If you peruse technology publications that occasionally dip their toes into our life hacking end of the pool, you'll likely seen the work of Belle Beth Cooper. Her writing can be found all over the web; she has a lucid voice in describing self-improvement, coding, and the pursuit of writing itself.
Belle has contributed her writing to many sites like The Next Web, Crew, and now Ghost, and we've often featured her work here on Lifehacker as well. As she's someone who frequently writes about productivity and learning while pursuing a eclectic range of projects, Belle is quintessential Lifehacker material. I asked her to tell us about her work habits and her favourite tools she uses to get things done.
Location: Melbourne, Australia Current Gig: Co-founder of Hello Code, content crafter at Ghost One word that best describes how you work: Intermittently! Current mobile device: iPhone 5s 16GB in space grey Current computer: 2013 13" MacBook Air. I use it with an Apple Magic Mouse, a 24" Dell monitor and a Matias Ergo Pro keyboard.
What apps, software, or tools can't you live without?
A notebook and pen. My favourite notebook is the medium (A5) size Leuchtturm1917 with squared pages. My most-used pen is a Ti-Click Pro which has a stylus on the end and can take a whole bunch of different refills.
What's your workspace setup like?
I work from home. I move my desk into my bedroom in winter, which is upstairs where it's warmer. In summer I move it downstairs into a corner of the living area. I love natural light, so I try to get as much sunshine in my workspace as possible.
I just added the Dell monitor to my setup, so I'm still getting used to the big screen. So far I love it. It's so good to have more than 13" of space when I'm coding, and to have room for two windows side-by-side when I'm writing.
What's your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
I use TextExpander all day long on my Mac, and the built-in iOS shortcuts on my phone. I use them to type out things like my email address, and websites I'm always typing. I also have a few shortcuts for Markdown syntax I have to type often, like '!()' to insert an image. I barely think about TextExpander but I use it so often that it really speeds up my day.
I also use BetterTouchTool extensively with my Magic Mouse or my laptop's touchpad. I use it to set up custom shortcuts for various taps and swipes so I can do things like open a new tab in my browser with a three-finger swipe to the left, and switch between tabs with three finger swipes up and down. Once the muscle memory for those gestures is ingrained, working is so much faster.
What's your favourite to-do list manager?
I use 2Do for anything that has a due date or that I want to do "someday" and might forget about. I usually supplement it with a notebook or a more simple list app for keeping track of what I actually want to do today, tomorrow, and by the end of the week -- things that don't have due dates, but I want to plan out when I'll get them done.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without and why?
My iPod Classic. Mine stopped working just after Apple discontinued them, so I ended up paying a small fortune to get one on eBay to replace it. I don't know what I'll do when this one dies.
Do you find yourself always working on something? Or when you finish a project, do you take time to let your mind wander without concern for what's next?
I constantly have new projects waiting to be started and unfinished projects begging to be finished. I don't remember the last time I didn't have a project on-the-go.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?
Getting up early. I really hate if I get up later than 7am, because it feels like I've wasted my day already. I thought it would be hard to work from home every day and keep up my early-morning routines, but (unlike my co-founder Josh) I'm a champion at making an early start.
What do you listen to while you work?
Mostly I switch between indie pop and musical theatre scores. Sometimes I'll accidentally work without music if I'm really focused on something, but I rarely do it on purpose. On an average Wednesday (the same day I'm writing this), I listen to 51 songs (thanks Exist!).
What are you currently reading?
I always have two books on the go at once: fiction for reading before bed, and nonfiction for reading in the morning. Right now I'm reading Bringing Up Bébé and I Don't Know What You Know Me From. They're both kind of narrative nonfiction I guess, but usually I'll have a more clear split between a book about programming or psychology in the morning and a classic novel for bedtime reading.
How do you recharge?
Laying around watching TV is my go-to for days I feel too tired or lazy to do anything. If I'm not feeling tired but I need to recharge away from work I always feel good after going out for a good brunch or seeing some good theatre (musicals never fail to perk me up).
What's your sleep routine like?
I love getting up early. At the moment I have an alarm set on my Pebble, which vibrates on my wrist at 5:45am. After using vibrating alarms I'd never go back to a sound alarm. And even though I wake up early, I make sleep a priority because I know how important it is. I average just under 7.5 hours asleep per night.
When I go to sleep at night I use SleepPhones and my iPod Classic to keep my mind occupied. I hate trying to sleep and fighting against my brain wanting to think about work, so I've found this helps me relax. I usually listen to re-runs of TV shows like Friends, so I can imagine the visuals in my head while I listen, leaving no room for annoying thoughts that would keep me awake. I have a really hard time imagining anything visual, so recreating something I've seen a bunch of times works much better for me than, say, listening to an audiobook and imagining the scene.
Fill in the blank: I'd love to see _________ answer these same questions.
Jessica Richman, founder of uBiome.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
"God damn it babies, you've got to be kind." - Kurt Vonnegut
We've asked heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.