Advertising
Advertising

2×4: An Interview With Gabe Weatherhead

2×4: An Interview With Gabe Weatherhead

2X4 Interviews

    2×4: One series that examines two topics, creativity and productivity, by asking those who make things on the web the same four questions on both subjects.

    Run an interview series long enough and you start to see trends emerge. In the case of these 2×4 interviews, a clear, recurring theme has emerged. Those who tell me that they “aren’t all that creative” when I request the interview end up offering some of the best perspective of the series. Today’s interviewee, Gabe Weatherhead of Macdrifter, is no exception.

    I first learned of Gabe’s work through fellow 2×4 participant David Sparks’ Mac Power Users podcast. He tends to focus in on an app and learns how to make the most out of it. It was his impressive efforts with Keyboard Maestro that caught David and his co-host Katie Floyd’s attention. When they wanted to do a full episode on Keyboard Maestro, they decided to bring him in to guide Mac users through the application. Gabe is not only knowledgable, but he excels at making things clear in a way that even the code-free amongst us can benefit.

    I’d go on, but frankly, I’m just keeping you from some excellent answers to some rather straightforward questions. So without further ado, here’s one of my favorite entries to date in this series courtesy of Gabe Weatherhead from Macdrifter.

    Creativity

    Have you always considered yourself a creative person?

    I think everyone is a creative person. It’s what defines us as human beings. We can’t escape it. Anyone that has found themselves stuck in a bathroom without tissue knows how creative they can be.

    In all seriousness, it’s my opinion that, as we become adults, we become more effective at pushing down creativity in exchange for efficiency. Occasionally those two aspects are mutually exclusive but some of us lack the ability to know when. I think when I am enjoying my work I am more creative because I’m not looking for a quick resolution. I’m looking for a better resolution. I have a good sense of my limits and no problem telling people “no.” The shorter my task list, the more freedom I have to be creative.

    What mediums and inspirations do you gravitate toward to realize your creative goals?

    I am a scientist by training and view problems through that lens. The natural world provides an essentially infinite supply of inspirational solutions to problems.

    When thinking about problems, I tend to anthropomorphize the inanimate. I’ve always done this. When I was a chemist, I related to chemical reactions as human interactions. For example, I think about how one molecular construct has a preference for another. Or how two molecules might be encouraged to react by the right catalyst. Now that I spend more time being a hack programmer, I think in the same way. I say things like “how would this application talk to this one?” or “who needs to talk to this method and what language are they speaking?” Personally, I think this is what enables me to deal with extremely abstract ideas.

    If you had to point to one thing, what specific posts or creations are you most proud of and why?

    My daughter is my single greatest achievement. But I have other things I like too. Oddly, I don’t really take pride in my posts at Macdrifter.com. I like writing there and try to do a good job, but I don’t think I’m particularly good at writing. What I do take pride in is making things people find useful. I really enjoy comments and emails where people share how they are using a small piece of something I’ve done. I do have a list of highlight posts but they are a list of things I had fun writing, rather than a list of what I think is good. I guess I just don’t respect my opinion much.

    Any suggestions for those who feel they may not be creative enough to unlock their inner artist?

    Get over it. There’s no such thing. Some people have a better perception of shapes and colors or a steadier hand. That’s just biology. There are very few humans that are truly and uniquely inspired and that quality usually comes at a high price. As far as I know, only a serious brain injury can suddenly change our innate skills. I’ll skip that option.

    I have three suggestions to have more fun doing better work.

    I try to take the time to really appreciate things around me. At one point in my life, I enjoyed painting and sketching. Through that experience, I learned to stop and think about the shape and colors of things. I would wonder how I could reproduce a particular color or shadow effect. Now I try to do the same. When I read a Gruber article or a Horace analysis, I try to think about what makes it so good. What makes a superior sentence or argument?

    It’s hard but I try to get to the nut first and then elaborate. Too often I will ramble (like now) before getting to my point. I’m more effective if I outline first and then go in and elaborate the thought or project. Afterward, I go back and cut unnecessary material.

    Relax and enjoy the work. Just as there are few people that are uniquely skilled, there are also few jobs or problems that are actually critical. We’ve been screwing things up throughout history. There are very few bad choices that really matter on a grand scale. If I’m not enjoying the work, then I’m thinking about it too much or I’ve chosen the wrong work.

    Productivity

    Can you describe your current personal and professional responsibilities?

    I’m a dad and a husband first and I’m a “Lead Systems Engineer” second. I have no idea what that title is supposed to mean. My daily job is to plan, design and implement software solutions for research scientists at a pharmaceutical company. I focus on things like chemistry applications and electronic laboratory notebooks. My job is a hybrid between project manager, scientist and software engineer. My day consists of Gantt charts, chemical structures and code (mostly Python/SQL/JavaScript/VBScript).

