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Project: How I Work

Today I wanted to share a bit about how I work. I get asked quite frequently how I organize myself, and what some of my practices might be for managing a project, especially with so much going on. In the style of what we see a lot of writers post about authors on sites like Lifehacker.

Share a little about what you use in the comments!

 

Location: Tacoma, WA
Current Gig: Managing Member, Stewart & Son Computer Services, Author & Coach of Personal Retreat, and a couple other projects that are under wraps…
One word that best describes how you work: Efficiently
Current mobile device: iPhone 6
Current computer: HP Pavilion (among a total of 4 including a MacBook Pro)

First of all, tell me a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.

Technology has been a huge part of my life. I’ve been relentlessly learning about everything I can do with it in terms of making my life easier in such a way as I can share it with others.

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

#1 is Google Calendar. This has been a lifesaver in bringing efficiency and success in my goals. I desperately need to be efficient, as I have a number of projects and plans in my life. I simply don’t have the brainpower to schedule AND do it all.

#2 is my iPhone. This allows me to be completely mobile, I can even work on client computers from anywhere I can get a secure internet connection. I have had other phones and the reliability I have had with this phone is just unmatched. In fact, I caught myself taking the phone for granted recently. I ask a great deal of it; nearly as much as my PC and it comes so close to delivering, I sometimes forget it’s just a phone.

#3 is Evernote. Before this I used to use Google Drive to manage all the notes and plans that I have. From images, to PDF’s and plain text documents, I had everything there, and for the most part, available from all my devices. Evernote really raised the bar by putting it all in a database that I can more easily search, share, and work in. Being able to categorize and tag information for more easy ways of finding it has been a huge part of how I can manage so many different projects.

What’s your workspace setup like? Coffee shop with laptop and headphones? Home office with a standing desk?

After 24 years of doing technical support for people, and having to adapt to different work environments, I can be productive just about anywhere. I am known to be most productive at a busy coffee shop with my laptop, but I do miss my second monitor. At the shop office, I have three monitors to help manage all the different things I might be doing. A lot of tech work is starting something and waiting for it to finish, so I am usually doing at least 2-3 things at the same time; monitoring waiting processes and prioritizing the work for the client.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?

Unquestionably, it is how I use Google Calendar. I’ve managed to figure out ways I can create multiple calendars within the same app. They allow me to schedule tasks, meetings, and reminders while sharing the parts that are important with others in my life so we can coordinate. In fact, I have two primary calendars. One is for my business at Stewart & Son and the other is my personal Gmail account.

Running the business is the lion’s share of my daily tasks, and I keep them in the Stewart & Son account. I also have sub-calendars. One for my in and out of office meetings that I share with my team so we all know where each other is. I also have a Tasks calendar which only I can see. I use Calendly to share a link to my calendars so that other people can schedule a meeting with me without having to go back and forth trying to find a good time for a meeting.

The other account is tied to my personal Gmail account where I put personal and family events along with my project work.

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

I’m always looking for a great gadget and I don’t have much luck to be honest. My iPad is not a gadget but it is a very handy tool for some light computing work or some games.

On the other hand my employees have an Amazon Dot in the office which brings no end of enjoyment and we can all fight over what music it’s playing. It has actually spawned a new idea for a line of business setting up home automation systems.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?

I’m a bit of an information junkie and I can be frequently caught diving down some rabbit hole of knowledge trying to learn background about current events. Between that and looking up solutions for technical problems I have become amazingly adept at search engines. I can very quickly find relevant information on a particular topic and usually in great detail. So far, I think I’m the best I know at doing it.

What’s your sleep routine like?

Winding down is probably the hardest thing to do some days. I don’t typically suffer from issues sleeping because of long screen time. The device shuts off, and I can go right to sleep without too much trouble. I do enjoy video games and if my day was particularly stressful, playing an MMO like Guild Wars 2 is a nice way to unwind.

I’m usually asleep by 11 PM and up around 6 PM on weekdays and weekends I tend to have the same bedtime but sleep in a little bit later. I’m actually working on changing that so in another couple years, I hope to answer that I have the same schedule every day.

What do you listen to while you work?

I do really enjoy music and I try to listen to it as much as possible. I really like to sing and I do karaoke a couple times a month if I can. Most of my work is writing. Writing blog posts, emails, filling out help desk tickets, planning a project and more emails… I can’t quite sing and write at the same time, maybe it’s a brain thing, but it doesn’t work. So I usually listen to music without words if I’m writing. Chemical Brothers, Orb, Efterklang, The Prodigy, Daft Punk are all good options. I tend to skip the ones that have too much singing or I just zone out on the beat. I’ll also listen to Enya for something a little quieter. Most songs do have lyrics but I don’t really understand them so it’s not a big deal (besides I’d be hopeless if I tried to sing with Enya).

What are you currently reading? Or what’s a book you might recommend?

Right now I am reading the Once and Future King by T.H. White. I haven’t read it since I was very young so it is very nice to reminisce about it. I devoured a bunch of sales and marketing books over the last year. Two I would highly recommend are “To Sell is Human” by Daniel Pink, and “Booked” by Josh Turner.

How do you recharge?

Getting away from technology. Some fiction book, and a trip to the beach with family and phones turned off (except maybe to play music). My life is very noisy with people, technology and things, so the getaway, even if but a few hours, is amazing for me.

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

It took me about 12 years to really understand what this advice meant. Really more of a phrase to apply to different areas in life. I was an assistant manager of a computer rental store near Chicago and our Sales Exec was this amazing guy with a great mind and skills. He told me: “it’s not what you expect, but what you inspect”.

I don’t know why it took 12 years to sink in. I can be a bit dense at times but it became crystal clear when I started my own business. You can be the type that feels like nothing is done right unless you do it yourself (self-employed), or the micro-manager (you might as well do it yourself), or you can be the one that delegates the responsibility but also makes sure the job is done right. One has to inspect, and make corrections in the moment. You can come to expect things done your way later, but until you establish the routine, you have to keep inspecting.

 

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