This is How I Work

I love the LifeHacker series called This is How I Work. By peering into the lives and work habits of others, I gain confidence that I’m no more incompetent or inept than the next genius. But alas, LH has yet to come calling. So I decided to interview myself instead.

I’m Ryan Skalla, CEO of Prophettic, and This Is How I Work…

  • Location: Southern California
  • Current Gig: CEO & CMO at Prophettic, Inc
  • One word that best describes how you work: Curiously
  • Current mobile device: iPhone X 256GB, iPad Pro 512GB (because life’s too short to run out of memory)
  • Current computer: 27″ iMac 2017, dressed to the nines (see above)

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

What’s your workspace setup like?

Minimalist, clean, ridiculously organized, and nearly paperless. A 100% controlled environment with zero distractions (minus the occasional snoring dog).

Yes, that’s Dwight & Mose hanging over my desk like the heroes they are

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

Anytime I sit down to do something, the first thing I do is ask myself “How can I never have to do this again?” I’m a huge systems guy and this is one of the tenets of my life. I’ll spend 5 hours doing something that will take you 5 minutes. But while you’re doing the same 5-minute task every day for the rest of your life, I’ll never have to do it again because I’ve created a repeatable process for it. Slow and steady wins the race.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

Hey Siri, remind me to take out the trash every Sunday at 6PM”.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?

I’m a huge lover of music and recently dropped a couple grand on Sonos for the whole house. I got the bookshelf one and was blown away. Within 2 weeks there was one in every room in the house and on my TV. It’s playing constantly and also now serves as my alarm clock on the days when I want to pretend I’m like everybody else and get up at a reasonable hour.

My Breville BES870XL Espresso Machine, loaded with Peet’s Espresso Forte, fuels my morning ritual of flipping mindlessly through Google News until I’m coherent enough to shuffle down the hall to my office. Side note: If I were homeless, you’d find me pushing this and my Tempurpedic in my shopping cart.

And for the screaming toddler with oblivious parents on my 10-hour flight to Europe, my Bose QC35 Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones are a lifesaver (his, not mine).

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?

My super power is process optimization and organizing large amounts of information. My database schema will slay your database schema with one hand tied behind its back. I can’t look at a task, routine, procedure, or job without immediately jumping to “I wonder if there’s an easier way to do this?“.

When I was in grade school, my grandma used to pay me to organize her home office and kitchen cabinets. Fortunately for me and my job security, my grandma was the absolute worst at organizing anything.

What do you listen to while you work? Got a favorite playlist? Maybe talk radio? Or do you prefer silence?

Brain.fm for coding, Vivaldi for everything else. Every day it amazes me that I can still be endlessly entertained by a guy who kicked the bucket 300 years ago.  That’s a legacy in my book.

What are you currently reading? Or what’s something you’d recommend?

I always have 3-4 books in-process. I’m all business when it comes to reading. If it’s not related to investing, productivity, or success, or a biography of someone who’s done it, you won’t find it on my bookshelf.

Some Must-Reads:

  • The Richest Man in Babylon
  • Rich Dad, Poor Dad changed my life. At its peak, there was lots of back & forth about whether or not the story was true and that Kiyosaki had made the whole thing up. I didn’t care. I believed it enough to take action and buy my first flip. That was over 100 houses ago.
  • And for later, Stop Acting Rich

A tip for voracious readers: It’s OK to not finish. I stopped feeling guilty about that along time ago. If I get a quarter-way into a book that’s just not doing it for me, I’m allowed to drop it with no regrets. Next…

How do you recharge? What do you do when you want to forget about work?

I’m a Disneyland Annual Passholder and avid collector of European stamps in my passport. ‘Nough said.

What’s your sleep routine like? Are you a night owl or early-riser?

I have the most jacked up sleep routine of anyone I know. I’m borderline polyphasic without wanting to be. My peak creative time is 1-3AM and I get my best sleep from 5AM-10AM. It’s been a lifelong struggle to stop feeling guilty about being out of sync with the rest of the world.

However, the best counter-strategy I’ve developed is what I call “Push the Ball”. I push my business ball of priorities into someone else’s court while they’re sleeping. While I’m sleeping, they come into work and address my priorities. By the time I wake up, stuff has started to happen and fires are already burning for me to put out. I guess it’s the same strategy you’d use if you worked on a remote team in different time zones, complete with the requisite daily “overlap”.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.

William Randolph Hearst

William Randolph Hearst. I’m fascinated with the guy. He managed to build a cross-country empire when we barely had the phone. How come I can’t do it with all of today’s amazing tools at my disposal?

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

When I was in junior high, I started hanging around with some suboptimal influences (I’m looking at you, Mole) and doing poorly on an academic level. One day, while sitting in the garage with my dad, he told me “You’re not dumb, you’re just lazy”. He was 100% right and those words came to define everything about my approach to work, leverage, and productivity.  I flipped that insight on its head and have used it to my advantage ever since. Thanks, Dad!

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans?

Have an immense curiosity about your work, your industry, your environment, your peers, your competition, your predecessors, your self. The one question that has gotten me furthest in life is “Tell me more about that. How does that work?” You’ll learn about things you never knew before and start connecting the dots to other areas of your life. That question is the basis of a truly creative process.

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