    I have far too many hobbies to list but I brew and collect beer and enjoy Mac hacking. I prefer to teach myself something new before I will pay someone else to do it for me. That means I do a bit of everything. I cook, make cabinetry and wire networks. I’m not great at any of them, but it makes me appreciate a master at work.

    How do you go about balancing the personal, professional and digital?

    I try not to over-think it too much but my family always comes first. I have organized my schedule so I can come home early (I’m up by 4:30am). After work I get about an hour to practice code or work on a personal project before I pick up my daughter from school. My wife is in law school so I carry a bit more load at home. That means making dinner, giving baths and lots of dancing with a 3-year-old.

    I forfeited what I would consider a successful career as a scientist to make sure my life was constructed around things that are important to me. That includes family, hobbies and principles. It’s liberating to know that I’ve already done some of the scariest things I will do in my life. Either that or I’m blissfully ignorant. I’ll take either.

    What tools and techniques do you find yourself counting on to get through your workload?

    Here comes the nerdery. I use Markdown. A lot. It keeps my work structured but without making it overly complex or fiddly. I write emails in Markdown and I take notes in Markdown. It’s Markdown all the way down.

    That leaves me plenty of time to fiddle with other applications though. I benefit from OmniFocus and the Reminders app with Siri. I’m forced to work in a locked Windows environment (read: NO DROPBOX) all day so I bridge that world with MS Exchange integration with iOS and Simplenote. So basically, I still rely on OS X and iOS even though 90% of my work is done on Windows.

    I also think tinkering has received a bad rap. It’s disparaged as being unproductive or procrastination in some circles. I think it leads to discovery. It has provided me with a comfort and familiarity with my tools. It’s ok to sit and sharpen an axe if you intend to use it. I spend plenty of time writing little scripts to use while I write. It’s made me more comfortable in my chosen tools. Learning some amount of scripting has been incredibly valuable to me. Anyone can learn to write Python or Ruby. Not Perl though. That’s for the criminally insane.

    I offload as much as I can to my iPad. Instead of keeping my mail open on my work computer, I use my iPad. It reduces the Pavlovian email response and keeps me focused on work. I occasionally take notes on paper but I always transcribe to my iPad. I also use my iPad for task management throughout the day. The iPad is the logical conclusion of the PalmPilot and OmniFocus is the pinnacle of task management on iOS.

    What is the best starting point for the unproductive amongst us, who are looking to get more organized?

    I’m no expert. I’m also not comfortable saying what other people should do. For me, I find the things I enjoy and incorporate those into my work. I get more done when I enjoy the work. Sure, a nice pen doesn’t write more, but it will make me hold that pen more which precipitates more writing or sketching. The same goes for a well-designed app or webpage.

    The single best thing I have done to help keep me organized was to get married. The second best thing was to get a ScanSnap scanner and go paperless as much as possible. I try to avoid any paper and I prefer to buy eBooks whenever I can.

    Finally, I don’t follow movements. I prefer to focus on what makes me happy. I don’t cut things out to achieve an ideal. I just spend more time with the things I like. I do the parts of GTD I like. I don’t clean my desk to be minimal. I don’t have inbox-zero. Movements and mantras are insidious and counterproductive to me.

    More by this author

    2×4: An Interview with David Sparks 2×4: An Interview with Myke Hurley 2×4: An Interview With CJ Chilvers 2X4 Interviews 2×4: An Interview With Gabe Weatherhead 2×4: An Interview With Brett Kelly

    Trending in Uncategorized

    1How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success 2Why Do I Procrastinate? 5 Evil Root Causes And How To Tackle Them 3Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus 4The Ultimate Way to get to Inbox Zero 520 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success

    How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success

    Does it ever feel like the things you want to accomplish always end up on the back burner? If the answer to that question is “yes,” you’re not alone. Only about 33% of people consistently work toward their goals. In some cases, their goals may seem too lofty to accomplish, or else they aren’t sure how to make a plan for them.

    If you don’t come up with concrete steps to take toward your goals, they’ll remain dreams. There’s nothing wrong with being a dreamer, but being able to turn your dreams into goals you can realize will help you lead a happier and more fulfilling life.

    Luckily, you can realize almost any dream when you harness the right goal-setting methods.

    In this article, I’ll show you how to achieve goals and get closer you success.

    1. Break your dreams down into specific and measurable steps

    We couldn’t talk about goal-setting without mentioning SMART goals.

    SMART goals are specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-related.

    Specific and measurable steps are so important because if we don’t know what our target it, how can we ever hit it?

    Take all those beautiful dreams you have for yourself and make them into things you can actually do. If you want to be an entrepreneur, for example, a step toward realizing your dream might be researching what you’ll need to start your business.

    Find out more tips about utilizing SMART goals here:

    How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life

    Advertising

    2. Have at least one clearly defined goal for every interest and role in your life

    It’s so easy to become complacent or stagnate. We often think that our careers are the only places where we need to set goals, but we aren’t only what we do.

