The Way We Work 2016: Claire Lower’s Equipment and Productivity Tips

Every week we ask cool and interesting people how they do it. Today we are asking me for some reason. I’m Claire Lower, a freelance food and drink writer who runs Skillet , and this is how I work.

Location: Portland, Oregon. Current job: Freelance writer, Oreo journalist. One word that best describes how you work: Insanely modern mobile device: iPhone 6 Current computer: ASUS Ultrabook. This is literally all the information I can give you because I am not very tech savvy.

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

“Can’t live without” is kind of a strong argument, but I recently used the Headspace guided meditation app to try and relax. I don’t use it every day like you should, but after that I always feel better. It is narrated by this British dude named Andy with a very pleasant voice. I also find Neko Atsume very relaxing.

When I’m running (which I haven’t done lately because my back was hurting, but it’s getting better now!), I use the Strava app to track my runs. To be honest, I don’t think I could have prepared for my half marathon last year without him. Some people may just run without a goal, but I need to quantify to feel like I’m making progress.

None of these are work or “productivity” oriented, but I find that when I run and meditate, my work is actually better because my mind is clearer.

How is your workplace arranged?

I really have two jobs: my little white table and my kitchen.

The table is cluttered because I love it when I work, surrounded by souvenirs and photographs.

The kitchen is much tidier. I try not to keep too many items on the counter, but my Kitchen Aid stand mixer, food processor, and my newly acquired Anova Precision stove are always missing because the look inspires me to use them.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?

For those who work from home, this is: “Get dressed.” It’s so easy to stay in your pajamas all day, but washing your hair and putting on real pants can do wonders for your productivity.

I also can’t recommend single-tasking enough as multitasking really slows me down. My mind is so noisy that I am sure to only work on one thing at a time. Allocating time slots when I’m only working on one article or recipe is much more effective than trying to juggle several projects at the same time. That doesn’t mean I can only write one article a day, but completing one thing before moving on to the next keeps me sane.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

I have a system of three laptops. As for my general planner, I love, love, love the Uncalendar (full size) lifestyle planner because there are so many small boxes for lists and I write big lists. The second notebook is a simple but nice notebook for jotting down ideas, brainstorming recipes and personal notes, and the third is a cheap notebook that I use mainly for ingredient shopping lists and photo editing (I take tons of photos, then I go back and check the best ones in notepad so I know which ones to edit.)

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

My camera, which is a simple Canon Rebel SL1 , is obviously necessary, but the real turning point for me was the fixed lens. Even in low light, this thing takes pretty good pictures, which is great because Portland is not known for its natural lighting.

When it comes to kitchen utensils, there really isn’t a particular “gadget” that I couldn’t live without. I mean, I love my stand mixer and food processor, but “can’t live without” seems a little overdone, even though they make life easier. It may sound silly, but I have one huge wooden spoon that my sister gave me and I use it all the time. I would be lost without this stupid spoon. Yet I really like my Spatulas Creuset Revolution Le . He came in a gift bag that I bought at the event, and can scrape out of the bowl remains of anything.

My Garmin watch is another gadget that I find very useful. As I said earlier, if I can’t quantify it, it doesn’t really feel like it was done, so having a watch that tracks my time / distance / cadence so well actually encourages me to run more.

On a more silly note, I have this little thing that you hold your glass or wine (or can of beer) in while you are in the bath. Drinking in the bath is my main hobby and this thing really improved my bath play.

Also my turntable ( Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB ) is very important to me.

What are some of your best everyday activities? What’s your secret?

I think I’m a really good hostess. I can make a really good martini. I am also good at making playlists and have an encyclopedic knowledge of The Rolling Stones and The Band.

What do you listen to while you work?

To write, I have a Spotify playlist called “Write Bitch” to which I add songs all the time. Basically it’s cold, sad bastard music that I’m very familiar with. I can’t listen to anything new while I’m working because I’m distracted by words. The other two lists that I listen to a lot while writing are one with a bunch of different covers of “Long Black Veil” and the other with a bunch of different covers of “Both Sides Now”.

When I cook, I put on something more upbeat, usually on vinyl. Right now I mainly listen to Some Girls from the Stones, You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever from Orange Juice and Tigermilk from Belle & Sebastian .

What are you reading now?

I read most of my “pleasure” offline because I usually have to be offline by the end of the day. I love the latest issue of Cherry Bombe magazine (for which, full disclosure: I wrote something), and I’m working on The Life of Keith Richards . (I’m in the middle of Infinite Jest too , but it’s hard for me to care about that.)

How do you replenish?

Drink gin in the tub, usually with an Epsom salt or Lush bath bomb .

What is your sleep routine?

I don’t think it can be called a “routine”. Sometimes I get up before three, sometimes I leave the house by 9:30. Don’t be like me.

Fill in the blank: I would like _________ to answer these same questions.

Stuart Murdoch .

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

I do not remember what worried me at that time, but it was due to the fact that I “lagged behind” in some aspect of my existence. I spoke to my dad about this, and he said (in his sharp southern accent), “2010 is for everyone.” (It was 2010 at the time.) I mean, obviously you have to change the year for it to be applicable now, but that’s good advice. Everyone has the same year, and achievements do not become less valuable with age.

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

I can become truly competitive, but it has been very rewarding for me to learn to accept the fact that there is always someone more successful than me. I have found that, especially with other women, it is much more productive to support them and try to learn from them than to try to pull them off in order to feel better. I’d rather be the least talented person in this room than the biggest, because even if it stung the ego a little, I’m going to learn a lot more in this first room.


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