How I Work - Jason Dittberner

How I Work

I am a big fan of Lifehacker's How I Work series, so I decided to play the game for myself.

Here we go…

Location: Dallas-Ft Worth Texas
Current Gig: VP Marketing for SEI (ecommerce furniture wholesaler)
Current Computer: Home = 27” 5K iMac, Travel = 12” MacBook, Office = HP ENVY Phoenix Desktop / Windows 10
Current Mobile Device & Tablet: iPhone XR / Apple iPad (Wi-Fi, 32GB)
One Word that Describes How You Work: Pomodoro

"The Rhodia Webnotebook is my favorite offline brain dumping ground." -- Jason Dittberner

First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.

I have been working in marketing for close to 20 years now. I've worked at an ad agency, my own digital marketing company, consulted for private equity companies and worked in ecommerce for both fashion and home furnishing. I've also been developing websites for close to 22 years now.

Take us through a recent workday.

No two days are the same for me. I manage a small marketing team and a studio that produces photography, video, and 3D assets. I am also responsible for the branding and launching of our D2C brands.

A typical day is internal meetings, managing my team (usually via Slack), and working with new vendors for our B2C efforts.

Besides your phone, what apps, gadgets, or tools can't you live without?
Slack is the first one. I've managed three teams now, at three different places, mainly via Slack.

Click Up is another one. Project management software is a must, and I like the fact that Click Up is easy to use and has a desktop and phone app, unlike Asana. Their three min quick start video is a great way to get the team using the app, unlike something like Wrike. Click Up also has an entirely new design with 2.0.

Gadget wise I am a massive fan of the iPad with the pen. I've had iPads for years and never really used them much. The iPad, with Goodnotes, is a game-changer for meeting notes.

For digital note-taking, I've tried everything and come back to Evernote. It just works for me.

For keeping up with marketing, and storing by bookmarks, PDF money magnet downloads, and notes from Udemy/books/podcast/LinkedIn Learning…I use DevonThink. DevonThink is an excellent catalog for my personal marketing knowledgebase.

What's your workspace setup like?

While I use a ton of Apple stuff, I am not an Apple elitist. There's a ton of things I hate about their products and software, so I try and plug those gaps as needed. I also use a PC at work, so I am forbidden from getting an Apple tattoo.

Keyboard wise, I use the Logitech K811 at home with my iMac and in the office with my phone and iPad. What I love about this keyboard is I can use it for my computer, phone, and iPad all by switching the Bluetooth input.

Mouse wise, I use the Anker ergo mouse as it works great for preventing carpal tunnel and wrist fatigue. It takes about a week to get used to it, so it isn't for many, but well worth it if you have the discipline to commit.

The rest of my workspace is minimal. I tend to be a minimalist with most things.

What's your favorite shortcut or hack?

My favorite hack is a sleep hack. I don't sleep enough since I go to the gym at 4:45am most mornings, so focusing on quality is critical.

I started with the Tim Ferriss ACV and honey drink before bed and had success with it for years. I now skip the ACV and honey. I do magnesium and ashwagandha in 6oz of water before bed. Also, two hours before sleep, I wear blue blocker glasses to maximize melatonin.

Is there anything unusual about your writing or editing process?

No. I do use a lot of tools to help enhance or correct my writing. Some of those tools include:

Take us through an interesting, unusual, or finicky process you have in place at work.

I really hate email, so I ask my team to use Slack to communicate. With email, I never check it before the office. Once in the office, I check it first thing and then close it until around the lunch hour, which is when I check it the second time. The final email sitrep is before leaving the office. By not sitting in it all day, I eliminate the back and forth that makes me crazy. It's why I am also a big fan of Calendly for scheduling calls. That whole, "are you available at x, y, or z" is a waste of time. Here's a link. Book a call. Done.

How do you keep track of what you have to do?

I am guilty of looking for that magic software when it is really the process that matters. With that said, Things 3 helps me keep track of my personal to-do tasks and projects. I use Todoist for work tasks. Evernote is home base for all of my notes like license plate numbers, pictures of the back of TVs, and anything I need to reference. DEVONthink helps me keep track of my marketing notes, bookmarks (in addition to Pocket), and PDFs. Work project management and reference happen in Slack.

How do you recharge or take a break?

My recharging happens with exercise and meditation. I get up at 4:45am for the gym 3-4x a week. There's something peaceful about being up while the kids and my wife are sleeping. The gym has different energy at that time of day as well. It is, surprisingly, busy at that time, but the crowd is more focused. I like that.