    To make the most of your life, take the approach that you’re always learning and growing in everything you do. Anything worth doing is worth doing well after all.

    Set goals whether you’re sponsoring an activity for your child, taking up guitar lessons or trying to prove your worth at work.

    You’ll notice that this approach forces you to constantly develop new skills. It can also be fulfilling to put more focus and value into all areas of your life— not just the ones related to our careers.

    3. Align your goals with your life’s mission, purpose and passion

    Take the opportunity to do some soul-searching. What is it that you want to do with this precious life of yours?

    Anything that conflicts with your life’s purpose is bound to cause discontent. Staying in a bad relationship, doing a job that goes against your values, or maintaining the status quo just because it’s comfortable are not options for you.

    Thinking about your goals in this way can help you eliminate things in your life that don’t serve you. This frees up mental space that you can use to do the things you care about the most.

    Many of us struggle to find the time to work on our goals, but this strategy enables you to make more time.

    4. Create goals that ignite your spirit and inspire you to take action

    If you can’t be fired up about your goals from the start, they might not be good goals for you.

    The road to success is often tough. You’re going to have times when you might feel tired or discouraged.

    Advertising

    You need to feel inspired enough that you’ll be able to overcome obstacles as you encounter them.

    If what you’re doing motivates you to be the greatest version of yourself, you’ll be much more resilient.

    5. Write down all your goals in specific, measurable detail

    This is your road map for what success will look like. The more you define what you want the finished product to be, the greater the chance that you’ll reach that vision.

    When you write down your goals, you’re creating a document that you can revisit to make sure you’re on track.

    When you’re in the middle of trying to achieve a big goal, it can be hard to see what’s working for you. The things you write in this step will help you stay on-message as you take your goals out of your mind and into the real world.

    Don’t just write down your goals and stash them away in a folder somewhere. Take the extra step to put them somewhere where you’ll see them.[1]

    If you have too many goals to post on your desk, write a summary or choose one or two steps to work on for the day. Just seeing them will keep them in the front of your mind.

    6. Commit to hitting each of your targets without exception

    You wouldn’t have created the target if you didn’t think it was necessary. Hold yourself accountable for taking the steps to succeed.

    You can always adapt your strategy or break your targets into smaller steps if you find that they aren’t attainable as you originally wrote them.

    Hitting even the smallest target is cause for a celebration. It’s a step in the positive direction. Your success will make you crave more success.

    Advertising

    We often make excuses when we get tired or overwhelmed. Take away the option to make excuses. You will only be satisfied with the best effort from yourself.

    7. Share your goals with others to motivate each other

    There’s something so powerful about people sharing their goals and dreams with one another. Doing so gives voice to some part of us that could remain hidden (and therefore never be accomplished).

    When other people know about your goals, they can cheer you on and hold you accountable. When people share their vision with you, you can do the same for them.

    This strategy is particularly beneficial when you’re trying to develop healthy habits. Post about your workout on social media, or do a healthy eating challenge with your best friend. You’ll be less likely to slack when temptation arises, and you’ll probably encourage someone else to reach for their goals too.

    8. Set a series of daily, weekly and long-term goals, complete with starting times and deadlines

    Many goals never reach realization simply because the goal-setter doesn’t check their progress. People tend to forget what they set out to do, or their goal gets crowded out by other obligations.

    Forcing yourself to revisit your goals at regular intervals breaks them into smaller steps and it reminds you to think about them.

    Giving yourself regular deadlines for smaller tasks related to your goals also helps you reflect on your strategy. You’ll figure out what works for you, whether your timeline is realistic, and whether or not you need additional help to stay on track.

    In addition, celebrating small wins helps you stay motivated. Here’s how:

    How To Celebrate Small Wins To Achieve Big Goals

    9. Take 10 minutes every day to imagine how great it will feel to achieve your goals

    Visualization is such a powerful tool. Some of the most successful athletes, celebrities and business people take time each day to think about how success looks and feels for them.[2] Imagining that feeling of satisfaction can be a great motivator.

    Advertising

    When you do meet your goals, take some time to be grateful. Thank yourself for showing up and doing the work. Be grateful when the stars align properly to help you advance to the next step.

    It’s not just getting to the destination of your goals that matters. How you take the journey is important too.

    10. Take an action step toward reaching your goals every day

    Your goals can easily get buried in the hustle and the bustle. Even the smallest step in the right direction is still moving you forward.

    Keep chipping away at the work every day and before long, you’ll start to see those dreams come to life.

    Maybe you didn’t start your business today but you designed the logo that’s going to go on your website and business cards. Doing that task well is going to help you so much in the long run.

    Concrete actions day by day draw your dreams out of obscurity and into the realm of possibility.

    Change begins today

    Dreams can inspire and overwhelm us. By turning our dreams into goals that we can work toward, we increase our chances of success. Things that once seemed impossible are suddenly within reach.

    It’s time to start turning your dreams into goals and your goals into realities.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

    Read Next