Our annual How We Work roundup, where Lifehacker staffers and contributors share their favourite tips and tools for better productivity, continues. Today: our travel and tips guru Heather Yamada-Hosley.
Location: San Francisco, CA Current Gig: Freelance Writer, Content Strategist at NerdWallet One word that best describes how you work: Focused Current mobile device: iPhone 4S Current computer: 2012 MacBook 15"
What apps/software/tools can't you live without? Why?
The ones I use on an almost daily basis include: Mailbox, Google Maps, Amazon, LastPass, Chrome (on mobile) and Firefox (on computer), Pocket, Sunrise and Any.Do. I also use the mobile app for my bank and credit card issuers because I like to stay on top of where my money is going.
What's your workspace setup like?
Pretty simple, just a desk, file cabinet and ball chair in the corner of my bedroom. The ball chair is a recent addition because I'd always wanted to try one out. There are a couple of big windows so there's lots of natural light, which is why I don't have a desk lamp. I also try to do craft projects from time to time, which is why part of my desk is taken up by my sewing machine.
What's your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?
Probably the way I utilise my commute time as much as possible. Since I spend about 80 minutes a day on the bus, I try to use that time to GSD — from checking email to writing drafts to making mental plans in my head for meetings later in the day to planning what I'm making for dinner. Sometimes though, I use it as a quiet time to recharge (especially on the way home) and will watch Netflix or just close my eyes and listen to music.
What's your favourite to-do list manager?
Most of the time I use Any.Do to keep track of thing that need to get done. But if I have a longer list or a schedule, I'll either write it out with pen and paper or use the Notes app on my phone. Whenever I think of something I need to do, I write it down or set a reminder right away so it isn't caught in the back of my mind the rest of the day.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without and why?
I was recently given a Breville One Touch Tea Maker and it is amazing. I'm one of those people who makes tea, then either forgets about the water once it is hot or lets it steep too long. This tea maker boils the water to the right temperature, removes the leaves when the steeping time is up, and keeps the tea hot for the moment I remember that I made tea an hour ago.
I also carry my Mophie external battery everywhere because there have been so many times when it has saved me (or friends). When I got a really nice chef's knife, that changed the entire cooking process for me. It made for an even more enjoyable experience and was definitely worth the investment!
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?
I'd say I'm pretty good at making decisions quickly. Not in the sense that I rush decisions (I come back to something if need be), but in that I do a pretty fast run through in my head of options and then pick the one I think is best and start making an action plan to go with it. Usually, my first decision works out well, but I'm always careful to be open to tweaking it or going another route.
What do you listen to while you work?
I don't usually listen to anything. In the rare cases where I do (like when I set aside a few hours to really dive deep), I put on white noise like rain sounds or a playlist I'm familiar with (and thus can zone out to). Right now my go to are a couple of Devil Makes Three albums on repeat.
What are you currently reading?
I just started Kafka on The Shore by Haruki Murakami. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell is next on my To Read list.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
Hm, I'm a mix of both. On the one hand, I really enjoy hanging out with people and can do so for hours or even days at a time (depending on the people). On the other hand, I grew up as an only child and know how to spend time hanging out on my own. I'm never bored if no one is around, I just read, watch TV, or work on a project.
What's your sleep routine like?
I'm not a morning person or a late night person. I feel the most "awake" from 8am-9pm. I tend to wake up around 6am and get started on my to-do list. I'm pretty terrible at staying up later than 10pm and am known for often falling asleep by 10pm, even if I'm hanging out with people (as long as there's a comfy couch nearby).
Fill in the blank: I'd love to see _________ answer these same questions.
I'd really like to see what Alton Brown, Amy Poehler and Rashida Jones have to say. Anyone who works in the entertainment industry must have some pretty great productivity tips to keep up with their insane schedules.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
Essentially, focus on comparing your progress to your past bests and not to measure yourself against others. I think you can follow this to a certain extent, of course there are times when you need to be aware of what others are doing (especially in a work environment). But if you're always looking around to see what other people are doing, you can get pretty distracted from doing your best work. I've also found that when I did try to compare myself with other people, it also caused those relationships to suffer due to the unnecessary competitive undercurrent.
Is there anything else you'd like to add that might be interesting to readers/fans?
I'm pretty big on self-awareness, empathy, and being in touch with your true personal values. I think if you try to improve in all three areas, it can help in pretty much every aspect of your life and make communicating and your relationships go much more smoothly. Getting to a "good" level isn't easy, but worth the effort!