It's time we kick the How I Work series on Blogs back into high gear. And what better way to put the pedal to the metal than with the digitally-savvy-and-creatively-stunning Ben Zweig from Social Edge Consulting. Libby Taylor and I sat down with Ben to get an idea of how he balances work and life out of his home in Austin, TX. Here's what he had to share:
Emilie Kopp: OK, for starters, tell us where you work:
Ben Zweig: Just hit my 4-year milestone at Social Edge Consulting, one of Jive’s consulting partners. I moved to Austin from NYC back in September, but the rest of our company is scattered across the US, Canada, Puerto Rico and Europe.
EK: What do you do at Social Edge?
BZ: As a Senior Consultant on the creative team, I’m responsible for visual direction, creative strategy and UI/UX design for our clients. It’s my job to find ways to use the Jive platform to creatively address our most challenging use cases. So I’m part UI designer, part strategist and part product designer.
EK: Are you familiar with the Jive WorkTypes? If so, what was your WorkType?
BZ: Very. I’ve even worked on a few WorkType projects with Jive. My primary WorkType is ‘expert’ and my secondary is ‘optimizer’.
EK: How do you think your WorkType plays into how you get work done in Jive?
BZ: The ‘expert’ WorkType “brings clarity to a situation” and sees how “parts fit together as a whole.” In my work, I’m always trying to use design to make things simpler and easier, and I love coming into a project, taking a few step backs, and really trying to uncomplicate. When I’m most successful, I have my eye on every part of the project, pulling the pieces together. On the ‘optimizer’ side, I’m often trying to find ways to do things faster. Sometimes I get sidetracked looking for a solution that will save me time in the future. Last week, I made a batch Photoshop action to automate a client deliverable. Hopefully that will end up saving time for me and our clients.
EK: So how do you use Jive at work (internal community, external community, etc.)?
BZ: Social Edge has an internal community called Edgeville, which we’ve branded to feel like a small town—like you’re actually hanging out in a town called Edgeville! We practice what we preach, so 95% of our internal work takes place in Edgeville. Our company culture is rooted in our community, so Jive plays a huge role in our work. We’re also in the process of moving our public website to Jive-x, which is exciting.
EK: What's your computer situation... Do you use a Mac or PC (or something else)?
BZ: iMac at home, MacBook Pro and iPad Pro on the road. What is a PC?
EK: And what you use for your mobile device?
BZ: Whatever the newest iPhone is, unlocked.
EK: Besides Jive, what apps/software/tools can't you live without?
BZ: I am all about apps and tools. Sometimes I download apps simply to test, with no intent of using them. Here’s a sampling of what I use on a daily basis:
Dropbox: My local hard drives are pretty empty. Everything goes in Dropbox.
IFTTT: Love creating triggers to connect different apps.
Alfred: This is like Mac’s Spotlight search on steroids, plus a ton of other productivity wins like clipboard history. I can find and control anything on my computer in a few keyboard strokes.
TripMode: When I’m on the road using my LTE hotspot, I conserve bandwidth with this app.
News Feed Eradicator: Awesome Chrome extension that replaces your Facebook news feed with a motivational quote. Still have the feed on my phone, but never tempt myself on desktop.
Frank DeLoupe: My color picker of choice.
Jive Daily: When you Jive as much as I do, Daily must be on your home screen!
Due: For important time-sensitive reminders, I use Due.
Plex: I cache movies on my mobile when I travel using Plex. At home, Plex streams my videos to AppleTV.
(Don’t worry, I erase my phone all the time.)
EK: What's your best time-saving trick?
BZ: Text expansion, hands-down. Nothing saves me more computing time than all of the text shortcuts I’ve added. As soon as I catch myself writing the same thing multiple times, I turn it into a text shortcut. So when I type “bsec,” for example, it inserts my 34-character work email. I do that for everything from the current date to HTML snippets to images of cats and directions to my apartment.
EK: Do you have a favorite non-computer gadget?
BZ: Sticky notes. I don’t know what it is about them!
EK: How do you stay organized? What's your favorite to-do list manager?
BZ: For project management, I use a Trello board split into status columns. I work on tons of projects at once, so that keeps me aware of priorities at a high level. It feels like I’ve spent an eternity trying to pick my favorite to-do manager, and I landed recently on Todoist. I’m loving the new Amazon Alexa/Echo integration where I can say “Alexa, add ‘Jive Interview’" to my to-do list,” and through IFTTT, it syncs to Todoist. Alexa even breaks down my daily meetings each morning. The rest of my brain is in Evernote.
Here's my Echo:
EK: What you surround yourself with is important. What’s your workspace like?
BZ: Oh yeah, it’s hard for me to be creative without the right environment. For starters, I always try to work with natural light. I have a hybrid living-working environment with really inspiring light.
I use a Jarvis desk and rotate between standing on an anti-fatigue mat, sitting on a ball, and… dancing. I don’t like seeing cords so I’ve gone to extreme measures to hide wires in my workspace. When I need a break at home, my building also has a rooftop common space with WiFi; we have a great community of folks that work remotely. If I’m working away from home, I use WHA to find spaces with ample power outlets and fast WiFi. I rarely work at coffee shops; I’d rather bring my laptop to a mall, courtyard, hotel lobby, botanical garden, coworking space, restaurant or museum.
Here’s the coworking space of Brooklyn Boulders in Somerville, MA. Way better than a coffee shop!
EK: What do you listen to while you work?
BZ: I’m always listening to music. When I want to focus, I go for playlists like (the aptly named) Tracks for Designers or Deep Focus. If I’m not listening to those, I usually pick a theme: Billy Joel, 90s rap, rock opera, Disney, Beethoven EDM remixes, movie scores—it’s all been done. On Mondays, I check out the Spotify Discover playlist, which is personalized based on listening habits.
EK: How do you balance work and life?
BZ: It’s hard, because I often work from home. My lights are timed to gradually change color when the workday should be over as a way to incentivize me to wind down, but that doesn’t always stop me. During the week, I try to plan activities after work to create an actual boundary. When I work from the coworking loft of Austin’s bouldering gym, I extend my workday by a few hours and try to climb in between work sprints. And every Friday at the end of my workday, I unplug my USB headset, bundle it, and stick it in a cabinet out of sight. That’s a reminder to myself that my apartment is no longer an office.
EK: What's your sleep routine like?
BZ: I use Flux on my iMac to gradually shift the colors of my monitor to remove blue light as the evening approaches. The same happens with my Philips Hue lights and on my iPhone, so my environment gently nudges me to bed. I track sleep on iOS with Sleep Cycle, and I have 2.5 years of data to prove that I get my worst sleep on Tuesdays. (Why!?) The lights in my apartment automatically fade on when my alarm goes off, because I am actually Tony Stark.
EK: Are you more of an introvert, ambivert or extrovert?
BZ: According to my Myers-Briggs, an extrovert. But it really depends on the day, so let’s go with ambivert.
EK: What's the best advice you've ever received (and from whom)?
BZ: “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.” I saw it written in graffiti on a wall in Connecticut when I was younger, and it’s been a mantra of mine ever since.
EK: Pick one word that best describes how you work.
BZ: Balanced. (Well, aspirationally.)
Well, he's certainly put the "style" in work-lifestyle. Thanks for sharing all the beautiful photos and the nifty apps and shortcut tips for getting work done. Jive Community: Feel free to say hello and help me thank Ben Zweig for sharing!