I’m Deepak Ravlani, and this is How I Work

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Like so many heroes of the startup world, I started early after college. Now, with years of experience in Technology behind me, it has become a lot easier to polish my workflow and get lots of stuff done. Let’s talk about my workspace setup, go-to apps, best life hacks, favorite gadgets and tunes. In my free time, I work on a few side projects, including Blogging and managing several communities over Google+. Since launching in Dec 2012, +Project Glass community has become one of the fastest growing community. With  more than 2500(and counting) users and a thriving community of Glass fans, needless to say, the past few months have been crazy for me. Last time I went through this, it was 2008. I was using different apps, but did have sort of productivity system that really helped me get things done. In last few years, I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks along the way and I’ve been making some small changes here and there as I get more comfortable with my flow, So this time, I’m sharing more-refined workflow with you.

Here’s the lowdown on how I work now. And more importantly, how do I do it all and remain so curious and inspired?

Current gig: Blogger @ Words From Web Worker; Community Manager @ Project Glass by Google
Current PC: Custom built Desktop PC with 17″ LG display for day-to-day work. Dell Inspiron 15″ for mobility. Powered by Jarvis.
Current mobile deviceGoogle Nexus, running CyanogenMod 10.1. I also have a HP TouchPad rocking CyanogenMod 10.1 and 3rd-gen Apple iPod Touch that’s starting to feel a little slow.
One word that best describes how you work: Curiously(and visually)

Pictured above: Deepak’s Nexus homescreen

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Every individual has a tech stack, even if they don’t know they do. A tech stack is simply the apps, tools, and software an individual uses to do its work. This can include a few crucial tools or 20 different apps across your personal work. The right tools in your tech stack are essential to make you efficient.

I’ve tried all kinds of tools over the years, and I’m constantly looking for ways to improve. Since, I’m on the web most of the time. Chrome is my primary browser, since it works so well on +Android and syncs between devices. As someone who flips through dozens of blogs/hundreds of articles a day, for productivity and learning, I wouldn’t be able to do my reading well without Google Reader and social media trend analysis without Hootsuite. I pretty much live in Google Reader—even after all these years, it’s still the best. I use Reader and +Google+(the social platform I’m most active on) for keeping up to date with news. And other +Google‘s webapps for most of my stuff (GmailCalendarDriveGoogle VoiceMusic).

After a brief stint with Microsoft Onenote and closing of Google Notebook. I’ve settled on Evernote for storing all my notes. Evernote is like a junk drawer for my digital life. I use +Evernote for storing all my notes, random ideas, photos, voice memos, clips from the Internet, important articles from Google Reader, typed and handwritten notes – and it makes everything searchable, synced and accessible across all of my devices. Record a sound bite at a conference on your phone and listen to it later on your work PC. Jot down some inspiration on your tablet on the couch, then finish the thought later on your PC. Take a photo of a business card or handwritten Post-it note, then – with OCR handwriting recognition – search its contents at a later time. Also, I absolutely love automating with If This Then That. +HootSuite is an amazing app for handling all of my social media, at one place. The app allows for scheduled publishing for optimum times, reading to all of social networks – Twitter, Facebook, +YouTube, Google+(waiting for this one) – from one interface. I’ve streams setup for monitoring my personal brand on social networks, track users, trends and keywords across different platforms and more. HootSuite is like a dashboard for me looking to get analysis of my social media efforts. I also use +Mindjet—a glorious, customizable, mindmapping software. I love mind maps in general.

On my +Nexus, I can’t imagine going without Google Goggles, Maps, Music and Nova Launcher Prime. I’m also a avid reader, so Google Currents and Reader both get a lot of use.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut / life hack?
I follow Inbox Zero for email. Use Phraseexpress to automate a lot of tedious typing, for IM and emails. Automating – I try to avoid doing anything twice. If I find myself doing something over and over, I figure out a way to automate it with If This Then That in digital life and lifehacks in real world.

Use swipe actions on my Nexus, and use Objectdock Plus on desktop to do just about anything else. The less typing or clicking it takes to get something done, the better. David Allen’s Getting Things Done(GTD), as a framework, makes sense for me. The way each person applies it, is personal. But, the main concept is crucial: getting everything out of your head so it stops distracting your mind. It is a principle I live by.

Ever since I came across this image (left) a few years ago, I’ve tried to let it guide my work philosophy. I’ll admit to doing a not so great overall, but I have managed to work a couple of these practices into my professional life.

What you do matters.

Work makes up a huge part(1/3rd of our life) of our existence. With that time, you’ve a huge opportunity — to develop personally, to elevate our society, to contribute something bigger than ourself. It is sensible to do something, that matters.

So why does so much of our work feel so meaningless?

How many emails/chat messages have you received today? How many hours have you spent in meetings, and managing work tools?

Now ask yourself: how much of this actually matter?

Millions of us wrestle with digital distractions on a daily basis. It makes it impossible to focus or be present in our work, but we’ve somehow come to accept it. We allow everyone and everything to divert our attention. To rewrite our schedule. To redefine our priorities. And unconsciously, we lose our space for meaningful action.

