Our annual How We Work roundup, where Lifehacker staffers and contributors share their favourite tips and tools for better productivity, continues. Today: Patrick Allan.
Location: La La Land, Cal-i-forn-i-a Current Gig: Writer for Lifehacker and host of a nerdy podcast called "Let's Roll" where my friends and I talk about nerdy things for funsies. One word that best describes how you work: Boomshakalaka Current Mobile Device: iPhone 5s... but no idea what I'll be upgrading to. Help? Current Computer: A Frankenstein's monster of a rig that was haphazardly put together and revived over and over inside of a trashed Dell case. You can hardly call it a computer anymore... I also have a mobile desktop — not a laptop due to sheer size and ridiculously bad battery life — that's an Asus G73jh.
What apps/software/tools can't you live without? Why?
I need at least one Windows machine at all times. Windows just gets me. Beyond that, the Google suite of awesomeness has me in its clutches: Google Docs (which I love so much), Drive, Google Maps, Calendar, YouTube. I really dig HabitRPG for tracking how awesome (or lame) I am, and I need Spotify in my life. I listen to music while I drive, when I walk, and while I work (sometimes).
In terms of tools, I always have a decent pocket knife handy wherever I go, and I use a SOG Powerlock multi-tool.
What's your workspace setup like
Up until this past Christmas I was working at a fold-out card table (I just moved to LA and getting a new desk was the final stage of operation move in). Now I have this sweet black desk from Techni Mobili with a roll out keyboard and space for a second monitor — as soon as I find one that I really want.
To the left of my desk, I have a Target brand bookshelf (I seriously love them) that I'm still trying to figure out what to store. I have other bookshelves throughout my apartment that hold most of my other books. It's a good space to keep the things I'm currently working on.
What's your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?
Just start doing whatever it is you need to get done. Even if you promise yourself that you will only do it for a couple minutes. That initial push is the hardest thing for me to get over, and once I do, I become a productivity machine. If you want to save yourself time, suck it up, bite the bullet, and start. I've always had a Nike attitude toward things: Just do it.
What's your favourite to-do list manager?
Post-it notes. I write everything that I need to do on Post-it notes so I can stick them anywhere I need to see them. I've even written myself notes to remind myself to drink water after a night of drinking. I stick one on the cabinet where I know I'll be looking for snacks and I put one right on my pillow. No more hangover.
Beyond that I have my favourite notebook — Mead, 3 Subject, College Ruled, Spiral Notebook, 9.5 by 6, the perfect size — that I take with me everywhere (always with my favourite pen attached — Pilot G2). You'd be amazed how much more you want to write when you are using your favourite tools. Inside I write thoughts, ideas, notes, outlines, and I have an entire section simply called "The List." It's exactly what it sounds like: a massive list of all the things I need to do in all aspects of my life. I've always been a pen and paper kind of guy.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without and why?
My iPad (4th generation). I use it to read articles on the web when I wake up in the morning. I look for stuff I can write about while I'm groggy and still waking up. I also do most — not all — of my comic book reading on my iPad. I also really enjoy my Kindle, though I want to upgrade it to a Paperwhite model soon. I currently have an original Kindle Touch and it is yucky.
I also need either coffee or apple juice in the morning to get my brain moving at the speed I like. For coffee, I use a simple French press with freshly ground beans, usually Kenyan.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What's your secret?
I'm a chameleon. I can fit in with any group or any type of work environment, and I've worked a wide variety of gigs. I like to consider myself a Jack of All Trades, and while many people frown on that type of approach (you have to specialise), it's perfect for a life hacker, no? Besides, I'd rather be a multi-tool than a hammer. I know just enough about everything that I could do well almost anywhere.
What do you listen to while you work?
It usually depends on my mood. If I feel a little zoned out, I prefer silence. If I need to pump myself up, I listen to trance or my epic 80s playlist of radical awesomeness (simply titled "The Next Level"). If I'm in a neutral mood, I listen to one of my many hipster-indie playlists that sound oh so sweet. If my mind is going a million miles an hour and I need to wrangle it in, I use A Soft Murmur to make it sound like it's raining or like I'm at the beach.
What are you currently reading?
I just started House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski and it is amazing so far (I can't believe I hadn't read it yet). Comic-wise, I'm reading Saga and Locke & Key. I'm also reading the Shadowrun 5th Edition Core Rulebook (for playing), Star Wars: Edge of the Empire rule book (I'm writing a custom campaign), and the Call of Cthulhu 6th Edition Rulebook over and over because RPGs are awesome.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
Introvert — until I've had time to get a good read of you. Once I know what makes you tick and what doesn't, I can find common ground that will help both us get to know each other better. Over time I just become that goofy guy you know, Patrick.
Of course, if I'm in a situation where I know I just need to be social and outgoing, I can give the appearance of being an extrovert. It's sort of like running the Patrick OS in Safe Mode (with Networking Enabled).
What's your sleep routine like?
I value my sleep highly and I grab it whenever I'm able to. I am usually in bed by 11 or 12, either reading or watching Netflix. And by "watching" I mean falling asleep to a show I've watched a million times already. I try to be up by 7 every morning at the latest, unless I need to move my car (which gets me up a little earlier).
Fill in the blank: I'd love to see _______ answer these same questions.
David Bowie, Colin Meloy, Stan Lee, Hunter Pence, Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, Ray Bradbury, and my Dad... You know what? I think I'll ask him.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
I like baseball, so I think baseball metaphors are great. So here's one of the best lines of advice I've ever heard:
Hit the ball on the ground and good things will happen.
Not every swing of the bat has to be a home run for you to move forward. Make contact, hit a grounder, and you might find a hole — or someone else will mess up and you'll be moving forward anyway. There's no guarantee, but if you keep hitting the ball on the ground, eventually you'll make progress.