Productivity

How We Work, 2014: Melanie Pinola's Gear and Productivity Tricks

, Gawker Media

How We Work, 2014: Melanie Pinola's Gear and Productivity Tricks

Every day we scour the web to find the tips and tools that might help readers work and live better. Today I'm sharing my favorite ones, which I use every day.

Many of these are the same as last year, but I'm constantly tweaking how I work and always on the lookout for new tricks and tools (obviously, since that's part of my job). I go into more detail in some ways in the previous post, so if you feel I'm too brief here, you can always check that one out for more.

Location: New York, NY
Current Gig: Writer for hire
One word that best describes how you work: Focused. (Also, fluidly.)
Current mobile device: Smartphone: Nexus 5. Tablets: Nexus 7 and iPad. My gadget-geekery had been fading over the last few years, but the Nexus 5 turned that around much more than I expected. It's just so...buttery to use, if you know what I mean.
Current computer: ThinkPad Helix laptop and iMac. Yes, I'm using Windows 8...on a touchscreen laptop...with an expensive active digitizer ("penabled") display. To tell you the truth, though, I dig it.

What apps/software/tools can't you live without? Why?

Of the essentials, only a few things have changed. Feedly has replaced Google Reader, I'm now using Pocket with Evernote for a clipping-and-saving solution, and I brainstorm in OneNote. I also use Trello for project planning, such as mapping out the posts I'm going to write for the week. That's a lot of similar apps, I know, but they all have their purpose.

My workflow is like this:

  • Clip everything to Pocket (for Feedly, I use an IFTTT recipe to send saved articles to Pocket; from mobile Chrome/other apps just use the Share button). So Pocket is essentially my work articles dumping ground.
  • Brainstorm larger (original) article ideas as new notes in OneNote (organized in sections depending on type of article and publication).
  • At the start of the week, review the above and schedule individual posts on a Trello board, which has lists for each day and next week. I like that it's easy to move posts around, label them, and add reminders.
  • Write the thing and archive it in Pocket/OneNote.
  • Finally, send articles I want to keep for future reference to Evernote with another IFTTT recipe, which saves starred Pocket articles to Evernote. (Josh Surber offers a similar, perhaps better approach: set up tags in Pocket that match Evernote notebooks and use individual recipes to forward them there accordingly.)

It sounds like a lot, but through the magic of IFTTT most of it flows quite nicely.

What's your workspace setup like?

I'm still using a hacked-together standing desk, but I've added a laptop dock (because of the new laptop), switched up my inspiration board above the monitors, and (bravely) added more plants. I like to surround myself with things that inspire me (books!), but at the same time visual clutter irks me. Having the corkboard and most other objects out of line of sight while I'm working-but just a glance away-is a great compromise for me. This is what it looks like (the rest of the room is literally overflowing with books):

What's your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?

Only use profanity when you really mean it. I hardly ever curse, but when I do, people know I'm quite serious and they're very close to being put on my "evil" list. (Just kidding, sort of.)

More seriously, work your best hours (as I've said before) and automate all the things.

What's your favorite to-do list manager?

Besides Trello, Google Calendar, and the rest of the system above, I use regular old pen and paper...but very nice paper. These Word notebooks we've mentioned before, in fact, combined with the Bullet Journal system.

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

Last time I talked about my trusty electric kettle for hot tea and such, so now I need to pay homage to my latest beverage gadget, the Bonavita Coffee Maker. Cook's Illustrated named it their best value automatic coffeemaker choice, and after this Lifehacker thread, I miraculously got it for Christmas. It's so pleasant to use and makes a great cup of joe. So worth it.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What's your secret?

Does being inspired count? Every day, little things-the way the sunlight hits my desk sometimes or the way my daughter curls her toes in her sleep or a certain turn of phrase in one of my fellow writers' posts-fill me with awe. (Not that I would win the Nobel Prize or MTV Award for Most Inspired or anything, but when I am dead and long gone, I'd like to be remembered as someone who savored everyday things and shared that joy with others.)

What do you listen to while you work?

Silence, please. I've tried apps like Jazz and Rain and Coffitivity, but as much as I like jazz, rain, and coffee shops, I need (crave) quiet when I'm trying to think.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished The Dude and the Zen Master, a conversation between Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman. As you might expect, there are both Zen and rambling "The Dude" Big Lebowski moments in that book. I'm almost finished with Josh Kaufman's The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything Fast and am forever working on the epic biography of NYC's political giant Robert Moses, The Power Broker. On my "to read next" bookshelf, some holiday gifts: Fabricated, the New World of 3D Printing and Jeff Buckley's Grace, a 33 1/3 book. (I'm going to 3D-print a Zen tribute to musician Jeff Buckley in 20 hours.)

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

Introvert. Also-similar but not to be confused with introversion-a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). (It explains why I prefer silence, why I'm like a cat playing with a ball of yarn most of the time, and much of the other things I'm confessing here.)

What's your sleep routine like?

I have a love/hate relationship with sleep. I love it more than many other activities, but I'm a night owl and also a light sleeper. This means I don't sleep when I should (given a fixed 6:30-7am wakeup time) and I don't sleep well even if I do get to be in bed for that 7.5-8 hours of recommended sleep. Sleep is still very much a work in progress for me.

Mornings are blissful, though, if difficult. In the mornings, my 8 year old daughter wraps her arms around me to snuggle "just five more minutes." So even though snoozing is not a great idea, I allow us those delayed mornings and try to meditate during them.

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

Warren Buffett, the most successful investor of the 20th century. Not just because he's a money-making genius, he also seems a decent fellow.

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

"Get some rest. If you haven't got your health, then you haven't got anything." ~ Count Rugen, The Princess Bride; and other quotes from that movie. Let's all just go watch The Princess Bride.

Is there anything else you'd like to add that might be interesting to readers/fans?

Talk to us! If you have ideas for articles you'd like to see, comments or questions, we're all ears. (That said, I'm sorry if I don't respond to emails.) Also, in the comments, if you can't say something nice, at least say something interesting. :)


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 tips@lifehacker.co.in

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