Brain Cutlery Interview – How a parent of 2 juggles work and family life

Today I want to feature one very special person, a prolific productivity and GTD blogger that has amazing insights into Apple ecosystem. He wrote many mind altering articles, that helped me push my productivity to a higher level. He goes under the pen name Brain Cutlery. You can find his blog where he dissects the deepest secrets of his mind.

This time around I want to dig deeper, and try to uncover his identity, so he doesn’t run around like Batman anymore. So BrainCutlery, show us your Bruce Wayne!

The Interview

Me: Why are you writing under the pen name?

Brain Cutlery: It’s not meant to be a Super Secret thing; I wanted to feel comfortable blogging about my personal pressures at work and home without worrying too much that friends, family or colleagues would stumble across it if they were looking for me, rather than my blog. I know it’s largely pointless trying to maintain anonymity so I’m not trying too hard.

Me: What is your real name?

Brain Cutlery: A lot of people on Twitter seem to think my name is Brian, so let’s go with that. Or you can call me Bruce 😉

Me: When was the first time you’ve started organizing yourself?

Brain Cutlery: I’ve made a couple of halfhearted efforts, but it’s only been in the last 6 months or so where I’ve finally made what feels like a permanent shift into a structured productivity system (primarily GTD-based). I found myself revisiting David Allen’s GTD book maybe 10 years after I’d first started reading it and found it resonated with me in ways that I just hadn’t experienced first time round. It spurred me on to make real changes to the way I go about my daily routines.

Me: What is the article you are most proud of writing on your blog?

Brain Cutlery: That’s a really difficult one, as I’m proud of all of them in different ways. I’ve published 47 posts since I started blogging in November and a part of me goes into each post. There are tons of more experienced, more worldly-wise productivityists out there, so I think what people get from my blog that’s unique is my personal experience and insight as a working dad, struggling to find order and structure in a chaotic world, applying learnings the best way I can and failing a lot of the time.

“Get rid of your open loops and unchain your brain” was particularly resonant as it’s the one component of GTD that I did get first time round (though I failed to implement it). I put a lot of effort into ‘write better emails’ too as it’s a subject close to my heart. One thing that I’ve noticed is that some of my ‘brain dump’ posts have been more popular, and elicited more feedback, than the ones I have taken hours to hone and craft.

Me: Could you tell us something more on your personal life?

Brain Cutlery: It won’t make very interesting reading. I lead a very average life (happily so) with my wife and two little boys, who turned my life completely upside down when they arrived 2 1/2 years and 8 months ago respectively. I used to have hobbies before I had children, but not so much these days. I enjoy reading and films when I get the opportunity and I’m partial to a nice bottle of wine, whiskey or frankly any alcoholic beverage I can lay my hands on. Oh, and I’m 31 if that’s of any interest.

Me: How do you manage business and family obligations?

Brain Cutlery: If you could issue me a school report it would probably say something like ‘improver’. Historically I’ve been quite erratic about managing my workloads, which was perfectly acceptable when I was in a junior position and had no family to worry about. As I’ve got older, that kind of cavalier ‘I just go with the flow’ style just didn’t work for me.

I’m quite enthusiastic about tools now, and use Nozbe task manager for my personal stuff and Outlook for work. I’m more disciplined with ‘Do, Defer, Delegate’ on my business workflow than personal and my Daily and Weekly Reviews tend to be a bit ad-hoc. I’m a big fan of the concept of Next Actions – I have a list of stuff that needs doing but not predefined concept of which one I’m going to do next. This gives me a flexibility that’s really necessary when you have a wife and kids with different ideas about what the ‘priorities’ are.

My biggest failing at the moment is interruptions. I have a team of about 15 people and in an open plan office that means a constant stream of questions and discussions. I need to get better at saying ‘No’ occasionally when I’m asked “do you have a minute?”. For example this week I’ve made numerous attempts to write a briefing paper that is due next week but have failed as a direct result of these interruptions. I love these interactions though and would go insane if I had my own office.

Me: What is your goal creating workflow?

Brain Cutlery: I’m a big fan of ‘affirmations’ – something I picked up from a Lou Tice self-improvement course a few years back. Every now and again I’ll dust off my Life Wheel and think about how I’m doing on key areas such as Family, Money, Career and Health. I’ll then rewrite some affirmations that reinforce the outcomes I want and agree some medium term actions to get there.

I recently posted about creating ‘projects’ in Nozbe and framing them as goals – I find this helpful to keep me reminded on a daily basis what I’m trying to achieve and how the ‘little stuff’ is helping me to get there.

Me: What is your #1 favorite tool you use?

Brain Cutlery: It’ s a close call between Evernote – which I think is just a miraculous tool in terms of its versatility and accessibility – and 1password, which I use constantly and has enabled me to go from an incredibly hackable ‘single password for every site imaginable’ guy to a ‘separate 16-digit passwords for every single site’ guy.

Me: What is your favorite gadget?

Brain Cutlery: The boring (but honest) answer would be my iPhone. It’s a truly astonishing device that permeates every aspect of my everyday life. I love a good gadget but don’t get the opportunity to indulge my impulsive gadget whims as much as I’d like. My most indulgent gadget is probably my Canon 7D Digital SLR – I’m nowhere near a good enough photographer to justify it (or the lenses I bought to go with it) but it’s a joy to use and I have a few wonderful pictures of my kids (and a gazillion crappy ones) because of it.

Me: Could you share us your home screen? (and dissect it)

Brain Cutlery: It took me a while to get my first screen down to this. When I downloaded Launch Center Pro I managed to move a number of my ‘every day’ apps (messages, phone etc) into it. I like the minimalist feel, and being able to see my kids in the background is an added bonus.

It’s only recently that I’ve gone from having the ‘standard’ iOS apps in the dock. It took me a long time to come around to the Gmail app (I now think it’s awesome) and I’ve had to retrain myself to access my music via Spotlight, but I think it works. There’s a sort of Zen to a nice, sparse home screen.

Brain Cutlery Homescreen Original Size

Final thoughts

It is my great pleasure to have Brain Cutlery as a reader and contributor to the culture of Alpha Efficiency. He is at the very begging of his blogging career, but I foresee great future for him and his blog. He’s got consistency and passion for the productivity.

His article that specifically peaked my attention was his disagreeing with my “Quit GTD” notion. Among numerous of articles on his young blog, the one that resonated the most with the audience was “My iPhone is the other woman”, where he dives into smartphone addiction that plagues the countless people in 21st century.

Check him out, pay him a follow on Twitter and App.net, he’s a talkative guy, completely worthy of your attention. And by far you can feel my full endorsement for his content. Enjoy.