Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I'm Bianca Woods and This Is How I Work

David Kelly (@LnDDave) recently did his own fascinating version of the Lifehacker feature “How I Work” and challenged the rest of us in the industry to do the same.

What can I say, David? Challenge accepted!
I'm Bianca Woods and this is my bear hat!

The Great White North (AKA: Toronto, Canada)

Current Gig
Instructional designer/technologist at BMO Financial Group

Current mobile device
iPhone 4S

Current computer
A terrifyingly slow Lenovo

A 4-year-old MacBook Pro that is somehow substantially better than my work computer despite being substantially older

One word that best describes how you work

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Oh boy, I could write about this practically forever. To spare you hours of reading, though, here are a few of my favourites as of this very moment.

  • Post-it Notes: I may be head over heels in love with technology, but not a project goes by where I don’t find that the humble Post-it is the right tool for part of the job. They are, by far, the best early storyboarding/drafting tool I’ve ever used. Plus they come in a variety of shades, so I can be all fussy about colour coding things. 
  • PowerPoint: Hear me out on this one. I know we all hate the typical “thousand bullet points in 7-point font” nonsense PowerPoint deck, but if you actually take the time to apply design principles you can produce some beautiful presentation decks. Plus, PowerPoint is delightfully easy to MacGuyver. I’ve used it to create such non-standard offerings as vector graphics, animated videos, and branched simulations. It’s an underrated workhorse if you ask me. 
  • Twitter: My much-loved personal learning network is there. What more can I say. 
  • Bloglovin’: It’s the worst named service I use (Seriously? No “g”? I feel ridiculous every time I have to refer to it by name.), but out of all the Google Reader replacements I’ve tried it’s the best suited to my needs. If you like skimming tons of RSS feeds then I recommend ignoring the terrible name and checking it out.

What’s your workspace like?
Wow is it messy right now. I’m creating several branched simulations and I always start by mapping them out with Post-its first. As a result, my desk has three poster-sized maps covering it right now. I also like being surrounding with things that fuel my creativity, so there are infographics, random images, books, duct tape (don’t ask), and toys at my desk. It’s one of the odder-looking work areas in my building, but it feels like home.

Cubicle, sweet cubicle

What’s your best time-saving trick?
Remember to talk about what you’re working on to others (both in your office and in your industry) and get them to do the same. It’s amazing how often we take the difficult path, reinvent the wheel, or use the wrong solution simply because we didn’t know the person sitting next to us had a better solution all along.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
I tried to go all high tech with this but in the end found that the best solution for me was just a notebook. That said, I did enjoy using the EpicWin app a lot.

Good advice if you ask me!

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?
The general consensus seems to be that saying “iPad” is a bit of a cop out (although in my case it’s true. I love you iPad!), so I’m going to instead say my fabulous iPad keyboard.

I seriously injured myself last year by live tweeting a conference on my iPhone and iPad. As it turns out, typing directly on touch screen devices for over 8 hours a day, 3 days straight isn’t so fantastic for your body. Go fig.

After way too much physical therapy I’m finally starting to get better, but I promised myself I wouldn’t let that same injury happen again. As such, I picked up this Logitech iPad keyboard and have been entirely impressed with it. It’s comfortable to use (note: Your mileage may vary on this one. I have small hands), keeps a charge forever, and is super lightweight.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
Planning trips. Seriously, I am the master of creating detailed and efficient travel itineraries. I’m actually quite flexible about changing plans when I get somewhere, but I get a large amount of satisfaction in knowing I have a well-researched itinerary to use as a starting point. Nothing would make me sadder than wasting a ton of travel time because I hadn’t researched what subway stations I needed to use or how to get from the airport to my hotel.

Side note: TripIt is my go-to tool for this, although I’ve also used Google Docs for collaborating on group trip plans.

What do you listen to while you work?
I listen to a series of curated stations on Songza, and choose which one depending on my energy level. If I’m awake I like the Sunshine Indie Pop and Blogged 50 playlists. If I’m groggy, then it’s all K-Pop Party-Starters, all the time for me.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert?
I’m the bizarre combination of a shy extrovert. That means if we’re at a conference I’ll likely be too shy to just walk up to strangers and chat with them, but I’m practically giddy when people take the time to talk to me.

(Big thanks to everyone who’s ever gone out of their way to introduce themselves to me at a con. You are all fabulous.)

What’s your sleep routine like?
I have a long morning commute, so my intention is always to get up early so I can scamper out the door before traffic really hits. Alas, my body rarely wants to play along with this plan. That’s mostly because I typically have trouble getting to bed when I ought to (I have a horrible habit of falling down a Pinterest-Geek board rabbit hole when I’m trying to wind down at the end of the night). Damn you internet for being so interesting!

Fill in the blank. I’d love to see ______ answer these same questions.
Can I say “everyone in my personal learning network” (I’m dying to see your desks)? Beyond that, I’d also like to see Nancy Duarte and pretty much anyone who works at Valve answer these same questions.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
If the job you want doesn’t exist, go out there and create it. 


  1. Thanks for sharing Bianca! For the record, "It’s amazing how often we take the difficult path, reinvent the wheel, or use the wrong solution simply because we didn’t know the person sitting next to us had a better solution all along" is the best thing I've read all day. Well said.
    Also, at the next conference we attend, I'll be sure to seek you out and break the ice so we can chat. :-)

    1. Thanks again for getting this whole "This Is How I Work" thing going. It's been quite fun so far.

  2. Hi Bianca, this is brilliant. My first thought was wow, look at all the post it notes, the second was if I took a photo of my work area, you'd assume that you'd have been looking at an empty office with no personalisation at all.

    I love your desk - it really looks like 'your space'. In an open plan flexi desking office, one of the things I feel is that the space is devoid of anything comfortable or permanent.

    And is that a teddy bear on your shelf?

    I so need a teddy bear on mine.

    Have a wonderful day and thanks for sharing!

    We're all having a bit of a sneaky peak eh?

    1. My desk is full of silly toys. As of this moment there is the following:

      1) Not one, but TWO teddy bears
      2) A stuffed llama
      3) A mini-TARDIS
      4) A LEGO figurine that looks sort of like me
      5) An Android Bug toy
      6) A PEZ dispenser
      7) A mini-figurine of one of those crane machine aliens from Toy Story
      8) A roll of pink duct tape with white polka dots

      It's a delightfully strange desk!

  3. I love the "This Is How I Work" series on LifeHacker, but I never thought to do one on myself for my blog. I wish there were a compilation of "This Is How I Work" articles on Learning Professionals. Thank you for sharing! I am definitely going to write my own.

    1. If it's helpful, David Kelly collected all the "This Is How I Work" posts that those of us within the learning professional community wrote as a result of his blog post. You can find them by scrolling to the bottom of this post: