By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

Is Inc Magazines’ How I Work” a favorite of yours? or maybe, Lifehacker’s This Is How I Work Series? Mine too.

For some time we’ve been doing our own #HowIWork series of B2B sales, marketing or business leaders answering “How I Work” questions (starting with my own answers).  Check out the updated the questions below.  Missed any past guests? check out everyone we’ve featured so far… many you’ve heard of, all you’ll enjoy hearing from.

This week I’m excited to feature Jim Ninivaggi – Chief Readiness Officer, Brainshark, Inc..  Jim previously spent almost six years directing sales enablement strategies at Sirius Decisions following years of operational sales and marketing leadership.  He’s also a founding member of the Sales Enablement Society and a member of the Forbes Business Development Council.  Here in his own words is how he gets stuff done.

Location: I split my time between Waltham, Massachusetts, where Brainshark is headquartered, and Sarasota, Florida, which is home. The reality is that, like a lot of folks, my office is everywhere, since I travel pretty extensively.

Number of unread emails right now? About 20. I hate having that number creep up!

First app checked in the morning? The Wall Street Journal – every morning (except Sunday). I feel unprepared if I don’t read it.

First thing you do when you come into work?  In my home office, it’s check and respond to email. If I’m in Waltham, I hit the coffee machine and network with folks. (Since I’m not there all the time, there are always new folks to meet.)

What is your email management strategy?  OCD :-). As I mentioned before, I hate looking down and seeing 20-plus messages that need to be read. So I tend to manage on an ongoing basis by reading them and doing one of three things:  1) discard, 2) take action, 3) flag for follow-up.

My wife has 572 unread messages in her inbox (I am looking at her red alert as I write this). That would make me break out in a cold sweat! All you have to do is look at our desks in our home offices to know how our inbox management strategies might differ. Every inch of her office is piled with stacks of papers and folders. My desk has nothing on it. I actually wish I were more like her – and was not a slave to that red alert!

Most essential app when traveling?  I actually have three essential apps for travel: 1) Uber/Lyft for getting around (often cheaper than renting a car), 2) Yelp to figure out where to eat (I love to eat), and 3) my Deep Sleep Sounds white noise app that blocks those annoyingly loud hotel guests yelling down the hallway at two o’clock in the morning.

How do you keep yourself calm and/or focused?  I’ve applied the concept of interval training to work to keep me focused. With interval training, instead of setting a timer for half an hour on the treadmill, I run in blocks of eight minutes, alternating my pace. Similarly, I’m a big believer in working in blocks like this. So instead of sitting down and thinking I need to write an entire blog post (which ends up seeming overwhelming, and I procrastinate), I’ll set aside 45 minutes to write what I can in that time. I’ll let you know how I keep myself calm when I figure that out!

What’s your perspective or approach to work/life balance?  I think it’s less about balance and more about integration. There are simply times when work and life just smash up together, and you need to be able to be present in the moment. I do have an office I go to in one of those shared workplaces when I’m not at my office at Brainshark HQ in Waltham – which helps me separate work/life. And when I’m home, I try not to peek at email or take a non-critical business call if I’m out with friends and family. The reality is, our minds are always working in the background. Some of my best business ideas came while I was running or enjoying a cigar on the back deck, when I was not trying to think – the ideas just came. Integration.

Are there any work rituals critical to your success?  I’m a notorious list-maker. I’ve tried to go electronic, but I like writing things down – even if it means re-writing a list several times as it changes. I know it’s not super-efficient, but it works for me.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?  I am into writing instruments and love the feel of writing on great paper. My favorite pen is my Waterman Laureat fountain pen. My favorite notebook is from Kunisawa. It’s from Japan, and the paper is great for writing with a fountain pen.

What’s your workspace like?  My desk is neat! In my office at Brainshark HQ, I have photos of my family around and some really great artwork from my father-in-law, who does amazing metal sculptures. Probably the most unique thing in my office is my collection of vintage lunchboxes from the 1970s (when I was a kid). I have all my favorite TV shows represented: The Partridge Family, Kung Fu and Happy Days. They are a great conversation-starter – and hopefully let people know that while I work hard, I also like to have fun.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or lifehack?  Rao’s Marinara Sauce. I love to cook and eat Italian food, and used to make my own marinara. Now I use Rao’s in any recipe that calls for marinara (like my killer Barolo-Braised Short Ribs).

What are you currently reading?  Lawrence in Arabia for pleasure (I love biographies and historical fiction), and The Power of Negative Thinking by Bobby Knight for business. In the book, Coach Knight talks about how it’s not the will to win that is the differentiator, but, rather, the willingness to prepare which is key. Great lessons for sales.

Last thing you do before leaving work?  Clear off my desk. Neat desk – neat mind (or something like that).

Who are some mentors or influencers you wish to thank or acknowledge?  My first sales boss was Terry Nathan, who taught me the power of strategy and the written word. Eileen Garger and I worked together at Learning International/Achieve Global – she’s one of the most creative and positive people I know. Joel Morse was the CEO at C3i where I ran sales and marketing – he’s one of the smartest people I’ve had the pleasure to work with. Jim Dickie was on our board of advisors there and taught me to know what I don’t know. Tony Jaros at SiriusDecisions taught me how to think and write more strategically, and to think outside the box. Greg Flynn here at Brainshark teaches me every day what true leadership is all about.

Name some supportive people who help make it possible to do what you do best.  The executive team here at Brainshark is amazing – we are all aligned on our vision and mission for the company and on what sales enablement is supposed to be about internally. I have an amazing sales enablement team here at Brainshark – truly best-in-class! And my wife, Barbara, who is my greatest supporter and knows how to kick my ass as a presentation skills coach. She is simply the best trainer/coach I’ve ever worked with.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?  “There’s no excuse for bad manners.” My Grandma Fitzpatrick. Reminds me to always try to be gracious, even when it’s not easy. I don’t always succeed – and when I fail, I can still hear her voice in my ear.

Name a guilty pleasure TV show:  The Voice.

Fill in the Blank: I’d love to see BLANK answer these questions  Jim Dickie.


For tips on productivity and work-life balance, check out our free guide.  Who would YOU like to nominate for this series?