Location: My office in The Center for Centers (located in Lincoln Park).
Current Gig: Senior Research Methodologist
One word that best describes how you work: Anywhere and Everywhere.
Current mobile device: iPhone 5c (yellow)
Current computer: I have recently joined the Mac bandwagon- so my personal machine is a MacBook Pro. My office machine is a non-descript Dell “Optiplex” tower.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Stata is the one statistical package to rule them all. If I can’t do it in Stata, it doesn’t need to be done. I discovered Boxer for email last year. I tried going back to regular email- turns out, it’s really overwhelming with how much junk mail I receive- and I always feel like I am missing an important email because I scrolled past it amidst the 204994095843 emails I get a day. Boxer automates a lot of the email- Amazon confirmations, social media notifications, etc. Its worth every penny.
I like Evernote for note taking, project planning, drafting emails, and such because I can access it with all of my devices- so I am never slowed down by the fact that I don’t I have X notebook with me, or having to switch between personal and work accounts (*glares at Microsoft One Note for being unreasonable). I am starting to play with the Evernote Smart Notebook (which allows for digital integration of handwritten notes), but the jury is still out on that.
What’s your workspace setup like? I have an office with a window in 990 W. Fullerton, which is quite lovely this time of year, when the sun is setting. During the winter, it’s nice to sit in a sun beam around 4pm, as my day is winding down. Aside from that, I have a two monitor setup on top of a Varidesk, which allows me to either stand (for unimportant tasks like email) or sit (for tasks requiring concentration). It is criminal that there are offices in 2015 that aren’t equipped with desks that allow workers to stand. In fact, I think we are going to look back offices without standing desk options in 2015 the way we look at all the office drinking and smoking that happens in Mad Men.
What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack? Do you automate something that used to be a time sink? Do you relegate email to an hour a day? I use a planner to plan out my weeks. I try to coral meetings on the same days of the week, just because when I lose focus on a task, it usually ends with me on Buzzfeed or Gawker reading an article about the 10 worst characters on Game of Thrones or The Craziest Moments from Last Night’s Walking Dead.
I try to do “batch work” as much as possible- to minimize switching from task to task, where frankly, I have the greatest likelihood of getting distracted. This started with weekly meal preps on the weekends, where I cook a bunch of food and pack for lunch. I also use it for digitizing hard copies of things, setting to-dos and reminders, etc. My week goes a lot better if I sit down on Monday and review my calendar. I try to take 10-15 minutes to review my email and get requests for meetings into the appropriate time slots, so I know what is happening when.
Also, I have taken a cold hard look at some of my activities and ruthlessly cut to the quick any that require more time than they are worth. Since I am a grownup with a real job and a kid, I don’t have that kind of time anymore, so back in 2013 I started CrossFitting (at Bucktown CrossFit). It’s super convenient, less than a mile from the Lincoln Park campus. I can jog, or bike there, do my workout and can be back at the office in 1.5 hours. Sometimes it’s an ass-kicking, but most days it is the exact thing I need to break up the day.
Also, I multi-task as much as possible. I know that all the efficiency experts say that no one multitasks well, but I think that is b.s. I will call my mom or listen to an audiobook while I am in the car on the way home. Or I will “watch” an episode of a tv show I am following on an ipad while I do dishes or fold laundry.
What’s your favorite to-do list manager? My planner. See below.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why? I have tried almost every digital/app-based planner there is. After graduating, I spent a long time trying to figure out my planner system (it was a running joke in the SSRC), because in addition to hard and fast dates and times when things need to happen (like appointments), I need a place to do project planning. So, I spent a long time experimenting with Moleskine planners, disc planners, digital planners, Day/Time Runners, monthly, weekly, biweekly, daily planners, systems like GTD and bullet journals. Last year, I finally developed a system.
