Every week, we share the shortcuts, workspaces, and productivity tips of our favourite experts. This week, we’re going behind the scenes at Lifehacker. I’m Alicia Adamczyk, and this is how I work.
Location: New York City
Current Gig: Staff writer, Lifehacker
Current mobile device: iPhone 7
Current computer: Macbook Air
One word that best describes how you work: Evolving
First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
As a young Michigander with too much time on her hands, I declared myself the neighbourhood reporter and walked around with a notebook, interviewing my friends after roller hockey games. I never actually wrote any articles, but I did take those reporting skills with me to the college paper at the University of Michigan, where my writing was, in fact, published and occasionally read by people other than my parents.
Reporting and writing was always the dream, and I never really had a backup (for any aspiring writers: I recommend having a backup). I landed an internship at Forbes during my senior year, so I moved to NYC after graduation and have been here since.
Take us through a recent workday.
My work days are pretty standard: I usually get into the office around 8:30 AM and read emails, go through Feedly and scan Reddit and other sites I’ve bookmarked for story ideas. I have a long list of evergreens I might pull from, or tackle the news of the day, depending.
Being in the office with no one else around helps me focus, structure my day and get my to-do lists in order. I also never skip breakfast: usually a bagel with cream cheese and tomato, though I occasionally eat something healthy.
I like to schedule any interviews I have in the morning if I can help it, and then I’ll write my morning story. I’m very much of the mind that you should knock out your “hardest” and/or most tedious tasks first, so I try to do all of that first thing, and around noon or 1 PM I’ll break for lunch and a walk.
After that, I’ll write my afternoon story and prep longer-term/reported stories for future days. I usually leave around 6 PM, or a bit earlier if I have a workout class.
What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you live without?
There are so many! My number one is a journal. Nothing beats handwriting your notes and thoughts in the moment. I carry it everywhere.
That said, I use Microsoft OneNote to keep track of pretty much everything electronically (it’s also where I house my to-do lists, shopping lists, etc. So many lists). The program itself can be a bit slow but I like it more than any comparable service I’ve tried.
AirPods are my newest favourite toy — they’re a bit scifi-y but they’re much more suitable for commuting and running than my older earphones, and I have a pair of decent over-ear, noise-cancelling headphones when I want to tune everyone out. I listen to my own pre-made playlists on Spotify Premium (which is worth every penny) and I use the Overcast app for podcasts.
The final “gadget” I need is a water bottle. I drink a bottle of water while I’m getting ready for work, a few throughout the day, and more when I get home. Gotta stay hydrated!
What’s your workspace setup like?
In our office I have a pretty basic setup at the communal desk: laptop, books, water bottle, small plant. I got rid of my standing desk because I never used it and it took up too much of the small amount of space that I had. I also need to switch my seat up once or twice a day to focus, so I’ll move to one of the privacy rooms or the phone booths we have, or a coffee shop.
For that reason, I prefer interviewing people from my tiny NYC studio rather than in the office, though that can’t always be helped. If I’m working from home I like to spread out, which means working on the ground on my yoga mat or walking up and down the hallway. Occasionally I’ll work from my couch or bed, with an old laptop playing HGTV for some background noise.
What’s your best shortcut or life hack?
Automate as much as you can so you can spend time on and enjoy the things that you really care about.
A second: Put your phone in aeroplane mode. At work, at home, at yoga — just do it. If you have nothing pressing to worry about (or kids, I would imagine), give yourself a break!
Take us through an interesting, unusual, or finicky process you have in place at work.
Nothing too finicky or unusual, except that if everything isn’t organised — for example, emails read, Feedly lists combed through, two stories for the day selected — my thoughts will jump to everything else I need to do instead of engaging with a single task. So I like to get all of that addressed first thing in the morning.
Who are the people who help you get things done, and how do you rely on them?
My friends and family continually inspire and encourage me, I feel very lucky for all of them. More generally, our readers, because they’re who we’re all doing this for, and my coworkers, who are so kind, smart and creative.
How do you keep track of what you have to do?
I use Microsoft OneNote for pretty much everything, and a reporter’s notepad specifically for daily work tasks, reminders and meeting notes. We use Trello to track all of our stories, so I rely on that quite a bit, and I have a Google doc of stories and general topics I’d like to address at some point, as well as potential sources. I’m also big on Post-its for reminders.
How do you recharge or take a break?
As I mentioned, I take walks fairly regularly. Even if it’s just a circle around the office, it helps me get out of one mindset (or attitude, as Caroline Bingley would say) and ready for something else. I’ll also call my dad or scroll through Instagram or Tumblr, to get some types of stimuli outside of Twitter and the news.
Outside of work, running, spin class, cooking, watching 30 Rock or taking an afternoon/day to myself to do nothing helps me recharge.
What’s your favourite side project?
Currently, it’s my money newsletter, though I’m working on a new writing project (not money related) that I’m excited about!
What are you currently reading, or what do you recommend?
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Karen and Georgia from the My Favourite Murder podcast! They have so many projects going on at one time. And Ann Friedman, who seems to have the freelance life figured out.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
It’s not necessarily “advice” in the traditional sense, but, “You’re doing OK.” It’s good to remind yourself sometimes that you’re doing just fine, that you’re where you need to be, and that the best things take time.
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
There are so many. In terms of being a personal finance writer, it’s making money topics approachable and interesting to as wide a range of people as possible while still providing solid advice, especially to those who need it most. I doubt I’ll ever crack it completely, but I’m trying.