This is How I Work

I’m a huge fan of the Lifehacker series “How I Work.” They interview everyone from photographers to entrepreneurs to chefs and beyond looking at their workspace, favorite apps, etc.

It’s highly unlikely that they ever come to me asking for an interview so I thought I would borrow their format and complete my own “How I Work” interview. Here it goes!

I would love to read yours. If you write your own, can you drop a comment here on this post so I can read it? Or, tweet at me (@jeremeyd).

Location: Arvada, Colorado (Just outside of Denver)
Current Gig: Happiness Engineer and Team Lead at Automattic (Makers of WordPress.com and much much more)
One word that best describes how you work: Methodical
Current mobile device: iPhone 6
Current computer: A late 2015 iMac (27″, Retina 5k) at home and an early 2015 MacBook Pro Retina on the road

What apps, software, or tools can’t you live without?

Like anyone else, I’m pretty attached to my phone despite my best efforts. I’ll try to come up with something unique here. Here are four answers. Something for everyone!

  • Spectacle App—I use this app probably thirty times a day or so to resize windows with my keyboard.
  • Moleskin—Since reading Deep Work, I’ve grown very fond of writing down my schedule in a physical notebook each day. I use this exact one if we’re talking specifics.
  • Overcast (app for podcasts) and Audible (for audiobooks)—Like all of the other health addicts, I try to get my fair share of walking in on a daily basis although I frequently fall short of 10,000 steps. I’m always listening to something while I’m walking. It’s one of my favorite lifehacks.
  • Pomodoro One—A cool little app for Mac that runs me through Pomodoro cycles every day. I use it on days when I don’t have a ton of meetings. Right now, that’s Wed, Fri, and Sat.

What’s your workspace setup like?

Like the rest of Automattic, I work from home. My main setup is in a little open office space of our house. It doesn’t have a door or much privacy so it can get loud if we have a few people in the house. With a set of headphones on though, I can work undistracted pretty much all day.

I work at a standup desk that I had made from someone on Etsy. They shipped me the legs, which are fashioned from old pipes, and I put the wood top on. The top is actually a wooden kitchen countertop I picked up at Ikea. When I got the standing desk, my thinking was that I would stand for 8 hours a day. To deter myself from sitting, I bought a pretty uncomfortable stool. I regret that decision.

I use two monitors—my iMac as my main display and a Thunderbolt monitor sitting on a HiRise for additional items. I’ve grown accustomed to a specific window layout (I use specific Mac desktops religiously). Despite my best efforts, I haven’t been able to get rid of our printer.

I have a huge built-in bookshelf next to my desk that I absolutely love. One major goal I have in life is to fill it with physical books.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack? Do you automate something that used to be a time sink? Do you relegate email to an hour a day?

Specifically regarding email, I ruthlessly unsubscribe from email. I also only check it first thing in the morning. For sending email, I try to limit the back and forth as much as possible by answering any potential questions (Where will we meet? What time? etc) ahead of time. I wish I could force everyone I interact with over email to read this post.

That’s not my real answer though—just my soapbox about email.

My best life hack is that my tasks, projects, and to-dos are all insanely organized. I put everything into my to-do list manager (see below) and/or calendar. I’m pretty religious about it.

I also have an evening shutdown ritual that works really well and helps me prepare for the next day. I wrote about this here. I think far too many people approach the day as “Let’s see how things shake out.” That drives me nuts. I’m a planner to a fault.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

I really love Todoist for many reasons. I really enjoy that it allows me to use natural language when adding a new item. For example:

Checkin with team about meeting agenda #Automattic p2

Would create a new todo of “Checkin with team about meeting agenda,” assign it to the Automattic project, and give it a priority of 2.

Todoist also has a pretty great interface that allows things like dragging and dropping, nesting items, etc.

I use projects to break out separate areas of work. For example, right now I have projects for Automattic, Personal, Drink for Pink, JavaScript, Personal Blog, and a few more. I use labels to designate the type of task (Writing, Reporting, Communication, etc).

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?

I don’t have a great answer here. I would say books, but that’s not really a gadget. I’m one of those weirdos that still reads physical books. I lug 2-3 with me on any  trip.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?

I would say prioritizing tasks and getting stuff done.

What do you listen to while you work? Got a favorite playlist? Maybe talk radio? Or do you prefer silence?

I do listen to radio but mostly as background noise. I generally listen to one of a few Spotify playlists: Acoustic Covers, Deep Focus, or Evening Chill. They’re all playlists created by Spotify. I’m really bad about creating my own playlists and organizing music. I wish I was better.

What are you currently reading? A novel, comic book, website, magazine?

I’m currently reading The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker. I’m currently listening to The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly.

I should really get into more fiction/light reading.

How do you recharge?

I love venturing out into the mountains for a great hike or weekend of camping. Being in nature is the ticket for me.

What’s your sleep routine like? Are you a night owl or early-riser?

I’m an early-riser, but I also need between 7-8 hours of sleep. This means I’m generally in bed by 9:30PM and dead asleep by 10PM (even on the weekends). It’s early; I know. I generally wake up between 5:45AM and 6AM.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.

Great question. Two come to mind—Sheryl Sandberg and Jason Fried.

I’d also love it if everyone that read this post wrote their own!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Doesn’t have to be work or productivity-related.

It’s pretty trendy to quote Marcus Aurelius these days, but this quote that I read in Ego is the Enemy really struck a chord:

Ambition means tying your wellbeing to what other people say or do. Sanity means tying it to your own actions.

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