Back when Groundwork! was nothing more than a dream and a business plan, Dena and I met Doug Lane over a Google hangout call. Doug explained that he worked remotely, was at home with two young boys, and was eager to get out of his house. Doug was our first real “lead” and has been our biggest supporter since.
We’ve gotten to know Doug in the time he’s spent at Groundwork and we can report that he’s more than just a tech industry dude with a laptop! Doug keeps a blog called Modern Stationer about using analog tools in the modern world, and he’s also a hobby photographer. You’ll see him snapping a photo or two at Groundwork! from time to time. Doug also happens to have some great productivity tips and app recommendations, so read the full interview to get the goods!
1. What’s your profession?
I’m the director of product marketing at AppSense, a software company that helps IT teams manage and control corporate PCs and other desktop computing technologies. Sounds exciting, right?
2. Describe a typical work day for you.
Since my company is headquartered in California, I have a three-hour head start on most of the people I work with. So, my mornings tend to be quiet and productive. Then, as the day progresses, the deluge of calls and emails begins.
Most of my work involves collaborating with colleagues on new product launches and coming up with marketing materials, videos, and other tools to help our salespeople, partners, and prospective customers understand how our products work and what business value they offer.
3. What’s the biggest challenge you face at your job?
My biggest challenge is prioritization. I have many more ideas–and the company has more needs–than I have hours in the day to address. I put a lot of thought into how I spend my time, but the right path isn’t always clear. Is it better to jump in to put out an unexpected fire on a given day or stay focused on what’s most valuable in the long-term?
It’s also always tempting to prioritize the things I want to work on over things that are maybe less fun but more important. For example, it’s much more fun to make a video than it is to create a return on investment spreadsheet, but that spreadsheet might be just the thing that one of our sales reps needs to close a big deal this quarter.
4. Do you have a morning routine?
I’m trying really hard to develop one, but I’m all over the map right now. Sometimes I race right into a specific task that I want to make progress on before the craziness of the day sets in. Other times, I devote time in the morning to thinking and planning. Either way, coffee is involved.
I also aspire to get up earlier to create more time for things like exercise and personal writing, but that hasn’t really happened yet.
5. What are your favorite productivity tips or hacks?
I used to be obsessed with using technology to improve my productivity, but about a year ago I went back to pens and paper. I use a system called Bullet Journal. There are obviously some limitations to an analog approach, but I find that the benefits really outweigh the downsides. It clears out all the distractions and lets my brain kick into gear.
It also forces me to be honest with myself. In an electronic calendar or task management system, it’s way too easy to keep pushing an item out to the next day or week. With pen and paper, I start to feel ridiculous if I re-write the same task on a new page three or four times. I quickly get to a “do it today or admit that you’re never going to do it” moment. I think that’s a healthy thing.
6. What do you listen to during the day?
When I’m working, I usually have some type of mix from Beats Music playing. I always found other streaming services like Spotify and Rdio overwhelming, but Beats seems to “get me” and serve up some pretty good playlists.
I like to listen to a little bit of everything. As a middle-aged white guy, I’m legally obligated to like Wilco and other mid-tempo rock. I will also sometimes listen to electronic and ambient music when I’m writing. One of the nice things about Beats is that it has a lot of “Intro to…” playlists for specific artists and genres. That helps me discover new music without falling into a music rabbit hole when I’m supposed to be working.
I’m also a big podcast junkie, but I can’t listen to people talking while I’m working. So I save them for times when I’m driving or doing chores around the house. Some of my favorites are “99% Invisible,” “Longform,” and “The Pen Addict” (yes, that’s a thing).
7. How do you benefit from using a coworking space?
I’ve been working remotely for around four years. Most people dream of working from home, and it does have many benefits. However, it’s also very isolating to spend so much time in one place. I never really had a problem with being productive at home. It was more that cabin fever would set in after a while and drive me a bit nuts.
I really enjoy spending time in downtown New Bedford. My job sometimes brings me to more trendy places like New York City and Silicon Valley. They are great places, but I find them a bit phony at times. New Bedford has a realness to it. We all know that it’s not perfect, but it’s a one-of-a-kind place filled with many creative and hard-working people. It’s easy to lose sight of that amidst some of the negativity, but I’ve come to really appreciate it–imperfections and all.
I’d also like to be more active in the community, but it’s hard to get involved when you’re juggling a demanding job and family life. That said, I’m a big believer that showing up is half the battle. As Groundwork becomes a central part of the New Bedford community, I think being here will create many small opportunities for me to make a positive impact.
8. What’s in your digital toolbox?
I’ve been “all in” on Apple products for about 6 or 7 years. iPhones and iPads are the future, but I’m a Mac guy at heart. The 11-inch MacBook Air was a game-changer for me. It gives me the full power of a Mac with the portability and battery life perks of an iPad.
My “must have” Mac apps include Ulysses for writing, 1Password to maintain the keys to my online kingdom, and Airmail for dealing with e-mail. I also use the Adobe Creative Cloud apps quite a bit, but I’m kind of terrible at all of them.
9. What is the most surprising or unusual aspect of your life?
I understated it when I said that I went back to managing my life with pens and paper. I’ve become kind of obsessed with pens and paper. I have a growing collection of fountain pens and inks, and I even started a blog where I do product reviews and other posts about analog writing tools. Yes, it’s a bit odd–particularly for someone who lives and breathes technology all day–but it’s a nice escape for me.
10. What inspires you?
I have two young sons (ages 2 and 6) at home, and they provide endless amounts of inspiration to me. I screw plenty of things up as a parent, but my sons motivate me to live my life in a way that makes them proud and sets a good example for them to grow into.
That’s a big part of why reconnecting with the community is so important to me. I don’t want my sons to see me as a guy who sits by himself in a room and does conference calls all day. I want them to see me as someone who writes, and takes pictures, and does what he can to help others.