I’m Brian Mickelson and This is How I Work…

How I WorkI’m copying here. Total copycat. But if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then my message is clear. I love the Lifehacker’s “This is How I Work” series of articles. No, I mean, I love these articles. I found them through the blog Art of Manliness, where Brett McKay did a similar thing and then linked me to Lifehacker’s posts. I completely fell in love with this series.

You may be asking what this series of posts is about and you may also not want to follow the link to see for yourself. Here is their last paragraph, which is the same in every post in the series:

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.

I’m none of the above. But I’ve been reading these posts and putting together the trends, patterns, etc., that seem to cut across the board with these people. The more I read, the more I got interested in analyzing my own “work life”. So I copied the questions from the site and answered them in a Google Doc. The more I’m finalizing the answers, the more interested I became in sharing them here.

I’m not sure why you’re still reading, since I’m not an overly-productive fellow. But, you’re certainly welcome to stay. Or go. I won’t be offended…

I’m Brian Mickelson, and This Is How I Work

Location: Northern Utah

Current gig: Husband, father, Institute Instructor, blogger, photographer, family history guy, crappy but interested gardener…

Current computer: iMac (OSX 10.9.4) at home, PC laptop at work (but I hope that will change at some point…)

Current mobile device: iPad mini, iPhone 4 (with a much-needed upgrade coming in a month, and pending the announcing of the iPhone 6)

One word/phrase that best describes how you work: Balanced and in intense bursts

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

I can live without anything I suppose, but here is the list of apps, software and tools that I love:

Ipad Mini: I use this thing for everything but power-stuff. I don’t want to type out a 2000 word document on the screen very badly, but I study, research, read, watch Netflix, study scriptures, etc., on the iPad mini and use it everyday, all day.

Google Docs: I love having access to lessons I’m working on, talks I’m preparing, and my personal journal no matter where I go or what device I’m on. Using Google Docs for my journal has made it so much easier to keep a consistent journal. I love it. At this point, I prepare all of my lessons on Google Docs.

Reminders: I know there are a ton of great apps out there for listing what I need to accomplish, but Reminders is simple, hooked with Siri, and easy to use. If a todo app isn’t easy to use, I won’t use it, I’m sure. I used to use ToDo and quite like it.

Calendar: I use Apple’s native Calendar app on the iPhone for the same reason I use Reminders. I know there are better ones. Don’t care.

Evernote: I’ve used Evernote off and on for a couple years, but recently realized how great it is. I take all of my notes from the various meetings I attend on Evernote, keep track of recipes I want to use, keep track of restaurants that Janese and I like, and keep track of the family history research I’m almost always in the middle of. More will come. Evernote is wonderful.

Pinterest: I’m a highly visual person, so I love keeping photography ideas coming using Pinterest. Plus, I find a lot of recipes I like here as well.

Pocket: New to me as well, but I’m using it a lot. I do love to read articles in my spare time.

Notebook: I almost always keep a notebook close by when I’m working on project. There are some notes I just need to hand-write and I don’t need access to them later. I use the Norcom 100 page composition notebook (9″x7″) and the Staples Composition Book Polypropylene College Ruled (5″x7″) 80 page. I just keep one with my laptop and one by my home computer. When I’m doing family history research, there is always something I need to write down and keep in front of me while I’m looking up related. When I’m preparing lessons I like to make simple outlines of gospel principles and ideas before I start typing.

LDS Gospel Library: There are a lot of LDS scripture apps and christian scripture apps that do so much more than LDS Gospel Library. What I love about the LDS Church’s app is that it syncs in the cloud and I have access to everything on my laptop as well. This app just makes scripture study and annotating painless and a natural part of my daily scripture study.

Twitter: I don’t spend very much time on news sites anymore. I just follow the feeds of any new organization I want, as well as interesting people, entities, and friends. I love Twitter so much more than Facebook right now. So very much more…

Swell: This is the best podcast aggregator available. Hands down. (Apple shut it down for now. Not happy.)

What’s your workspace like?

I just had a change in my employment and currently have two offices, as well as a workspace at home. My office in Brigham City is still a mess since I don’t do as much preparation work there as I do in Logan. I have two desks in Brigham, one I don’t use very much while the other is very simple: it supports my laptop, scriptures, iPad mini, and whatever books I’m using. My bookshelf is full of books and I’m referencing those periodically.

