How We Work 2016: Beth Skoreki’s Gear and Performance Tips

Every week, we share shortcuts, workspaces, and productivity tips from our favorite experts. Today is my turn. I’m Beth, and here are some of the secrets of my work.

Location : Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Current place of work : Freelance health and science writer. I write for Vitals here at Lifehacker. One word that best describes the way you work : Messy Current mobile device: LG G4 . Current PC : Dell XPS 13 developer edition because it ships with Ubuntu. I’m the only (?) Linux user in the world who doesn’t have time to mess around. It’s 2016 now, so I expect everything to be okay.

What apps, software or tools can’t you live without?

Gmail inbox is the best it ever was. Without it, my inbox would be a huge mess. With him, only a trifle.

I save things in Pocket and Evernote, and in general, if I don’t know what to do with something, I put them in Evernote. My Evernote is a complete mess.

I also use Evernote to photograph book pages. The G4 is really good for low-light photography, so I can scan an entire chapter stacked in some library cave without having to carry a 19th book home that day.

How is your workplace arranged?

I sit on a hard wooden chair in a frosty attic because suffering is essential to creativity.

(This is the impression some have had in the past year. I love this workplace. Don’t worry, I use the heater when it gets cold.)

What’s your best time-saver or life hack?

This time I logged out of Facebook for three full days, and I did wow in those three days.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

I’ve tried apps and they all suck. I write on paper and hope I don’t lose it. (Sometimes I take a photo and send it to Evernote.)

What device, besides a phone and a computer, can you not work without and why?

Medela Freestyle . The child must eat.

What are some of the things you do best in everyday life?

I can type 45 words per minute with one hand.

What are you reading now?

I’m writing a book about disease epidemics in history, so I’ve flipped through a huge amount of case literature on disease.

Here are just a few of my favorites so far. (Seriously, narrowing down that list was the hardest part of writing this entire post.)

… and now I am reading Hans Sinsser’s Rats, Lice and History . All of these books are really entertaining, readable and engaging. As for how my book is progressing , well, I’m currently working through Step 3 of Thorin’s book writing guide.

How do you replenish?

What’s this?

What is your sleep pattern?

I am a night owl, but since I am too old and I have too many children to drag out all night, it simply means that I am a person who goes to bed too late and then cannot wake up.

So I’m really glad there is an app called I Can’t Wake Up . Without that, I would still be asleep right now. It’s awful and awful, and I hate it, but by the time I can muster the strength to toss the phone across the room, I’m already awake. See, this is good. Here’s what he does.

Firstly, it plays a soft ringtone, which turns into a LOUDER, WHICH WILL WAKE THE CHILD. But if I play his little games, the ringtone remains quiet. So I play.

He asks me to play a memory tile game by matching colors. It doesn’t require any special mental ability. I start clicking on the squares and before I know it, I clear most of the board. Uf.

Then the barcode scanner appears. I need to get up, find a specific book and scan the barcode on the back. Obviously this doesn’t work in the dark, so this phase is doubly brutal as I have to turn on the lights.

After that, I have to shake the phone hard enough to measure the dumb little counter to 100%, then I get a string of case sensitive gibberish that I need to enter. Finally, it allows me to decide if I want to get up or postpone. Oh shit, I woke up.

It’s all customizable; there are many torture options to choose from. Oh, and five minutes later, the alarm goes off quietly again. If you don’t check the “Yes, I’m not sleeping yet” slider, everything will start over.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

This is from Eliza Hancock of Ideas for Words (a book on scientific writing):

Make sure you add all your raisins (like fun facts, great quotes, and interesting comparisons). Have you ever eaten bread pudding with too much raisins in it? I can’t imagine this, and it’s the same with the letter.

I think any raisins would be too much for bread pudding, but it’s still great writing advice.

What else would you like to add that might be of interest to readers or fans?

To people who are asking how I can “do all this,” how can I work in my home office and write full-time writing while being a mom of three, come closer and let me whisper a secret to you:

Day care .


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