By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
“How I Work” is one of my favorite recurring features in Inc Magazine as well as via Lifehacker’s This Is How I Work Series.
Every Thursday we feature a B2B sales, marketing or business leader here answering what have become OUR standard “How I Work” questions. You can catch up on everyone we’ve featured thus far in the “How I Work” series here.
This week I’m excited to feature Jen Zug, a phenomenal writer who has helped organizations in a wide variety of industries improve their communications and storytelling. She’s also a regular speaker at events such as Ignite and BlogHer. Here in her own words is how she gets stuff done.
Location: Seattle, WA
Number of unread emails right now? Zero unread emails in my primary folder; 29 unread notification and newsletter emails, which I read all in one sitting a couple times a week.
First app checked in the morning? Instagram, because I follow friends and artist accounts, and it makes me happy to start the day connecting with good vibes.
First thing you do when you come into work? Review my to-do list, handle easy emails, complete easy tasks. I’m more task oriented in the morning, and more focused in the afternoon.
What is your email management strategy? I filter anything related to notifications, newsletters, updates, promotions — basically anything not time sensitive or mission critical — into a separate folder so it doesn’t clutter my primary inbox. I reserve my primary inbox for current tasks and conversations, then archive when complete.
Most essential app when traveling? Yelp. I love to find bars and restaurants the locals love.
How do you keep yourself calm and/or focused? I get up and take a short walk several times a day to get my blood moving and clear my mind (my Fitbit alarm reminds me to do this); I listen to music in my headphones when I need to focus and tune out distractions; wine or bourbon (a work from home perk).
What’s your perspective or approach to work/life balance? I’ve come to believe that a lifestyle of balance is a myth. Even the Earth finds itself in balance only twice a year during the equinox, otherwise it leans one way and then the other. Rather than chasing after balance, I periodically take the time to figure out what I should be leaning into for a season and what I need to let go of for a season.
Are there any work rituals critical to your success? I organize my daily schedule according to “task time” and “focus time” to make sure I have 2-3 hours available for things that require focus, like writing, research, or strategy planning. More importantly, I schedule the focus time into my calendar so it doesn’t get gobbled up by meeting requests.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Google Docs & Gmail, my YNAB budgeting app, & my GridDiary journaling app.
What’s your workspace like? I work from home and enjoy sitting at our dining room table where there are windows looking out to the street. I like to people-watch all the dog walkers and kids walking to and from school. I use a basket to toss all my work-related paraphernalia into so it’s easy to clear off at the end of the day when it’s time for dinner.
What’s your best time-saving shortcut or lifehack? A long time ago I created a four week rotating menu plan that my kids and husband helped put together. Each week I review it against our family schedule and make any needed adjustments. This makes grocery shopping fast (15 minutes on Amazon Fresh) and I don’t have to think a lot about what’s for dinner. During the summer I swap in easy summer dinners like grilled meat or hearty salads. If anyone complains about what’s for dinner, I enlist them to find something new to swap in for the dinner they’re tired of.
What are you currently reading? Org Design for Design Orgs: Building and Managing In-House Design Teams, by Peter Merholtz & Kristin Skinner. I’m also on a podcast kick — listening to The West Wing Weekly, The Nod, Reply All, Without Fail, and the Ignite Seattle Podcast.
Last thing you do before leaving work? I make my to-do list for tomorrow while the status of everything is fresh in my mind.
Who are some mentors or influencers you wish to thank or acknowledge? My closest girlfriends who always have my back, even if it means calling me out on my own bullshit; the study of improvisational comedy, which teaches me to say “Yes, and…”; and Anne Lamott, whose book Bird By Bird obliterated my fear of the “shitty first draft” early in my career.
Name some supportive people who help make it possible to do what you do best? My husband, Bryan, is my biggest fan and has consistently encouraged me in my craft.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? When I was experiencing intense conflict in a previous job, my friend Nicole (and co-volunteer with Ignite Seattle) encouraged me to meet up with people who could remind me of how great I am. At first it felt indulgent, but it was such great advice during a really tough season, and it helped keep me from plunging into despair and anxiety.
Name a guilty pleasure TV show A family that binge-watches together, stays together! Currently making our way through the Game of Thrones series again before the season 8 premiere on April 15! Also watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine with my son, and just finished Shrill on Hulu.
Anything else you want to add? My favorite quote on work ethic: “I assure you that my personal tragedy will not interfere with my ability to do good hair!” — Annelle, in Steel Magnolias
Fill in the Blank: I’d love to see BLANK answer these questions. I’d love to see Sara McNally of Constellation & Co. answer these questions. She’s built a successful brand both online and in her brick and mortar shop here in Seattle that is truly authentic and based on her deep love of connecting people together through her love of “snail mail.” She has a pretty impressive reputation!