So I made a big change, by turning off push notifications for email, IM/Social networking on my phone. Whatever I’ve lost in low touch interaction I’ve more than made up for in distraction free work. Being constantly available and responding to emails immediately is a neat trick, but it’s a poor substitute for actual productivity. If you know me well enough to have my phone number and are comfortable enough to call/text me, you’ve earned the right to interrupt me. Otherwise, the time I spend away from my computer is time that needn’t be riddled with a constant stream of notifications promoting a false sense of urgency. It’s made that time more valuable.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
Right now I’m using Google Tasks. I like it because it’s simple and quick to jot down to-dos, check them off, and keep moving. I tried a lot of things in the past (like RTMCohumanDo.comAsana), but going back to basics has been the first thing that really worked for me. Anything that’s time-sensitive goes on Google Calendar so it can bug me as needed. I use Workflowy for process lists or any other kind of lists. I’ve looked at all kinds of to-do apps, but there are none that have really grabbed me so far. I’m still holding out hope that the folks at Google will put something cool together in Google Tasks, or I’ll have to fall back on Asana.

What’s your workspace like?
Okay, so I don’t have a two-monitor setup and sound-blocking headphones. I tried, I swear, but it didn’t work out. I’m a bit more of a minimalist. I’m constantly trying to eliminate clutter in my life, so you won’t find much on my desk beyond my computer, phone, and headphones. I’m a die hard PC user use a custom-built Windows 7 PC, 17″ LG monitor, and a pair of Creative desktop speakers. Keyboard: Samsung Trution TKB 3000. Love the media keys that allow me to control media, email, and one button press to Hibernate my PC.  Mouse: Logitech MX518. The desk itself is just a big, corner desk bought at some office store years ago. The sections are large enough to hold two big monitors and deep enough that there’s plenty of space behind them. Also office chair—probably the most important purchase made for workspace but when you sit in front of a screen for work and play, you need a good chair.

What do you listen to while you work?
Mostly, nothing but the wind. I spend good amount of my time reading and analyzing and other stuff that I like to do in silence. At other times, it really depends on what I’m doing. I like everything from Pop rock, Sufi, Rock based ballads, Indipop, Indian rock/fusion to romantic bollywood songs. I’ve a pretty good personal music collection, use Windows Media Player to organize my library and sync my phone, but I mostly use Google Play Music to actually listen to music, because sometimes it’s nice to just pick how you’re feeling and have it queue up a nice long playlist.  

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?
TouchPad. At the end of the day, If all you want to do is have a laid back experience of going through social media or general reading. Tablet form factor is the best way to go for it.

What’s your sleep routine like?
I’m a night owl, although have always tried to be an early bird too. My PC time used to be quite unpredictable but I keep much more normal hours now, and always try to get six to seven hours of sleep.

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Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
I’m both. Straight down the middle. I like working with people, love being with family and friends, and also love my time alone. I think it’s a misconception that introverts don’t like being with people and extroverts don’t like being alone. It’s more about how you recharge yourself. As much as I enjoy being with people, being alone is where I get my charge.  What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else? Patience. I try to eliminate clutter in all forms: belongings, apps, processes, friend lists, etc. I think it’s important to eliminate the distractions in your life to zero, in order to have more time to think about ‘what matters’.  Also, I’m good at listening to people’s ideas and helping them figure out how to make them even better or combine them with other ideas to create something fresh.  

Deepak’s Reading Trends, since 2005 on Google Reader.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
There are few of these actually, but my favorite piece of advice probably wasn’t intended for me directly, but I like to pretend that it was. “There is no limit to what you can learn, If you don’t mind who gets the credit.” it resonates with me every day.

Adopt a Growth Mindset: A “growth mindset” is a belief you can get better at stuff rather than abilities being fixed. For example, the belief “I can get better at computing.” Research has shown that people with a growth mindset experience more success. Recognize that you often don’t need to be outstanding at everything. Improving can still be very beneficial.

Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, energetic, enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your objective. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

A little bit of meaningless work is a lot worse for you than a great deal of meaningful work. Work is just like a relationship: Spending one week on a job you hate is as dreadful as spending a week with a person you don’t like. But when you find the right job, or the right person, no amount of time is enough. Do what you love and you will love what you do, which will also make you love working harder and longer. And if you don’t love what you are doing right now, try something else—it is never too late for a career change.  The only way to be truly successful is to follow your passion, find your mission, and learn how to embrace the work-life imbalance. The desire and interest trump even the worst boring things in the world.

Hey Google, Who is Deepak Ravlani?

Is there anyone you’d like to see answer these same questions?
+Seth Godin, he’s one of my favorite idol. Also, I’d be particularly interested to see how people in the Android rooting community do what they do. I’m just fascinated by people that are able to do all this work in their spare time and have jobs.

Is there anything else you’d like to add/share that might be interesting to readers/fans?
Over the last decade, Social Media has helped us with connectivity and instant availability at the expense of meaning. Instead of amplifying our human abilities, it has weighed us down; creating new inefficiencies in place of those they remove. Many are disruptive by design, using intrusive notifications and reward-based psychology to trap us in unproductive, passive cycles. Use it to connect with people, not to disconnect with yourself.

I’m definitely a “less is more” type of person when it comes to hoarding, clutter, and general problem solving. I’m what you might call an anti-hoarder—. I think my choices reflect that philosophy as well. I do my best to eliminate the unnecessary. This is how you can focus on what you have and enjoy it in true sense.

Want to know more? Connect with me.

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This post was influenced by the How I work series of Lifehacker. The How I Work series asks heroes, experts, brilliant, and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces, routines, gadgets, apps, tips, and tricks that keep them going.

Things you can do from here:

3 thoughts on “I’m Deepak Ravlani, and this is How I Work

Add yours

  1. You’re one of those very few who is truly into Software, and technology in general. And your passion is infectious.
    Thanks a lot for sharing your work style and tools.


  2. Hi Deepak,
    Thanks for sharing your tools, helps to pick right stuff quickly without bothering you about it. I envy you for all that organized stuff.


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