How I Work | Mike Jandreau

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Everyone has their own workflows, favorite apps, personal preferences, and customizations to help them get through a long day of sitting at a computer.

This is our first entry of “How I Work”, where a member of the MJJ Designs team will talk about how they work, the apps they use, the setup they work from, etc.

Today’s highlight is Mike Jandreau, the founder of MJJ Designs.

Hardware

As with any good desk job, you need a computer and other stuff, right?

My desktop setup is:

I also keep an iPad and my iPhone XR on my desk for testing purposes.

Coolest item you’ll find on my desk? It’s a tossup between a pair of drum sticks & practice pad (I’m an avid drummer, so I like to keep my chops up, even when sitting at my desk) and an old school red rotary phone covered with a glass cake dome. (I made a comment about my office being my “bat cave” once and the folks over at Disappearing Inc brought me this incredible desk ornament as a gift.)

Software & Apps

I’ll preface this whole section by saying I’m a Mac user and have been for almost a decade. Therefore, all of the apps listed here are Mac versions, though they may have Windows or Linux equivalents available.
I’ll start with my most used apps first:

  • Background Music – this app allows you to set per-app volume for your Mac (which it doesn’t do natively). So your “new chat message” can be louder than your “new email” message, for example.
  • Franz – all your chat programs, email, calendars, etc. in one app. With Franz, there’s no need to have a million different apps open. Multiple Slack channels? No problem. LinkedIn and Facebook? Sure. And tons more programs are supported, too.
  • Moom – window management for the Mac. Toss an app from one screen to another, center a window, split two windows into 50/50 on your screen.
  • Standing Desk App – if you have a standing desk, this app will remind you when it’s time to stand or sit. It helps you build good habits to not be sitting all day.
  • Alfred – what doesn’t Alfred do? App launched. File finder. Workflow builder. iTunes player. Text expansion.  Calculator. Dictionary. System control. Clipboard history. Hotkeys. This is one app I can’t live without.
  • Todoist – my to do manager of choice. After trying them all, this is the one that sticks with me.
  • 1Password – my preferred password manager. I don’t even know any of my passwords, I just rely on it to know them for me.
  • Spark – my preferred email client
  • Spotify – for listening to music all day, every day
  • Indigo – my smart home controller. It controls all of my home’s lighting, security system, etc.
  • SecuritySpy – this app monitors all of my security cameras and stores recordings from them
  • Scrivener – where I go to write anything of length. It helps keep me organized and outputs my document in any number of formats.
  • Coda – my coding app of preference
  • Transmit – my FTP app of preference.
  • InvoiceNinja – where I log all my timje spent working on projects.
  • Tower – a clean and functional git UI

Lesser used Software & Apps

Most of these apps are still ones I likely couldn’t live without, but aren’t used dozens of times a day like the previous list.

  • Adobe Creative Suite – for opening design files and PDFs
  • Agenda – to keep track of meeting notes or client memos
  • Backblaze – to backup all of my files
  • Bartender – to manage what apps show in my menubar
  • CleanMyMac – to keep my Mac running at its top performance
  • CronniX – to manage cron jobs locally
  • DaisyDisk – to find large files taking up disk space
  • Deliveries – to track any delivery coming to me
  • Drop – a color picker to get the RGB or hex value of any color on your screen
  • Dropbox – for file syncing and sharing
  • EasyEnvelopes – to print envelopes perfectly, every time
  • FileBot – to lookup metadata on movies or TV shows I download
  • Flux – to remove any harsh brightness from my screen
  • Focus – to block time-wasting websites when I need to focus
  • HandBrake – to convert files to an AppleTV friendly format for my Plex server
  • Kaleidoscope – to compare any two files to one another to see the differences
  • Local by Flywheel – to build WordPress sites locally
  • Monosnap – to take screenshots and annotate them
  • MuteMyMic – handy keyboard shortcut to mute your mic while in meetings
  • Muzzle – turns off Notifications when sharing your screen so you don’t show anything embarrassing to anyone
  • Plex Media Player – to play TV shows or movies
  • ScanSnap – to scan receipts or documents quickly and run OCR on them
  • Sequel Pro – to analyze MySQL databases
  • Time Out – this app forces you to take breaks at intervals you set by blocking your entire screen
  • Transmission – to download torrent files
  • TweetDeck – to manage all of our social media accounts
  • Weather Live – to know the temperature and weather outside

My day to day

I try to keep my schedule as close to normal as possible. While meetings will change from day to day, my overall structure is almost identical every day.

  • 6:00 am: wake up, get dressed, head downstairs, check email, look at Facebook memories.
  • 6:00 am – 6:20 am: get breakfast ready for my daughter.
  • 6:20 am: wake daughter up, get her dressed for the day and feed her breakfast.
  • 6:45 am: drive daughter to daycare for 7am opening. Drop her off, socialize with her teachers a bit.
  • 7:15 am: arrive home, make a Breakfast Essentials chocolate shake with 1% skim milk
  • 7:20 am: sit down at desk, check email again, say good morning to the team.
  • 7:30 am: check for security patches and plugin updates for the various WordPress sites we manage and update as necessary.
  • 7:45 am – noon: usually meetings or working on a project with the team.
  • Noon: lunch. If my wife’s not home, I eat quickly then go to the basement and play my drums for a while. If she is home, I have lunch with her and watch TV.
  • 1 pm: Return to my desk, check email again, continue with meetings or work on a project.
  • 4 pm: Finish the day. Spend an hour with my wife and prep dinner.
  • 5:10 pm: Leave to pick daughter up at daycare.
  • 5:45 pm: Arrive home with daughter, have dinner as a family.
  • 6:30 pm: Put daughter to bed
  • 6:45 pm: Get a snack and watch TV with my wife.
  • 8:30 pm – 9 pm: Go to sleep

I’m very structured and don’t normally stray from my normal workday, but sometimes I either have meetings outside of my home office, or I’ll take a long lunch and go out for a bike ride.

Coding

When I’m working on building something — or even just making a minor update to something existing — I have a set routine in place.

I keep Spotify playing something that I can ignore (sometimes rock, sometimes mellow acoustic tracks, sometimes soundtracks), and closeout of any applications I’m not using (I often use a custom Focus session for this, to prevent me from reopening any apps that shouldn’t be open).

If I’m working in WordPress building something new, I use Local by Flywheel (it’s super simple and a lot less work to spin up a new site than MAMP Pro). If I’m not building in WordPress, I use MAMP Pro.

I do all of my development work in Coda (though, as of now, Panic has a new code editor in the works I’m excited about!) and test in Chrome.

Even though I’ve been doing this a long time, I don’t know everything, so I spend a lot of time Googling before giving up and asking Ben or Austin for help with something. While I’m a self-learner, sometimes Google just doesn’t have the answer and I have to ask for help.

Staying on top of everything

I have a lot going on at any given moment, so staying on top of things (especially phone calls, emails, and live chats) is important to me and my clients.

I prioritize a ringing phone over anything else. If it rings, I answer it. Same with live chat. If a client needs help, I’m there for them to get them the help they need.

I try to respond to any email I get from a client within 10 minutes. I’ve heard so many horror stories over the years about how people’s “web guy” just disappeared and stopped responding to emails and calls. I’ll never be that guy, so I want to make sure my clients know I’m there, which includes responding to their emails as quickly as I can.

I use Todoist as my to-do app of preference, so I always know what I need to get done and when. Otherwise, I’d be lost on what I have to prioritize.

To keep track of billable time, we use InvoiceNinja (and in the past used Pancake), which allows us to bill for actual hours worked and not have to guess or round up to the nearest hour.

At the end of the day

I’m at my desk from 6 am to 4 pm during the week, save for a few breaks here and there. So, when 4 pm comes, I get up from my desk and walk away. I even have my smarthome configured to turn off my lights, fan, and air conditioner right at 4 pm as a reminder that the workday is over.

I do my best to separate life from work, but sometimes they overlap. If there’s something important that needs to be dealt with, I do it.

From 4 pm until bedtime, I always have my phone with me and a laptop nearby in case there’s something urgent that can’t wait (and sometimes things that aren’t even urgent I tackle after my daughter and wife fall asleep). My clients know me so well that they sometimes preface their emails late at night with “this can wait until morning”, because they know I’m the type that’ll jump on something immediately.

I know that it’s incredibly important to have “downtime”, which is something I’ve been working on in recent years. Shutting down and not worrying is hard when you run the show, but I recognize that I can’t do it forever.

Cover photo by Josh Sorenson

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