How I Work

As a point of introduction, I thought I would use the questions from Lifehackers ‘How I Work‘ series. I think it provides an interesting look at the now only what I do but how I do it.

Location: Chicago, IL

Current gig: Collections Service Project Manager

Current mobile device: Nexus 5

Current computer: Lenovo ThinkPad x230

One word that best describes how you work: Methodically

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

I exist in the Google universe so Gmail, Calendar, Hangouts, and Drive are all essential. Evernote has become essential once I realized the value pf putting everything you can into it. It has become my own personal electronic brain. HabitRPG takes care of my to do list and recurring tasks and project planning is done in Trello. I use The Old Reader and Doggcatcher for RSS and podcasts. Twitter is my primary source of information and primary distraction, all rolled into one. I happily pay for the premium service of LastPass and Xmarks as they keep me from having to worry about what and where my passwords and bookmarks are. Despite using Google for most everything else in my life, I am a big fan of Firefox as my browser.

What’s your workspace like?

I have a large cubical with a table and room to meet with people.  I also have a massive whiteboard for planning. My space is in a high traffic area with lots of distracting noises, so I’m learning to adjust from my previous much more quite space.

My Desk         My whiteboard

What’s your best time-saving trick?

Knowing when to quit. It is beyond easy to fall into the sunk cost fallacy and spend good time and money chasing bad. Knowing when to quit and come up with a new plan or approach can save countless hours.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

The combination of HabitRPG and Trello works well (but integration between the two would be amazing). Planning done in Trello is translated to HabitRPG each day for my daily task list. I often also jot notes and to dos for specific projects on post-it notes as well as in a program so I can keep them in front of me and easily accessible.

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

Not a gadget really, but I have a Moleskine notebook with me everywhere I go. I’ve never found that typing notes on a computer works well for me. I spend a great deal of time in meetings and by handwriting notes I find that I remember better things that are said and actually pay better attention to what’s going on.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

Being on time. The thought of being late for something is such a cause of stress for me I learned early in life I needed to behave in a way that avoided that whenever possible. Good planning of my days and smart phone telling me where to be have made this easier but I think more than anything it’s personal drive.

What are you currently reading?

I usually have multiple things going on. Right now it’s Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle, In the Dust of this Planet by Eugene Thacker, and Managing Transitions by William Bridges.

What do you listen to while you work?

I get easily distracted so I can’t listen to anything with lyrics while I’m working. This usually means I’m not listening to anything. I have been experimenting with some different SomaFM stations or if I really need to tune out the world, the Spektrmodule podcast of ambient music Warren Ellis does.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

Like many librarians, I’m an introvert. While I don’t have any problems getting up to speak in front of groups or attending social gatherings, they will never be my favorite things to do.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I’m up pretty early (around 5 a.m.) so I’m also in bed pretty early (usually 10:00 p.m.). I try to hold true to this although I do tend to sleep till around 7 a.m. on the weekends. I often struggle with insomnia which unfortunately seems to get worse if I’m not getting enough sleep. Keeping that from happening is something I am always working at.

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

Pretty much every librarian everywhere. The jobs we do are so varied with so many approaches and unfortunately we often focus on the ‘what we are doing’ part and not the ‘how we do it” one.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Something that always stuck with me from one of my first jobs stocking shelves at a grocery store was my boss telling me to “Work smart, not hard.” It seems so basic but I’m constantly reminded of many ways we make our work and lives far more difficult than they need to be.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I find talking about how I do stuff to be just as interesting as the stuff I’m actually doing so please, let me know how you work.


10 thoughts on “How I Work

  1. I understand about the work/Windows connection. At my place we do get to use macs (which I do), but they aren’t really supported – you have to have a work around to get access to your network drives, etc.


  2. Howdy Michael. Recently ran across you on Twitter. Re: getting used to your new noisy environment, have you heard of Coffitivity? — a small native app that loops subtle background noise. Might be helpful. Cheers.

    ps – small typo in the intro, “at the now only”. Probably meant “at the not only”.


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