Our annual How We Work roundup, where Lifehacker staffers and contributors share their favourite tips and tools for better productivity, continues. Today: contributions editor Andy Orin.
The funny thing is that I hardly follow any of the advice that we post every day, or use any of the productivity methods so often discussed and advocated for and talked about like Pomodoro or inbox zero or whatever. I don't even have a to-do list. I want to be honest with you because the veneer applied when self-describing one's habits just diminishes the legitimacy of the thing, doesn't it?
Anyway! It already sounds like I'm an unorganised mess -- I won't go so far to say that I'm a disorganised pile of garbage in the shape of a blogger (the shape of a blogger is often someone who was thin and gangly as a kid because their childhood and teenage years were spent sipping Mountain Dew while at a computer manually coding websites on Geocities about Dragon Ball but has with age become a sagging, bloated scarecrow, ripped plaid shirt and all hidden beneath a hoodie, generally speaking), I wouldn't say that, but I will say that I'm not very organised and approach work like an act of improvisation.
Location: New York Current Gig: Blogger with Lifehacker. That's what I tell people; I don't like to say I'm an assistant or writer or journalist or anything like that and I do like to own the term blogger, leaning in to the derisive usage of it by people like Aaron Sorkin. Anyway, I handle most of the interviews and guest articles on the site, as well as providing some extra eyes to make sure everything is running smoothly. One word that best describes how you work: Clean and rad and powerful. Current mobile device: iPhone 5s. I'm not really a fan of the gradual embiggening of phones (though I will get a 6 if I accidentally smash this one). iOS is obviously better than Android from a usability standpoint. Current computer: Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 running Windows 8.1 and an iMac. The Lenovo is great; a hair thinner than a MacBook Air, good build quality with a nice rubberised exterior, really lovely retina-eqsue "QHD+" 3200x1800 touch screen, decent-to-mediocre battery life. I wish it had a little more oomph in the 3D graphics department but that's no surprise from a computer as thin as a pocket knife. I spilled a beer on it last night. It's OK! A little sticky.
What apps/software/tools can't you live without? Why?
Gmail, Google Docs, Kinja -- that's like 75 per cent of my day. I don't use any email clients on desktop, just a good ol' Gmail tab open all day, and I hardly even use any Gmail customisations aside from a couple of UI tweaks and the "undo send" widget (I have it set to twenty seconds and I use it all the time!). The addition of Primary/Social/Promotions tabs saved my life. I use the Gmail iOS app for work mail, and just the default Apple iOS app for personal mail.
Google Docs is just -- whatever, it works. But I'm actually writing this in Evernote... which I tend to use when writing things outside of work.
Slack. All of the US Gawker Media sites now use Slack for internal communication. It's not inherently different from any other chat platform out there, but it's pretty slick. The iOS app is nice too.
TweetDeck. Oh TweetDeck, light of my life, fire of my lists, my sin, my soul. I think TweetDeck should be regarded as a professional tool for people who need to see a large variety of information via Twitter, and not something the average Joe/Joanna has any real reason to fire up. I'm talking about it like it's a dangerous weapon that should only be handled by trained professionals -- because it is! I have a few different "lists" of sources, news outlets, and journalists separated into different columns, and the cascade of tweets therein rather consumes me. Very helpful, very distracting. I used to only have it open during work hours, but the addictive cascade has left me glancing at the deck at all hours and days of the week. Twitter is the best and worst video game.
Instapaper is my read-it-later app of choice. I read every day on the subway, just on my phone. The choice to use Instapaper instead of Pocket is arbitrary; I like that it looks old-fashioned, I suppose.
This has nothing to do with work but is part of my daily life -- the Windows 8 Netflix app. It's really not that great to navigate and can be frustrating in a variety of ways -- but here's the kicker, it lets you stream a higher bitrate than you can access in a web browser. They call it "Super HD" which is a mildly bullshitty term because it's just 1080p HD, but at a better quality. And I'm the sort of person who enjoys a high bitrate. (Just finished The Fall, what should I watch next?)
What's your workspace setup like?
The majority of my workdays are spent in the dark halls of the Gawker Media office in New York. It feels like a dim wine cellar -- really, sometimes it's so dim it feels like we're working by candlelight. Personally I like it that way. I use an iMac (probably a 2012 model or thereabouts). I've grown to love the wireless Apple keyboard; it has a nice tactile feel when you really gun it and type a million words a minute, clacking away on those Chiclet keys. I like the Magic Mouse too, but its battery life is pretty mediocre.
At home it's just a simple, messy desk with my laptop.
What's your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?
I plan as little as I can, within reason. I could only tell you a few things that I'm definitely going to post on the site because I don't usually think beyond that. When I had first started I was eagerly trying to map out every post I might do days or weeks in advance, which was really because I had no confidence that I'd be able to figure things out in time, so planning things out allowed for a safety net. But trying to think weeks in advance if you're blogging every day is just too much information to deal with. (This is not exactly literal because the interviews I do obviously require some foresight and coordination, but regardless of that... just show up at the keyboard and work.)
Oh also, this isn't really a life hack so much as it is a symptom of mental degradation, but I can barely remember what I posted last week. Blog and then forget about it -- maybe that's a life hack.
What's your favourite to-do list manager?