We also have a massage chair at work that I use daily with the Calm app. I have been using the Calm app for 10-minute meditations for a while now. If I had to pick the one life hack that has made the most significant change in my life, it is meditating 10 minutes a day.

What's your favorite side project?

Photography. It is the perfect counter to mostly being analytical and data-driven with marketing. It's almost liking turning on another part of my brain to do photography. It's also an art that has so much depth to it, you can never really master it, so it keeps me engaged. I also love the gear, so that fulfills the engineering roots that are wired into me genetically.

What are you currently reading, or what do you recommend?

My latest book is Atomic Habits by James Clear. Great book.
Beyond my latest book, I recommend developing a system for consuming content. There is too much out there and not enough time.

My system looks like this:

I subscribe to 50+ websites, via RSS (Feedly), and read those daily. Anything of interest I save in Pocket and tag (e.g., email marketing, growth hacking, photography, etc.). Upon weekly review, I grab the sections of the article I want to save and catalog it in DEVONthink.

I also consume most of my books with Audible. I listen at 2x speed. I also have 20-30 podcasts I consume at double-speed.
Funny side story...I once thought a podcast host had a stroke, and I was really bummed out because he was talking verrrrryyyyy slooooow. It turns out my podcast player (Overcast) somehow got reset to normal 1x speed.

What's a problem you're still trying to solve?

The elusive perfect diet. I have the exact opposite problem most people have in that I cannot gain weight. I should have said the ideal food program.
Both sides of my family suffer digestion issues, so that tends to be the focus of my food program…gut health. Eating for energy, longevity, and eating clean are the other layers to the ideal plan.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?

I'd love to see Joe Rogan answer these questions. That guy gets more done than anyone. He has one of the most successful podcasts, is a comedian, and does commentary for the UFC. That's a lot. He does his professions at the highest level too. Amazing.

“Once you understand what excellence is all about…you see how excellence manifests itself in any discipline.” – Joe Rogan


Meditation the Easy Way

Who has time to meditate? Everyone. We can all carve out 10 minutes a day. It doesn't matter who you are.

Over the past couple of years, I have used the app Calm to help with meditation sessions. After trying several apps, including Headspace, Oak, and Calm, I settled on Calm.

JD Calm Stats


Why Meditate in the First Place?

There are many health benefits to meditating. You can Google and find long lists of them. All benefits tend to fall into better thinking, a healthier body, and better emotional well-being.

In my experience, the three most significant benefits I see include lower stress levels, more patience, and better problem-solving ability.

Is it a placebo effect? What has been interesting is my wife can sometimes tell if I miss sessions or not. Since I meditate in the early morning, before the rest of the family is awake, nobody is aware of when I meditate or not.

Why the Calm App?

It's not about the app. An app is a tool. Use one, or don't use one. If you use one, this isn't a scenario where you need to spend a bunch of time reading versus comparisons online. Download 3-4 and give them each a try for a week to see what works for you. I'd start with Calm, Headspace, Oak, and 10% Happier.

What I like about Calm is the "Daily Calm" and that they have little mini-courses on topics, such as anxiety, that you can plow through as well.

I also find Tamara Levitt, the voice of calm, to be the one that resonates with me the most. I enjoy her personal stories in the sessions.

Calm app

3 Tips for Getting Started with Meditation

Having used the Calm app, along with others, over the past two years, I have three tips for getting started with meditation.

  1. It is easy to use meditation as a break/fix tool at first. That is the mistake I made. I would only use the Calm app when I wanted to lower stress or address anxiety. While that can be effective for addressing a single issue, meditation has so much more to offer. My recommendation is to make it a daily practice. The compound interest of daily 10-20 minute sessions is compelling. Don't sell yourself short.
  2. Get comfortable. It is hard to stick with a daily routine if you know you will be in pain, figuring out the lotus position. All of my sessions have been lying on a yoga mat, chair, or bed. I want to be comfortable. Purists are yelling at their monitors right now, but that's fine because IMO, there are no rules to meditating. Do what works.
  3. Your mind will wander. The monkey mind is strong. Let it wander. It is an excellent way to take your temperature on what is bothering you or distracting you in your day/life. Refocus, if you can, but don't put unnecessary pressure on yourself or you are defeating the purpose of the session.

"Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend."

— Bruce Lee

Namaste. Homie.