It requires a little time to set up, but it allows me to have all the things that I am dealing with in a week- from meetings, appointments, when I need to send bills, etc. Since I use a softcover moleskin book, I can tuck stamps, envelopes, parking tickets or bills into the extra pocket- and because I never lose my planner, I always have these things on me, if I need them. Anyone could take this system and modify for their own situation- because if we are all honest here, we often have things that come up in different realms of our lives.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret? I am not a smart woman, but I know what hard work is (say this in your best Forrest Gump accent). I am good at out working problems. I think that getting a PhD is a practice in this… figuring out how to tackle a problem and having a contingency list. If solution A isn’t working, I am not afraid to move onto solution B, C or X, if I have to. And worst case scenario, if I have to, I will resort to doing things “the hard way”. True story: I spent the summer of 2005 manually matching death certificate records for infants born in Florida in 1980 to their birth records, because it was the only way it could be done.
What do you listen to while you work? Depends on the kind of work I am doing. I recently discovered Pandora’s 1990s and 2000s Rap and Hip Hop stations, which are are are on point. They are perfect when I am doing tasks that don’t require a lot of concentration, like answering email or tasking out events. Silence is deafening to me- so I always have some noise in the background. So, on tasks the require concentration, I will turn to a solid list of classical musical pieces such as Goldberg’s variations, Barber’s Adagio for Strings, and Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1.
What do you do to stay inspired? Who are some of your favorite artists? Last year, I joined an accountability group that meets every other week. In those meetings, we set goals for the next two weeks and update the group on progress from the last week. Every other week, it’s a shot in the arm- motivating me to get to work and encouraging me to be like the cool kids who are kicking ass on the regular. Also, if I am not up against a deadline, I find that TedTalks are fantastic during lunch in my office or riding the train. The breadth of topics on which there are talks is astounding- and I can always find something that is applicable to my research.
What sort of work are you up to now? We have a couple of research projects that I am trying to breathe life into. We are wrapping up data collection for our “Seasons of Violence” project with MSW faculty member Noam Ostrander. In it, we are analyzing weather patterns and violent crime in 100 US cities. Two other graduate students have begun preliminary analysis using longitudinal educational data. We’re looking for patterns in socioeconomic and educational outcomes among various groups of African-American high school students.
What are you currently reading? Like most people, I usually have several books I am reading at once. I am about half-way through J. Scott Long’s “The Workflow of Data Analysis Using Stata”, which is cool, because 10 years on, I am still learning new tricks with Stata. Since Qualitative guru Jessica Speer left the SSRC for greener passages, I have been forced to pick up some of the slack on requests for qualitative consults. So, I started “Qualitative Data Analysis: Practical Strategies” by Pat Bazeley. It’s not reading, but I am 29 hours into the audio book version of George RR Martin’s “Song of Fire and Ice” by George RR Martin.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? Maybe both? Definitely an introvert.
What’s your sleep routine like? Not great… I am tired all the time. It’s rare if I can get in bed before 11. Because I have a kid that starts school at 730, I am usually up at 515-530, in order to get my act together before trying to get him out the door. I try to catch up on the weekends, but it’s hard when you are trying to surf to the end of the internet. I have gotten close a couple of times… but no dice.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions. Why? Fernando DeMaio- because he’s super productive. He published a book last year and is starting the Center for Community Health Equity this year.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Time is the most valuable commodity we have. Every person on this planet only has 24 hours in a day. When it’s all said and done, we should all try to do more of the things we like doing and fewer of the things we dislike doing. As such, I can be ruthless when it comes to my time being wasted: I suffer no fools in this regard.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans? Growing up, we had a phrase in my family, “Do it or don’t bother me with it”, which I think adequately sums up my approach to life. “Gonna do _______” doesn’t mean anything to me. Therefore, I try not to commit to things I have no intention to follow through on.
The How I Work series featured on the re/search blog is shamelessly stolen from Life Hacker’s How I Work series. The SSRC’s version asks DePaul’s heroes, experts, and individuals of note to share their shortcuts, workspaces, routines, and more. Have someone you want to see featured, or questions you think we should ask? Email your suggestion to Jessi Bishop-Royse at jbishopr [at] depaul dot edu.