Cathy Reisenwitz

Dropping knowledge from her studio apartment in the TL

Where are you working from right now?

I work from my studio apartment in the Tenderloin in San Francisco. I have a desk in the corner that is supposed to be a standing desk but it’s too hard to lift so it’s mostly a sitting desk.

Describe what a regular work week looks like for you.

My week starts with the Monday Morning kickoff meeting, which is companywide over Zoom. Every meeting is via Zoom now. Then I usually have some Focus Time to work on this week’s blog post or social content calendar. I like to at least skim a few newsletters before diving in. A few faves are Why Is This Interesting, The Margins, and 20 Minutes into the Future. Tuesdays start with the Daily Business Standup, which is basically everyone who’s not on the Design or Engineering teams. Usually have a good bit of Focus Time Tuesdays as well. Might start work on next week’s post or make progress on our SEO goals. Wednesday is our No Meeting Day, so I have the most Focus Time those days. I love working on more research-heavy posts those days. Thursdays are my most meeting-heavy day. I rarely get any Focus Time. Then Friday’s are also kinda meeting heavy, with Daily Business Standup, Product Lunch, and Demos.

How do you stay organized?

I use a combination of Todoist for task management and our company uses Asana for project management. I’m a writer, which is probably why I do everything I can in Google Docs, often linking to them from Todoist or Asana. That and putting things on my calendar mostly keep me on top of my obligations. Slack helps keep my inbox less full than it would otherwise be.

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

Best advice I ever got for getting stuff done is from my mom, who told me to “Do it shitty.” I tend toward perfectionism. If left unchecked, I’d still be working on my first assignment. I have to accept that everything I put out there is worse than it could be. It’s going to feel shitty compared to my standards. But the truth is that making mediocre decisions quickly is one of the most valuable skills you can have in life. Because the point at which the cost of delay exceeds your likely returns from more deliberation comes faster than any of us realizes. So it is with quality for most things. That 10% improvement is not worth the six-month delay 99.9% of the time.

What’s your go-to distraction when you need to take a break during the day?

Twitter! I love Twitter so much. I pretty much agree with all the research that says it’s making society worse and is bad for your mental health. But I am totally addicted to the Discourse. I love knowing what other people are thinking about. I love reading what other people are reading. I love the dunks and the jokes and the inside baseball. It’s so fun. I love learning about new topics, new fields, new ideologies, new policies. I love having a public debate with writers about their work in real time and having other experts chime in with relevant research and points.

“I love Twitter so much. I pretty much agree with all the research that says it’s making society worse and is bad for your mental health. But I am totally addicted to the Discourse.”

Name an app you can’t live without and why.

I can definitely live without it, judging by the fact that I sometimes don’t use it for stretches at a time, but MyFitnessPal is one of my most impactful apps. It’s probably the biggest contributor to my ability to hit my weight goals. It just has a huge impact on my diet, which impacts so many areas of my life.

What’s your before-work routine?

My alarm goes off at 8:15. A lot of times I wake up naturally earlier than that, but that’s when I need to get up to have time to eat breakfast before our Daily Business Standup. I immediately pee and then weigh myself. Then I put my pajamas on and cook myself some eggs for breakfast in bacon fat if I have any on hand. I usually eat some hard boiled egg whites too. Gotta hit my macros. Then I wash my face, put in my contacts, and sit down for work.

How do you find time for strategic thinking and focused work?

Mostly I just try to limit the number of things I take on. Research says context switching is bad for everyone’s focus, but I just really feel it. When I’m having to work on too many separate projects in a day I get anxious because I feel my decision fatigue and worry that my decisions aren’t very high quality. So instead I try to knock a few things out of the park and then take on new projects.

Do you have any remote meeting pro-tips?

I have ADHD and paying attention in meetings has always been difficult if the information isn’t immediately relevant to me. Zoom makes this even more difficult. Plus it’s tiring. I don’t really have any advice, except to work attention like a muscle. Just power through until it gets easier.

What’s something that’s common knowledge in your field but would surprise most people?

Research takes time. Having an original-ish thought or take takes time. But if you’re a writer, the writing itself doesn’t take much time.