Normally, we hand the proverbial mic over to well-known leaders and creators, but this time of year we're taking it for ourselves. I'm Heather and here's a peek into how I work.
Location: San Francisco, CA
Current Gig:Freelance Writer, Content Strategist at NerdWallet
One word that best describes how you work:Constantly
Current mobile device:iPhone 4S (yeah, yeah, it's "old")
Current computer:2012 MacBook 15"
What apps, software or tools can't you live without?
The apps I use haven't changed much from last year. My favourite apps include:
- Sunrise to see my work, personal and shared (with my boyfriend) calendars all in one nice-looking app.
- Breathe to track how I feel emotionally and physically, and for meditation.
- SF Climates to see what the weather is like in the micro climates of San Francisco. They really exist! I used it just a few days ago and there was a 11C difference between the Outer Richmond and the Mission (about 11km apart).
- WhatsApp to message my close friends who live overseas.
- Mint to keep track of my spending and see when I'm getting close to the monthly budgets I set for myself.
Beyond that, I use Google Docs, Drive, Spreadsheets, Slides, Forms, Calendar and Gmail daily for both work and personal tasks.
What's your workspace setup like?
Honestly, I usually work sitting on my bed. It's comfy, plus I have a great view of my neighbourhood and the start of the Presidio park.
Juuust on the sunny side of the fog line.
What's your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
I cook almost every night, so cleaning while I cook is probably the one thing that saves me the most time on a daily basis. My mum taught me to do this when I was learning how to cook as a teenager. When I'm waiting for stuff to cook, I'll start washing dishes. I keep my prep area pretty clean, tossing produce waste straight into the compost bin and stacking used dishes to keep the counter clear. All pretty basic, but making it a habit has had a big impact on how much time I spend making dinner.
Also, if you really love fresh pasta (high-five), get a pasta maker with ravioli attachment. Once dough and filling are made, you can pump out like 25 ravioli in a few minutes. Serious upgrade from the by-hand method, and way cheaper than buying it at the store. This is the one I use.
What's your favourite to-do list manager?
I use a trio to get everything done. Any.Do for short term, quick to-do's; the default Notes app for long term to-do's (in list form); and blocks on my calendar for short term to-do's that take an hour or more (so that I actually sit down and do them).
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without and why?
I own a lot of kitchen gadgets that I use often, but I could go without them. A sharp, good quality chef's knife is something I can't do without. Once you've used a nice knife, you just can't go back. I'm not sure which brand mine is since I got it second hand from my mum (thanks, mum!).
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?
Unless I've been seriously misjudging people's reactions over the years, I'm pretty good at giving gifts that actually get used. I put a lot of thought into the gifts I get people because I never want to give something that isn't actually useful. I think back on our conversations, things they like and what would make their life easier, and that helps me come up with potential gifts. For example, my friend started a new job a little before Christmas and the commute can be up to an hour or longer with traffic. So, I got her a subscription to Audible to make her drive more interesting (she doesn't really listen to podcasts).
What do you listen to while you work?
I don't usually listen to anything while I work, but when I have a busy day coming up I'll listen to music during my commute to get pumped up for everything I need to get done. If I'm doing something that needs less focus (like cleaning), I'll listen to podcasts. My favourites are Awkward Human Survival Guide, Supercharged, Freakonomics Radio, Lore and Stuff You Missed in History Class.
What are you currently reading?
I just started Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer's $2 a Day. I'm halfway through Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance. A couple of my favourite reads from the past year are Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Ready Player One and Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.
How do you recharge?
I have a couple ways I recharge, depending on how I'm feeling. If I need to wind down at the end of the day, I'll hang out with people. Cooking is also a main way I relax since I focus on what I'm doing and don't think about anything that might be stressing me out.
Getting outside is a really easy way for me to feel better quickly. Something about nature instantly makes me happy. Even though I live in a major city, I'm less than 1.5km from a few big parks. I started meditating and doing yoga last year and it has become my go-to when I'm feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
View during a recent hike on Land's End Trail.
What's your sleep routine like?
I'm not great at either getting up super early or staying up super late, but getting up early is the easier of the two. In the past few months I started using a Philips Wake-Up Light and am surprised it helps a lot. I don't get woken up by the light any more, but feel much less groggy when the alarm portion goes off. However, I find the alarm's beeping noise (it gets progressively louder over about a 10 second period) to be incredibly annoying and not a feature I need.
Fill in the blank: I'd love to see _________ answer these same questions.
I did get my wish from last year for Alton Brown, still waiting on Rashida Jones and Amy Poehler.
That being said, I'd like to see some "everyday" people answer these questions, maybe with the theme of different jobs or industries. Lifehacker's Career Spotlight series is great, but the questions don't get at some of the same advice or tips. You don't have to be famous to have something worth saying.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
To give a different answer from last time, I'll go with a variation on my favourite economic concept: opportunity cost. The way I think about it, the resources (emotional energy, physical energy, time, money) you put into something matter and if you're not sure about that thing you're wasting your personal resources. Of course, some situations have other factors you should consider, but if you really want to be efficient about things, at least thinking in this way can help decide if you should or shouldn't be working at that company, dating that person, buy that thing and so on.
Is there anything else you'd like to add that might be interesting to readers?
I have a few things and they're more life philosophy than life hack, but here goes:
- Ask for what you deserve (and you probably deserve better than you think).
- If you're not satisfied with something in your life, do your best to find a solution/make a plan or learn to accept it. Either way, don't let inaction mire you in unhappiness.
- Learn to say no.
- Have high expectations of the people in your life.
- Don't sleep in on the weekends. Go do stuff.
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.