Every week, we share the shortcuts, workspaces, and productivity tips of our favorite experts. Today, we’ll get a rare glimpse of a wild Lifehacker writer. Approach carefully, offer me some treats, and you’ll see my favorite gear, tricks, and whatever else I use to get things done.
- Location: La La Land, Cal-i-forn-i-a
- Current Gig: Writer for Lifehacker and host of a nerdy podcast called “Let’s Roll,” where my friends and I talk about nerdy things for funsies.
- One word that best describes how you work: Boomshakalaka
- Current Mobile Device: iPhone 5s… but no idea what I’ll be upgrading to in the fall. Help?
- Current Computer: A Frankenstein’s monster of a rig that was haphazardly put together and revived over and over inside of a trashed Dell case. You can hardly call it a computer anymore… I also have a mobile desktop—not a laptop due to sheer size and ridiculously bad battery life—that’s an Asus G73jh.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Why?
I need at least one Windows machine at all times. Windows just gets me. Beyond that, The Google suite of awesomeness has me in its clutches: Google Docs (which I love so much), Drive, Google Maps, Calendar, YouTube. I really dig HabitRPG for tracking how awesome (or lame) I am, and I need Spotify in my life. I listen to music while I drive, when I walk, and while I work (sometimes).
In terms of tools, I always have a decent pocket knife handy wherever I go, and I use a SOG Powerlock multi-tool.
What’s your workspace setup like?
Up until this past Christmas I was working at a fold-out card table (I just moved to LA and getting a new desk was the final stage of operation move in). Now I have this sweet black desk from Techni Mobili with a roll out keyboard and space for a second monitor—as soon as I find one that I really want.
To the left of my desk, I have a Target brand bookshelf (I seriously love them) that I’m still trying to figure out what to store. I have other bookshelves throughout my apartment that hold most of my other books. It’s a good space to keep the things I’m currently working on.
What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?
Just start doing whatever it is you need to get done. Even if you promise yourself that you will only do it for a couple minutes. That initial push is the hardest thing for me to get over, and once I do, I become a productivity machine. If you want to save yourself time, suck it up, bite the bullet, and start. I’ve always had a Nike attitude toward things: Just do it.
What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
Post-it notes. I write everything that I need to do on Post-it notes so I can stick them anywhere I need to see them. I’ve even written myself notes to remind myself to drink water after a night of drinking. I stick one on the cabinet where I know I’ll be looking for snacks and I put one right on my pillow. No more hangover.
Beyond that I have my favorite notebook—Mead, 3 Subject, College Ruled, Spiral Notebook, 9.5 by 6, the perfect size—that I take with me everywhere (always with my favorite pen attached—Pilot G2). You’d be amazed how much more you want to write when you are using your favorite tools. Inside I write thoughts, ideas, notes, outlines, and I have an entire section simply called “The List.” It’s exactly what it sounds like: a massive list of all the things I need to do in all aspects of my life. I’ve always been a pen and paper kind of guy.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?
My iPad (4th generation). I use it to read articles on the web when I wake up in the morning. I look for stuff I can write about while I’m groggy and still waking up. I also do most—not all—of my comic book reading on my iPad. I also really enjoy my Kindle, though I want to upgrade it to a paperwhite model soon. I currently have an original Kindle Touch and it is yucky.
I also need either coffee or apple juice in the morning to get my brain moving at the speed I like. For coffee, I use a simple French press with freshly ground beans, usually Kenyan.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?
I’m a chameleon. I can fit in with any group or any type of work environment, and I’ve worked a wide variety of gigs. I like to consider myself a Jack of All Trades, and while many people frown on that type of approach (you have to specialize), it’s perfect for a life hacker, no? Besides, I’d rather be a multi-tool than a hammer. I know just enough about everything that I could do well almost anywhere.
What do you listen to while you work?
It usually depends on my mood. If I feel a little zoned out, I prefer silence. If I need to pump myself up, I listen to trance or my epic 80s playlist of radical awesomeness (simply titled “The Next Level”). If I’m in a neutral mood, I listen to one of my many hipster-indie playlists that sound oh so sweet. If my mind is going a million miles an hour and I need to wrangle it in, I use A Soft Murmur to make it sound like it’s raining or like I’m at the beach.
What are you currently reading?
I just started House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski and it is amazing so far (I can’t believe I hadn’t read it yet). Comic-wise, I’m reading Saga and Locke & Key. I’m also reading the Shadowrun 5th Edition Core Rulebook (for playing), Star Wars: Edge of the Empire rule book (I’m writing a custom campaign), and the Call of Cthulhu 6th Edition Rulebook over and over because RPGs are awesome.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
Introvert—until I’ve had time to get a good read of you. Once I know what makes you tick and what doesn’t, I can find common ground that will help both us get to know each other better. Over time I just become that goofy guy you know, Patrick.
Of course, if I’m in a situation where I know I just need to be social and outgoing, I can give the appearance of being an extrovert. It’s sort of like running the Patrick OS in Safe Mode (with Networking Enabled).
What’s your sleep routine like?
I value my sleep highly and I grab it whenever I’m able to. I am usually in bed by 11 or 12, either reading or watching Netflix. And by “watching” I mean falling asleep to a show I’ve watched a million times already. I try to be up by 7 every morning at the latest, unless I need to move my car (which gets me up a little earlier).
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _______ answer these same questions.
David Bowie, Colin Meloy, Stan Lee, Hunter Pence, Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, Ray Bradbury, and my Dad… You know what? I think I’ll ask him.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I like baseball, so I think baseball metaphors are great. So here’s one of the best lines of advice I’ve ever heard:
Hit the ball on the ground and good things will happen.
Not every swing of the bat has to be a home run for you to move forward. Make contact, hit a grounder, and you might find a hole—or someone else will mess up and you’ll be moving forward anyway. There’s no guarantee, but if you keep hitting the ball on the ground, eventually you’ll make progress.
The How I Work series asks heroes, experts, and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces, routines, and more. Every other Wednesday we’ll feature a new guest and the gadgets, apps, tips, and tricks that keep them going. Have someone you want to see featured, or questions you think we should ask? Email Andy.