This year in How I Work, we interviewed over 50 developers, designers, writers, podcasters, actors, and other successful people in business, non-profits, tech, the arts, and entertainment, discussing their work habits and career paths. Every one is excellent—we reach out to our favourite people and sift through hundreds of applications a year to choose our guests—but these are some of the greatest profiles of the year, and some of their best quotes.
Alex: We block off Wednesday afternoon as “maker time” for the entire company. We don’t have meetings and turn off chat/IM so we can work on projects that require sustained focus. For me, I often get to write code.
Beth: I work from home towards the end of the week because of my commute and daycare pickup schedules. I use those out-of-office days to try to step back and look at the big picture stuff and work on our side projects that require too much focus to do when I’m sitting in a room with a few other people.
Moujan: When it comes to Bargie, I go into each recording with the goal of further developing her character (she’s a struggling has-been sentient spaceship actress) and to make sure we learn about her through her relationship with the other characters on the show. But then most of the time I like to challenge the group by just throwing out-of-nowhere lines or moves, because I know they will beautifully back it up and justify it to make perfect sense in this world.
When we visit a pizzeria, the idea is to understand that particular style. There are almost rules that box in what that style means. It’s a specific size, texture, cheese distribution, bake time, char pattern.
When it feels like we’re pretty close, I go through the Pro Tools session and make final cuts and do a final mix—the most finicky stuff that’s too tough to communicate to another person, because what I’m hearing is so subjective: changing the length of a pause by a fraction of a second, changing the shape of a fade out on music, etc.
Every week on Lifehacker, we interview a successful person about their career and their work habits, in a column called How I Work. And every week we ask them, “What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?” Here are the best answers our guests gave us in 2018.
I carry sneakers with me everywhere. Because I do my best thinking when I’m alone, walking, and because time for exercise can be tough to come by, I build in walks whenever I can: while waiting for a kid’s appointment, being stuck at an airport, or getting to and from meetings in a new city.
Brittany: I have learned that when I’m on an intense deadline, it’s best to just to lean into it. I just accept that deadline weeks are weeks where I’m eating out a bit more, taking more cabs, and skipping the gym. I used to freak out about getting off my routine, but now I just embrace it. My hair might be a little fucked up for a few days, but I won’t miss that deadline.
We have different recipes for each flavour, which is annoying, but is what makes us different. If we’re making vanilla, we’ll scrape out vanilla beans and put the pod and the beans with the taffy in the kettle, and it’ll cook with our base.
When we take meetings, a lot of people like to come and see the factory and see how the process goes, which is always a fun time for us.
What [playing] the Philly Phanatic taught me was that fun wasn’t only fooling around; fun wasn’t just a vacation. Fun is really a tool that you can use each and every day to make yourself happier, healthier, and more productive.
The challenges for working from home are mostly around trying to keep on task. For instance, I’ll look around the house while working, and see some home improvement that needs to get done. I have to fight the urge to stop making a video and go do that task.
I’ve been writing two books a year, so my process is very intense. I have to write a lot every day, and my focus needs to be absolute. Sometimes, when things are going well, I’ll forget to get up, walk around, take breaks, eat, but I honestly prefer not to work like that. One day, they’re just going to find a shadow of me in my chair.
Despite being a very upbeat person, I find that I tend to need to lean into a certain amount of struggle or even pain when I’m preparing a role or an audition. For example, for the role of Stingray on We’re Alive: Frontier—which is really a live action improv where the suggestions are from the game master and dice instead of the audience—I found myself almost needing to make things harder than I knew they were, to be able to access the part of me that fights for what she wants. I had to invest in the struggle and the pain of what was happening more than just playing the “game,” and my fellow cast mates invest so much, it’s a great environment to go deep in.
For more, check out the How I Work archives. Lifehacker publishes a new How I Work interview every Wednesday.