Inspired by Lifehacker’s productivity series, I decided to share some of my work practices.
Location: Wanaque, NJ
Current Gig: Software Developer at Audible.com
One word that best describes how you work: Methodically
Current mobile device: HTC One (M8)
Current computer: MacBook Pro
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Why?
My number one app is definitely Evernote. I use it for taking notes at work, managing todo lists, and planning projects. I even use it for storing travel trips, restaurants to try, and planning trips. I have tried many times to keep notes in notebooks, legal pads, and moleskine pads, but I just can’t keep them organized or ever find anything I need. I’ve found Evernote’s simple approach to notebooks, tagging, and most importantly, searching really help out.
I don’t have a great organizational set up and hardly use labels, but I did learn to start separating notes into different notebooks or I could never keep them straight. I now have several including:
- Inbox – saved webpages, lists, etc to be filed or processed
- Work – generic work notes like current project notes and upcoming projects
- Interviews – I conduct tons of interviews for Audible and without having a corpus of past questions and a good note taking system during these, I could never provide good feedback
- Past trips – Notes and saved articles from past trips
- Future Trips – Notes and articles, sometimes itineraries for upcoming, planned trips. My notes for our upcoming Singapore trip are extensive.
- Trip Ideas – Articles that strike my fancy on things that might become trips or things to do in the area or when friends visit
I’ve never got into the scanning of documents for Evernote, mostly because I don’t tend to work with much paper, but I could see this being very useful. I also used this to help catalog my wife’s recipe collection. I also really like the ability to take pictures directly from the app which I use for work whiteboard sessions sometimes and for dumb things like pictures of where we parked at the airport.
Second is Wunderlist. While the UI is sometimes a bit heavy for quickly adding or crossing off an item, I like the features like search and labels. I use a system of both long term and short term lists, moving items from the long to short as it decreases. I also use it for keeping track of movie, music, and tv show recommendations.
Last would be Google Drive. While I think they would fairly easily kill Evernote for me, the lack of an easy editor has kept me from fully embracing it. I do however love using it for storing documents and files. The collaboration part is great as it lets me share docs and worksheets with others, like the list of races some friends and I are planning on running.
What’s your workspace setup like?
What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?
I’d remiss not to mention audiobooks. I also started listening at 3x which sounds daunting, but is very easy to adjust to. I can now get through a 600 page book that it would take me months reading a few pages at night to get through in a few days. It also has allowed me to start listening to things I wouldn’t have otherwise, like productivity and other non-fiction books.
What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
I prefer the combination of Evernote and Wunderlist I have. Wunderlist is great for true todo lists, while Evernote helps me focus on accomplishing tasks.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?
I absolutely could not live without my Kindle. I read every night, and the Paperwhite is phenomenal for me to be able to read without disturbing my wife. I also really think I read faster on it than on paper and can’t stand LCD screens for reading. The syncing with apps is great for when I want to read something on my phone while in line somewhere and syncing with my Audible audiobooks is amazing.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?
I think I’m pretty good at breaking down problems, getting to the true heart of it, identifying a fix, and getting it done fast. Sometimes this is very tactical, but at a place that moves as fast as Audible, sometimes the fastest solution is the best. I do also think this method of breaking down tasks helps with larger strategic projects as well as small consumable pieces can then be worked on and completed easily.
What do you listen to while you work?
I typically listen to Google Music and use the I’m feeling lucky radio station which is based on my listening habits. During my runs, I select a set of music I want to try out, and then based on this, I discover some new things typically from the random radio stations on Google Music. Sometime though this backfires as the classical music I listen to before going to bed, hey my dog loves it, can result in some random harpsichord music in the middle of a coding session.
Sometimes I try some music that has been suggested as helping productivity, but I think I work just as fast either way. Most of the time these days though, I forget to start listening again after a meeting or conversation.
What are you currently reading?
The Genghis Khan trilogy by Conn Iggulden which is a very interesting novelistic telling of a part of history I wouldn’t normally be interested in.
I just finished re-reading Les Miserables which I somehow convinced myself would be worth a read.
I’m also reading Lawrence in Arabia which is fascinating. I love WW2 history and WW1 doesn’t typically get much attention in the literary world, especially the part in the Middle East. The parts that tie the modern day ramifications are awesome.
My favorite recent books are Goldfinch and The Golem and the Jinni which were both great.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
I think I’m naturally more of an introvert, but have really trained myself to be more of an extrovert, especially at work. I do genuinely like talking to people, but do prefer to work in smaller groups. This carries over into personal life too where I have a smaller group of good friends.
What’s your sleep routine like?
I typically wind up heading up to bed around 10, but like to read until my eyes hurt or I can’t keep them open any longer, usually by 11. I put on classical music every night and swear our dog loves it and this helps get me relaxed. It also has a pavlovian effect on me now where Debussy makes me comatose.
I try to have a similarly routine wake up as well, but am not a good early riser. I tend to wake up between 6:30 and 7:30, after about 20 snooze button hits, and get ready quickly and in a rush as a result. I was doing well for a while where I would get up at 6, get to work early, run at the gym, and still be in early, but keeping this up has been hard.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.
My wife, my manager, and my team members
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
You’re smarter and dumber than you think. Everyone, especially at Audible, is an expert in something, and a novice in something else. I’ve found this to be very true across the technology industry. There are too many things to know about, but having a team that has good knowledge of many disparate areas can help bridge these things. Surround yourself with other people, share what you know, and don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers/fans?
Find hobbies you are passionate about and nerd out on them. I decided to get into running recently and have already read two books on ultra running. I figure it’s good to set high bars. I also started homebrewing and the amount to learn there is immense but I relish the challenge and seeing tangible results as I get better.