Sandy’s finally slowing down a bit, and I hope all of my US readers are safe and dry, and ideally even enjoy working electricity!
It’s At Work day again here at The Friendly Anarchist. Today’s guest is Kamil Tusznio, an indie web and mobile software engineer, and I’m extremely happy to welcome him! By the very nature of his work, this interview is a little bit technical at the beginning, but don’t let that stop you: Kamil’s approach to work will be extremely interesting for anybody interested in bootstrapping a small (software) company.
In this At Work interview, Kamil talks about the importance of ergonomics, his daily planning sessions in the shower, and why he doesn’t do all of his work in just one big session. Plus, there’s a free productivity app inside, right at the end of this post!
Hi Kamil! Overall, what is the kind of work that you do? How many areas of focus do you have?
My workday tends to involve three types of work: design, development, and marketing.
I’m typically building a web or mobile app, so designing involves figuring out the UI (how the app will look and feel) and UX (how the user will interact with the interface). I usually start with a pen and draw the interface out on paper. If it’s my own project, I’ll go from a drawing to implementing the design in code. If it’s for a client who needs to sign off on the design, I’ll use Balsamiq Mockups to create a better-looking wireframe.
Marketing is the last piece of the puzzle and arguably the most important because better marketed products beat better engineered products just about every time. I typically only do marketing for my own stuff and it’s been tough. I’m pretty new to it all, and while it’s fun to learn, it’s definitely not easy.
Do you have any specific time at which you normally get up? Do you use an alarm clock or do you just sleep until you’re well-rested?
I try to sleep no more than 8 hours, and I’ll set my alarm every night to keep that constraint. If I’m going to bed at 1, my alarm is set for 9, and if I end up staying up until 2:30, my alarm gets set to 10:30.
The big thing to having this work is to keep the range of hours in which you end up going to sleep fairly small so your body doesn’t freak out. I rarely go to bed before 1, and rarely later than 3:30, so my body knows I’m getting up between 9 and 11:30.
Do you have any routines?
I always eat breakfast before getting to work – I’m no good on an empty stomach. After breakfast I’ll figure out what I want to accomplish during the day while showering. Like other people, I find that I get a lot of good ideas in the shower, and thinking about my day seems to prime those ideas somewhat.
Any rituals to find focus?
The only ritualistic thing would be regular breaks. Sitting for extended periods of time is really bad for you, so I try to get up and walk around and do some stretching at least once every hour. I use 30/30 on my iPhone to break my workday up into 60 minute sessions with 10 minute breaks in-between.
If I really can’t focus for whatever reason then I’ll take a break and do something else completely. I might read a novel for 30 minutes or go get groceries, but this doesn’t tend to happen too often.
I work from home and I have a room dedicated as my office. I like to keep my desk as organized as possible, mostly so that when I need to use the surface space I’m not distracted by having to find a pen or clearing space.
Ergonomics are really important for me (and I think they should be for everyone). I have my monitor elevated so it’s at eye level, and recently started using an ergonomic keyboard (MS Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000). It’s been awesome so far, the elevated wrist bar is really good. It’s the first split keyboard I’ve used, but it’s been a surprisingly easy transition. I’m still trying to find a mouse I really like, but for now I have a simple Logitech wireless mouse.
What tools do you use to help you get things done?
I use Evernote for notetaking. I have separate notebooks for projects. I wish the app had a nicer UI but so far it’s the best solution I’ve found for organizing notes and keeping them synced to my phone.
I use Sparrow for email when possible. It’s quick and gets out of my way, which I really appreciate.
I use Gmail’s web client for more advanced features like filters. I also like the Boomerang extension which lets you bring an email back to your inbox at a later date. I’ve been making use of it a lot when I send out an email that I want to follow up on. I get it boomeranged back in a few days and in the meantime it’s not cluttering up my inbox. I wish I didn’t have to open gmail.com every time I want to use this.
I don’t use anything for keeping an agenda, just Google calendar synced to iCal on my iPhone to keep track of appointments or calls.
The other big thing for me is bookmarking. I use Delicious and save a ton of bookmarks when I come across something I think I could make use of in the future.
To help with marketing I also make use of Buffer, which lets you push content out to social networks at regular intervals, and Google Analytics, which gives you all kinds of useful data for how people are interacting with your products.
How many hours do you work on a normal day? Do you take pauses as they come or at specific and fixed times?
I normally work 7-8 hours each day, and I try to break it up into two sessions, one when I wake up and the other before I go to bed. I’ll take pauses during the sessions only when I’m distracted. Otherwise I tend to get pretty zoned-in when I’m working.
Breaking my workday up into two sessions has been really helpful. It allows my brain to recharge so I don’t lose focus as easily as if I were working 8 hours straight, and I feel better physically since I’m not sitting for one long period of time.
Pretty interesting! This reminds me of Winston Churchill’s approach to work: He actually said that a similar routine allowed him to work 1 1/2 days in every 24 hours.
Do you use any timeboxing techniques (like a fixed agenda or the pomodoro technique)? Or do you prefer to work more impulsively, depending on the current state of things, taks from your email inbox, and so on?
I use 30/30 to do the Pomodoro technique, except I’ve extended it to 60 minutes with 10 minute breaks because 25 minutes is too short a time for the work I do; I need a longer session to really get into things. In general, I try to plan out my day in terms of what I want to accomplish, based on what I think is top priority. Doing this explicitly is helpful because it forces me to get important things out of the way first, even when I might not particularly want to do them.
Finally, do you have anything else that you’d like to share concerning your work day?
When I first got started on my own I wanted to know where my time was going because I felt like I wasn’t being as efficient as I could be. I ended up building an app called My Minutes which lets you set goals for your time.
I use it regularly alongside whatever I’m doing. I’ve got the following goals for my workday: at most 1 hour of email, at most 1 hour of browsing, at least 4 hours of development work, and at least 1.5 hours of marketing work.
These goals have made my time really black-and-white, and they’re excellent motivation to keep me focused as I’m working.
Thanks a lot for your Time, Kamil! And a quick note to all the productivity nerds out there: Kamil’s app My Minutes is available for free on the App Store. If it sounds useful to you, be sure to check it out!