Share your shortcuts, workspaces, routines, and more.

I love learning new workflows and strategies for accomplishing my goals throughout the day. Adapted from the Lifehacker column of the same name, I hope this can be a place for us to share how we work so we may learn from one another.

messy desk

Basic Info

Current mobile device(s): iPad Pro 10.5-inch, iPhone SE, Kindle Paperwhite
Current computer: MacBook Pro 15-inch, 2018, MacOS Mojave
One word that best describes your work: prioritized

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

I became really interested in instructional design when I was a graduate student. After finishing my degrees (in music theory) and teaching music in higher ed, I realized I really wanted to pursue instructional design and here I am!

Take us through a recent workday.

After arriving at work, I have a brief routine for filling up water bottles, making tea, logging into my laptop, and setting up my desk to my current preference (sitting or standing). Then I make time to do a full “process” of my inboxes (email, Slack, written items in my notebook, paper items). For each item, I decide what needs to happen with that item: delete it, delegate it, do it now (if it will take 2 minutes or less), add to my to-do list for today, schedule it for another day, or file it for reference later. (This process is adapted from Leo Babauta’s Zen to Done book. By the end of my process time, I have gone through my inboxes and identified the highest priority items for my day, as well as what item I am starting first.

From 9am–12pm most days I work on projects in priority order. I try to reserve the morning for getting the highest priority item finished before lunch. I usually take an hour break for lunch that includes eating, playing games, and maybe getting to read a chapter of my current manga. These activities help ensure that I actually take a break and recharge for the second half of my day. After lunch, I’ll resume working on projects or process my inboxes again. Before I leave for the day, I will do a final process if I have unfinished projects or crowded inboxes. Of course, many days I have scheduled meetings throughout the day, but I rarely have a regular schedule for these. As I choose what projects or tasks to work on, I always consider how much time I currently have before a scheduled event.

What apps, gadgets, or tools can you not live without?

1Password 7: I don’t know any of my passwords and use this to make sure I generate crazy ones that I always have access to.
aText: I use text expansion for everything—html snippets, sending emails to specific Asana tasks, form-fillable email templates, words with accent markings, and long words/names I don’t like typing. (Csikszentmihalyi, for example.)
Bartender 3: I like keeping a tidy desktop and this app keeps all those pesky menu bar items stashed away until I need them.
Bear: A notes app with Markdown support (that will export to html). I wrote this blog post in Bear.
Todoist: A to-do app made with the GTD philosophy in mind. I love the weekly view and the suggested date features.

What’s your workspace setup?

meghan's desk

I try to keep my work area as clutter free as possible. Aside from some few decorative items, I prefer to keep my surfaces clean and tidy when I am working and put items away before I leave.

What’s your best shortcut or life hack?

I try to cut down on the amount of time I spend on reading and returning to emails. Since many of my emails have to do with various course projects in Asana, I have setup an email forwarding system so I can quickly read an email and send it to the appropriate project. When I create an Asana project for a course, part of that setup is adding the project’s email address to an aText snippet.

How-to: next to the Title and star at the top of an Asana project, click the ellipsis button, select “Add tasks via” and “email”. Copy the email address and paste it into a new snippet in aText. Create a shortcut for the snippet—I stick to @id101 for the format so it is easy to remember and type.

If I receive an email that requires follow-up or reference later, after reading the email for the first time, I send it to its Asana project and archive the email so it is no longer in my inbox. (I am pro-inbox zero.) Then I have access to the message in Asana when I need it.

Who are the people who help you get things done, and how do you rely on them?

My instructors help me get things done with their courses, which requires collaborating and establishing a workflow for how we work together. Every person is different, so I try to be flexible and responsive, and ready to change if needed. Everyone on the instructional design team helps me get things done by answering all my questions and always providing me with new things to learn. I also rely on my fellow game players for the necessary release I need to keep up a focused workflow during the day. Lastly, I rely on my husband for helping me generate and work through ideas, as well as making delicious food for my packed lunches!

How do you keep track of what you have to do?

I use Asana at work, with private task lists for my general to-dos. I use Todoist for all non-work related items. In general, I do prefer Todoist, but I value keeping the work items separate so when I go home, I do not have work items cluttering my to-do list (and brain space).

How do you recharge or take a break?

Board games, of course! Lunchtime gaming during the day, gaming on weeknights and weekends also. (I also play video games.) I love the challenge of learning new things and thinking strategically. My favorite board game is Vinhos, designed by Vital Lacerda. I also have a long list of things I want to read for fun.

What are you currently reading?

Yona of the Dawn (Akatsuki no Yona) by Mizuho Kusanagi and An Urgency of Teachers: The World of Critical Digital Pedagogy by Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?

I would love to see all of the instructional designer’s answers! I can’t wait to pick up new tricks and ideas from everyone. (This answer can also be a space to nominate the next person to write the next “This is How I Work” post.)

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

You are allowed to change your mind—and often.

What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?

I’m still trying to figure out the best process for me for getting started with a new course, especially my Asana project template. When to do things, how detailed to be in the task list, the order of the task list, etc. It is definitely a work in progress and will change over time (see advice above).

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