My second office is in Logan and I love working there. I have all kinds of bookshelf space, and two books… Most of my research is based in the scriptures and the words of the prophets from General Conference, so I just don’t need much. Any other book I need, I just get out of the institute library. What I love about this office is that, even though it may be the smallest office in the building, it has a window. I work so much better where there is natural light.

At home, I don’t have a personal workspace, per se, but a family workspace. In the kitchen. Like every other family. But there is where I do my photography editing. The iMac’s screen is glorious and makes editing a pleasure…

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

I don’t know if this qualifies, but it works: I accomplish a lot between official work sessions and I watch very, very little television. Put those two things together and I can get quite a bit done. I typically work certain hours. But between those spaces of defined work, I accomplish other things that interest me. For instance, I get a lot of podcast listening to done in the car from home to work and back. In the morning, when I’m eating breakfast, I often do family history or write blog posts. When I’m exercising, I never listen to music. I listen to General Conference addresses or podcasts. I edit photography while I’m correcting work for BYU-Hawaii (I help with some of their online classes). I never, ever just turn on the TV to see what’s on. I’d rather be doing something. If I want to relax with the TV, I am very purposeful and use Netflix or the NFL. And this is pretty limited. I would imagine that I watch about 2 hour of TV during the week, tops, which leaves me a lot of time to accomplish other things, even non-work-related things.

One final life hack. I’ve turned off all notifications on my phone. I don’t see when someone tries to contact me on Facebook or Twitter. In fact, my iPhone is on “do not disturb” more than half the day. This allows me to focus in very intentionally on projects I’m working on, and makes my effort all directed at the matter at hand. I used to hear my phone vibrate every time anything on social media happened or when I got a text. Now I control when I am contacted by someone else. I love it. Totally frees me up.

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

Again, not much I can’t live without. Other than my digital stuff, I really love our Blendtec blender. My wife won it at a race she competed in and we’ve never looked back. I also purchased a little Gerber Curve knife that hooks to my keychain. I bet I use it at least once a day. Sharp, small, and has a few little tools to boot.

I love my composition notebooks. I’ve never found a better note-taking device. I’ve seen better note managing and organizing devices, but nothing better to scratch out notes quickly and in whatever level of detail I need.

The last gadget is my garage. I could live out there.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?

Honestly, I’ve never been that guy. I’ve never, ever been better than everyone else at anything, ever. Doesn’t matter the size of the group of people we’re looking at, I’m never better than everyone. I gave up on that a long time ago.

But, with said, there are some things I’ve gotten pretty good at. I’ve really focused a lot of energy and effort on encouraging others. I’ve also developed the habit of accomplishing a lot of things between official work sessions (as noted above). And finally, I have an inborn ability to become very passionate about something and driven to become adept enough to get the benefits. Once I develop an interest in something new, I’ll spend a very intense period of time studying, practicing, and developing. It can drive people crazy but my energy level rises when I’m in the middle of this intense time. Add to that the fact that I get interested in a wide variety of things: bird-watching, podcasting, family history, fly-fishing, cooking, blogging, gardening, tech stuff, writing, etc. I get to do a lot of things…

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

Apple’s Reminders app. Simple. Linked with Siri. Alarms. It is the only manager I use and I have no complaints. I used to use ToDo by Appigo and really liked it.

What do you listen to while you work?

While at work, I either listen to nothing, with the door closed, or I use Pandora and use the Baroque Radio channel or the LDS Hymns channel. That fits what I’m usually studying. When I’m editing photography, I listen use Grooveshark and listen to just normal top-40 embarrassing stuff. Or, I like to listen to Peter Breinholt….

If I’m doing mindless stuff like organizing the garage or doing dishes or driving or exercising, I listen to podcasts. I think if I had to only listen to one thing, I’d choose podcasts and would work in silence when I didn’t want noise. My favorite podcasts: RadioLab, This American Life, Car Talk, Conversations, and 99% Invisible. I used to use the Swell podcast app which was perfect. Then Apple bought it, shut it down, and will probably come out with a version I don’t like as much as I like Swell.

What are you currently reading?

I study the scriptures every day (outside of work) and have since 1990. So I’m reading the scriptures every day. I’m currently also reading endless articles online. I just finished Orwell’s 1984, and in the middle of Bushman’s Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, and have been working on a few Hemingway books which I haven’t loved. I recently started getting back to some of the classics in literature and have enjoyed that. I’m starting Lord of the Flies, Grapes of Wrath, and probably a few other books that everyone read in high school.

