What are you currently reading?
I’m constantly reading articles — world news, tech press, and silly memes alike — and use Pocket to keep track of them all. I’m also partway through “The Invention of Love”, a play by Tom Stoppard. I’m obsessed with his “Arcadia” and trying to get through the rest of his work, albeit slowly.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? Maybe both.
Mostly an extrovert. I find people fascinating, and love learning what they’re up to and what’s led them to where they are today. But that said, I’m not immune from the desire to sometimes retreat into a small corner, so I definitely have more introverted days.
What’s your sleep routine like?
My ideal sleep routine would be to sleep eight hours from 12am-8am, but that almost never happens. That said, I try to get close to 7.5 hours or I really feel the effects the next day. I’ve been using a free app called SleepBot to track how long and how well I’m sleeping, and because I find their slowly-getting-louder morning alarm a lot less jarring than the iPhone’s default.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.
Nan Forte, Rameet Chawla from Fuelled, or Stephen Colbert (I wish!).
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Someone once told me, “No doesn’t mean no; it means wait and try again.” I think a perspective like that is critical in entrepreneurship, because you hear “no” hundreds of times per day in the beginning. But ultimately, that can be your biggest opportunity: many of our most passionate backers at The Muse are people who told us no, in various ways, in the early days, and then came around.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers?
I’ve been to 48 countries since 2004! Oman, China and France are three of my favourites.
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.