How We Work, 2016: Patrick Allan's Gear and Productivity Tips
Every week, we share the shortcuts, workspaces, and productivity tips of our favorite experts. Today you'll go behind the scenes with me. I'm Patrick, and this is how I pretend to work.
Location: Los Angeles
Current Gig: Full-time writer, and part-time food and beverage consultant (for a small fee, I'll come eat all of your food and drink all of your drink)
One word that best describes how you work: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
Current mobile device: iPhone 5s (still haven't updated since the last time I did this)
Current computer: 2015 Dell XPS 13 with Windows 10 (no touchscreen)
What apps, software, or tools can't you live without?
What's your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
First, if I feel like I can do something at the time I think of it, I do it. It's nice to make to-do lists, but at a certain point you have to stop planning and just do it. If it's something I don't want to do, I tell myself to stop being a whiny little bitch and do it. And maybe make a promise to myself that if I get that work done, I can take a break to read Kotaku or pick a candy from the candy bowl.
Second, I make "tomorrow lists." You can't get everything done in one day. Well, you can, but you'd be miserable-and screw that. I write on a post-it note what I need to get done the next day so I can download it out of my brain and not think about it all night during my free time.
What's your favorite to-do list manager?
Post-it notes! All day erryday.
Also my handy Mead, 3 Subject, College Ruled, Spiral Notebook that always has a Pilot G2 attached. Always pen. Pencil is for math, sketching, and for those who have little confidence in what they write.
What's your workspace setup like?
Lately I've been trying to avoid cabin fever by walking to a nearby coffee shop and doing some work there. Yes, sometimes I'm one of those people. It simulates a commute, gets me some physical activity, and keeps me away from all of my wonderful distractions at home.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without and why?
Honestly, I could live just fine without most of my gadgets. However, I am quite fond of my iPad (even though it's pretty old now), my $9 IKEA French press, and my Fitbit Charge HR has actually helped me quite a bit with my exercise goals (at the very least it got me excited to run more). I stopped using my Kindle for books because I missed the way books felt in my hands. I find I actually read more when I can see the physical book sitting on my shelf or nightstand.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What's your secret?
Communicating and connecting with people. I know how to hold a conversation, make people feel heard, and express myself clearly. I know how to be polite and, dare I say, charismatic with just about anyone, even if I don't like them much. My secret? A little empathy and acceptance. Imagine what makes everyone tick, what they're feeling, and what a day is like in their shoes. Then immediately accept them as another person that's just trying to do their best and do what they believe is right. Ask them about themselves, make them an expert
What do you listen to while you work? Got a favorite playlist?
I would be lost without Spotify. Indie pop for driving/walking around. Hip hop or EDM while I'm running/working out. Classics and 80s pop while I'm doing chores/busy work. Folk and soft indie for relaxing times. Chill electronica (usually without words) while I'm writing, or good ol' fashioned silence. Here's my current work playlist:
I'm also a huge fan of working with ambient sounds. Noisli is my go-to for babbling brooks and thunderstorms
What are you currently reading?
I've been on a serial killer kick ever since I heard about Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio teaming up to tell the story about H.H. Holmes, so I'm currently reading The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, and Scott Bonn's Why We Love Serial Killers.
How do you recharge?
A long walk. I have a hard time sitting still so I practice walking meditation to clear my head
What's your sleep routine like?
I'm a night owl and practically force myself to sleep every night. By force I mean some combination of wearing myself out during the day with exercise, reading, listening to soothing ambient sounds (I like train sounds and frogs for some reason), and maybe even taking some melatonin.
I'm usually up by 7:00 a.m., but it takes an alarm clock that's set up across the room and a back-up alarm on my phone. Also coffee. I've gotten good at hopping out of bed, turning off my alarm, and crawling back under my covers with my eyes closed. I'm very interested in trying a sunrise alarm to see if that helps.
Fill in the blank: I'd love to see _________ answer these same questions.
Martin Scorsese, David Bowie, Vince Gilligan, Harrison Ford, Ray Bradbury, Chief Winnemucca, Mark Twain, and Marcus Aurelius.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
Stoic philosophy is my favorite source for advice and life lessons, especially Marcus Aurelius's Meditations. I particularly like anything that suggests life's hardships can be conquered with a little mind over matter. Here's a brief taste:
You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.
If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.
I think Meditations should be required reading in schools. If you haven't read it yet, go grab yourself a free copy.
Is there anything else you'd like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans?
I help produce and play in a Dungeons & Dragons based YouTube series called THRESHOLD. Check it out if you like tabletop RPGs. Also, a big thanks to anyone who has watched me and my friends pretend to be dwarves, elves, and the occasional bird-person.
The How I Work series asks heroes, experts, and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces, routines, and more. Have someone you want to see featured, or questions you think we should ask? Email Andy.