Everyone has some things they can’t live without in their working environment and we’re no different. Below you’ll find the indispensable items for the Outspoken Media crew.
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve likely seen me use hashtags like #needtimmys #timmys #misstimmys (when I’m traveling in the states) and #timmysrun. And if you’re not Canadian or from a state close to the Canadian border, you likely have no idea what the hell I’m talking about when I use them. Tim Hortons is a Canadian chain – much like a Dunkin Donuts – except it doesn’t suck and Canadian’s love their Timmys almost as much as they love their hockey (kinda fitting that Tim Hortons is named after and was founded by a former hockey player, eh?). And please note that I didn’t say “coffee” – I said “Timmys” – because it is this specific brand of coffee I can’t live without. If I were to ever move back to the states, I’d definitely have to become a coffee smuggler. The safety and welfare of those around me would depend on it.
Pen and Paper
Just because I work in the tech sector doesn’t mean I love to have everything be technical. My two most loved tools for work are a pad of paper and a pen. But, not just any paper and pen will do. My pens must be Papermate with the blue casing, blue ballpoint and have no eraser. If you think I’m joking, I’m not at all embarrassed to inform you that I’m not. I keep boxes of these on hands at all times. My notepads must be Staples brand wide rule. And like the pens, I keep stacks of them in the supply closet in the office and in my home. I won’t even attempt to do serious work or site planning without *MY* pens and paper.
My Mafia Memorabilia
The first comment most people make when they walk into my office is that it looks like a “mafia movie shrine.” From posters to action figures, I’ve got representation of my favorite mobster movies all over my walls, desk and bookshelves. I don’t know where my fascination with the mafia started, but I’ve had it as long as I can remember and have read hundreds of books on the topic – both fictional and non with a strong lean towards non-fictional. My favorite book of all time is The Last Don. My favorite movie of all time is The Godfather. My favorite TV show of all time is The Sopranos. And my favorite movie character of all time is Tony Montana, AKA Scarface.
When I look at that memorabilia around my office, it reminds me that I’ve made my own rules, my own successes and my own “empire” based on nothing but that same kind of perseverance (sans, you know, all the criminal activity and violence).
I need music. This need might be magnified by the fact that I work from home. Without music my Cat, Skype windows and client calls would be the extent of my socialization throughout the workday. With music I can tackle any type of work or mood from the monotonous and stressful to the creative and competitive. Beyond the hardware ( Apple headphones) I rely on custom stations I’ve built with Grooveshark. Today I’ve listened to Meat Loaf, Vivaldi, Miles Davis, Kid Cudi and Mumford and Sons. I might have been just as productive without the tunes, but I would not have been as fulfilled.
Lisa introduced me to the sticky note. I’d met stickies prior to Lisa, but they didn’t have a sense of purpose. In the early days of Outspoken Media (basically the first year!) I was relying on long-winded and chaotic TextMate docs, stacks of written lists and iCal to keep my life in order. Needless to say, it wasn’t working out. Then Lisa showed me her daily to-do’s… on one sticky note! I wanted to experience the same satisfaction she got from crumpling up and tossing her little sticky note in the trash after she’d conquered her day.
Unfortunately, I think very differently from Lisa. She’s about as left brained as you can get and I’m just as far to the right. I found my sticky note garden of zen in having a stack of different colors that allow me to quickly jot down a single thought. Now my stack of stickies helps me avoid the “out of sight, out of mind” problems that would otherwise plague my business life.
CAFFEINE!!! I’m not really an addict as I only drink one cup of tea each morning. What I am, is not a morning person. My sweet spot for productivity is 9pm – 1am (it’s 9:34pm and I’m zoning out to Kind of Blue). I love the stillness of night and getting lost in my work. The day belongs to clients and coworkers, the night belongs to me. So what does this have to do with tea? It’s my safety blanket more than a wake up. Tea reminds me of the evening hours and quiets my otherwise manic morning brain. I’m partial to Twinings Irish Breakfast or Earl Grey for the work hours and loose leaf is ideal, but you’ll need one of those pretentious tea strainers.
I know. You’re about to haul me away because I can’t stop talking about my love affair with an egg timer. However, this is hands down my biggest productivity tool and the one thing I cannot live without (other than headphones, but Rhea stole those). This baby and my handwritten To Do list helps me block my week out into egg timer-trackable intervals so I can increase productivity and keep knocking things out.
What? Something has to fuel all of my writing and that, my friends, is a whole lot of coffee. I know it’s a vice and that I should watch my intake…but then it’s suddenly Wednesday and I have five blog posts and client work to handle. I dare you to tell me I can’t go get another cup. Though I’m sometimes swayed by an iced coconut latte from Dunkin Donuts, I prefer to get my coffee from local coffeehouses. Flavour Cafe in Troy makes a mean Almond Joy Latte (though you won’t find it on the menu), Uncommon Grounds kills me with its unbelievable vanilla latte, and I’m a sucker for Professor Java’s Cappawappacino even though I can’t pronounce it. It all equals a big cup of yum.
Okay, so caffeine isn’t the only thing that keeps me going. So do my personal goals and the people I’m lucky enough to call friends and family. The wooden bear cub, a card from my father telling me he’s always behind me, and the hand-drawn picture of the house I’ll someday live in are all reminders of why it is I work so hard and the dreams that I have for myself. They keep me going long after the coffee has worn off and remind me how lucky I am to have the support network I do.
While Rhea needs headphones for music, I need headphones for Rhea to hear me. Since Skype is one of the tools we use most to work virtually, it’s really important that that communication be as disruption-free as possible. The on-board mic on my laptop was…shall we say, lacking, and Rhea and I would spend most of our calls asking “Can you hear me now? How about if I lean in further?” A simple headset with a mic allows us to actually get our work done quickly. The bonus is that the comfy earphones are great for canceling out office sounds when I am listening to music.
I am always cold. I hear it’s a girl thing, but I think offices just like to torture us with over air-conditioning. As a result, I’ve learned to keep a sweater at the office. It’s an old, well-worn cardigan, with nice long sleeves (I have long arms) and I can zip it up to my chin. It’s a lot easier to be productive when you aren’t shivering away!
Working virtually can be really isolating. Humans need contact with each other during the day. This is the reason that co-working has become so popular. With half of Outspoken Media in Troy and half in Guelph, it could get really lonely. However, I get to share office space with Rae’s other company, MFE Interactive. It’s great having Cooper and Stu around to grab lunch with, take a break and play darts, or even bounce ideas off of. They’re also really handy at controlling the wildlife that also inhabit our office.
And there you have it…
Now that you know what our indispensable items are, feel free to let us know about yours in the comments.