I recently finished Christensen’s How Will a you Measure Your Life, Oaks’ Life’s Lessons Learned, am always in the middle of Les Miserables, Wells’ Successful Home Gardening, and Sibley’s The Sibley Guide to Birds. I’m also slowly studying Preach My Gospel again.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

The question makes it sound like a person is one or the other. I doubt many people are. I’m probably an ambivert. And a lot of this depends on how much sleep I got the night before. I really enjoy being in the classroom and have no qualms about being in front, teaching and discussing, etc. I like small get togethers with other couples. I like being with friends in small groups. And I get a lot out of small group collaboration. But I really gain energy from time alone doing tasks and being in the quiet. I think I need both. I’m rarely the loudest in the room.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I get to bed by 10p-ish and read or watch a show on Netflix and try to get to sleep between 10:30p or 11:00p. I almost always wake up just before 6a, with or without an alarm. With teenagers, I don’t always stick to the bedtime, but my bladder is set to 5:45a…

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

Clayton Christensen, Elder David A. Bednar, Harmony Holmgren, Steve Jobs (this one is unlikely), Bobby Lewis, Stephen R. Covey (again, unlikely). There are others. I love this series of questions and learning about how others get things done.

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

This is an unfair question, as I’ve received a lot of great advice, and have read a lot of great advice. Here are three:

President Gordon B. Hinckley stated that “you can get a lot done if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV)

When I first started teaching, one of the most experienced teachers shared with me that I should have interests outside of my work life that I could be passionate about and spend time thinking about. Over the years I’ve found that having a list of non-work related things that I like doing with my family and by myself has made my work-related efforts better. Wish I could remember who shared it with me!


7 thoughts on “I’m Brian Mickelson and This is How I Work…

  1. deborah hom

    Great post…again….E. Hom and I plan on spending some time during companionship study going over it together. In the meantime….We tried Evernote but must be too lame to make it work…we would love a little tutorial if you have the time….As for Rough Stone Rolling….E. Hom read it a couple of years ago and found it very interesting…also David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism…whew!!! AND…we beg to differ on the introvert/extrovert ambivert issue…Exactly when were you ever an introvert…we’d love to hear!!Looking forward to following your Institute adventures this autumn (that’s English for Fall)Love lots…

    Date: Mon, 1 Sep 2014 16:21:43 +0000 To: momhom90@hotmail.com

  2. Paralee Eckman

    Brian, I really enjoy your posts! And I am assuming that you don’t mind being quoted. On my blog, at http://www.grandmapalsblogspot.com I have put a lot of my pioneer ancestors stories, but I do subscribe to several good reads, including yours, and often “re-blog” them, always giving the complete info of who wrote it and where I got the info. As a soon to be 80 year old mother of 9 children, 29 grand children, and 14 great gr children, I have seen a lot of life. Your article makes me want to quickly recover from my rotator cuff operation a week ago and get busy again. (I’m typing with my left hand.) I have been very busy in life, also having several interests outside of family, serving 2 missions with my husband, 2 other missions at the St, George Family History center, and composing music, which can be seen at http://www.musichousepublications.com. Keeping busy in life gives such good feelings. Just know your efforts are appreciated! Pal

  3. Jasmine Shorten

    I love this type of stuff! I’m always thinking about the effeciency of which I do things and how I go about doing them. Ironically, to a point, I’m pretty sure I waste time doing so 🙂 I’m totally going to look into that series. Fun post!

  4. techforthenormalguy

    Great insights. Thanks for doing this. I’m just digging in to your blog and love it. I have the S&I program a go over the last two years but God had other plans. Your blog reminds me of what I loved about the time I had.

    I recently found Overcast for podcasts. Best one I’ve found.

  5. cadewalker

    First off, I’m not really sure if I should call you Brian or Brother Mickelson right now, since you’re my current Institute teacher, haha! So here’s the deal- today you mentioned this article that you’d written about “How you Work”, in which you also referenced LifeHacker and This American Life. I happen to only know a handful of people who even know what those websites are, but they happen to be two of my favorite websites of all time! Needless to say, I looked this up and loved reading it. In class, we discussed our use of time, and particularly about benefits of using it wisely. I can’t wait to continue the conversation next Monday! I’ve been beginning to pick up on journal writing again, mostly to remind myself how I’ve been using my time. I think I might follow your lead and do a personal little “How I Work” analysis too, just to point out what I’ve been doing to keep myself productive, on-task, and see where my personality shows itself. I’m beginning to ramble, so I’ll close my reply by saying that I enjoyed your post very much!



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