I don't use a to-do list manager. I do have a "todo" Gmail label though, which I apply to so many messages that it's rendered meaningless. I also start email drafts to remind myself that I need to reply to something, as the red " draft" text in Gmail is an obvious indicator of something left unfinished. Most of my drafts just say "lorem". You can see my use of labels in this censored inbox:
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without and why?
An Aeropressat home. None of that French press grittiness, and I can't be bothered to make pour-over coffee, although I suppose that wouldn't really be any more work.
I've been wearing a Pebble smartwatch. I wouldn't say that I can't live without it, but it's nice! It's pleasant to receive wrist notifications. For example, it's fun when you log into Facebook and see a red notification, right? That red dot means someone acknowledged your existence in some way, even if it's an almost meaningless hat tip to a jokey status update. Imagine that sensation -- on your wrist! But I had to dial down the number of notifications that my phone was getting so that the watch wouldn't be an obnoxious vibrating irritant. More control over which notifications are pushed from my phone to the watch would be wonderful.
And my trusty Logitech M705 mouse. It will outlive us all and I'll bequeath it to my children.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What's your secret?
I don't know really. Sometimes I'm a slight troll. Just a polite troll, in that I like to confuse people. I like the idea that someone would follow me on Twitter because they think I'll be dishing out productivity tips and tricks and then they find me saying weird or bizarre things, or doing mediocre Wint impersonations. Being intentionally stupid on LinkedIn is fun too.
What do you listen to while you work?
Usually nothing. Though after the Jenny Lewis album came out last year I was listening to that and all her albums and Rilo Kiley for months. For months! The St. Vincent album too. I often put on In the Aeroplane Over the Sea when I need to perk up and focus and get in the right head space (commonly referred to as the ~*~blogging zone~*~). Usually nothing at all, though.
There is occasionally music playing in the office. We have a Sonos speaker system that anyone can control, which is subsequently the source of a lot of casual bickering amongst the asylum residents. I quite literally don't care and generally enjoy any music that's playing in the background and also enjoy people arguing about it. I don't usually manipulate it (or troll the office), except when I played Sophia Grace on loop while we ate fried chicken over our keyboards like beautiful blog goblins.
At the moment I'm all about asthma rock.
What are you currently reading?
I admit I haven't been reading many books lately; the last book I read was Redeployment by Phil Klay, a fiction collection about the Iraq war, or rather the affect of the war on the soldiers
By far the majority of my reading is comprised of the long articles I save on Instapaper and read on the subway (you can see some of the things I hearted on my public-facing Instapaper page). I eat a lot of our own Gawker Media dogfood, mostly meaning Jezebel, Gizmodo, and Gawker. And The Awl, Buzzfeed, Vice's Motherboard is good, the new verticals on Medium are often good. And the New Yorker, NYT of course, Vulture, Vergie, Wired. Oh, and Clickhole. Scratch everything else -- Clickhole is actually the only site worth reading.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
Introvert on the streets, extrovert in the tweets.
What's your sleep routine like?
Last year I think I said how important it is that I get a full night of sleep, and indeed sleep is a good thing, but I'd be lying to say that I'm consistent about it. I'm very often up til 12:30 or 1AM or later, absolutely wasting time online or watching Netflix and subsequently dragging myself out of the bed in the morning for work, coping with too much coffee, and then repeating the cycle.
Fill in the blank: I'd love to see _________ answer these same questions.
I'm particularly interested in people who have a dark well of creativity that seems eerily bottomless -- people like Hayao Miyazaki and Shigeru Miyamoto. At heart I am just an old Japanese dude! Glen Keane (though we had a Disney animator not long ago). Brad Bird. John Lasseter. Andrew Stanton. Lee Unkrich. Obviously I am a Pixar and Disney fan.
The aforementioned Jenny Lewis would be great, wouldn't she? And Annie Clark (St. Vincent) is someone I really considered reaching out to, but haven't yet. Paula Pell. Matthew Weiner. Vince Gilligan, Conan O'Brien, Abbi and Illana. Stephen Colbert -- but you can learn how Colbert worked by listening to this. John Oliver. George Saunders would be interesting. Kind of want to revisit Adam Savage, and see what's changed. Maybe some SNL people would be cool.
If you're a regular reader you know that How I Work is my current purview, so I obviously have a lot of feelings around who I would want to see; it's mostly down to interestingness, practicality, novelty, notoriety, scheduling, and the reality of who I can and can't get a hold of. Elon Musk, email me please. And Taylor! I'm not kidding -- what a weird, fun coup it would be for Taylor Swift to tell us about her work habits.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
Just don't be a jerk. Everyone's dragging their whole history with them and when they lash out and honk their horn or yell at a barista they are -- perhaps! -- expressing discontent about something else in their lives. Or whatever, I don't know, some people are just shitty. My point lies with what I referenced last year:
Be kind and work hard and amazing things will happen.
Is there anything else you'd like to add that might be interesting to readers/fans?
I have no idea what I'm doing. I try not to fall into that "imposter syndrome" feeling.
Being a so-called professional something-or-other carries with it the expectation that you Know What You're Doing, when you are in fact navigating a dark grey fog of ambiguous decisions. Staying ahead of the class by reading only one chapter ahead in the textbook. My mood vacillates between arrogant self-confidence in editorial judgment and "oh no this is the week that I'm going to irrevocably fail at everything." So when I make a typo and you gleefully point it out like it discredits everything I've ever done because I don't know the difference between "breaks" and "brakes," just don't be a jerk about it. Anyway! I'm fun at parties.