How I Work

I usually get up arond 6:00-ish.  If I'm really motivated, make that 5:30 or 5:45 a.m.  I'll step downstairs, scan my Blackberry for any emergency emails that came in over the night.  Unless our web server is down or something technical like that has happened, there's not much to worry about at this time of the morning.  Mornings are my quiet time.  I'll typically spend about 30 minutes or more reading my Bible and/or journaling.  I've always fought anxiety and worry.  My whole life growing up, my mom would call me a big worry wart.  I don't know where I got it.  Spending time in scripture sets the pace for my whole day.  I call it my rudder time.  Just like a rudder can steer a ship, so too my rudder time with God helps steer my day.

I will typically fire up my Toshiba laptop to login to the corporate bank account and see how the money is doing.  This is more out of habit than panic like in the old days.  I will basically balance the corporate books every single day like this.  I see what charges have gone through for conference room rentals and other charges that are coming out of the account.  I watch this like a hawk.  Whether or not you buy into the spiritual side of the Bible like I do, it contains simply great wisdom regarding the handling of money.  One of the take-way messages from Proverbs, for example, is know your sheep by name.  I interpret that to mean, know the state of your money affairs intimately; know exactly -- to the penny -- how much money you have and where it's all going. 

By about 7:00 a.m. the household begins to awaken.  I have a one-year-old son and a daughter in middle school.  With my wife's help, mornings are all about diapers and bottles, lunches and last-minute homework.  I'll take a quick shower and only shave if I have to.  Unless I plan to see a client, I will dress casually in jeans and polo shirt and most likely flipflops.  Days where I go marketing or have to be in court, of course, I'll dress up in a suit.  I have noticed that when I shave, not only do I look younger but I tend to get a better response when meeting new potential clients.  Maybe I look more honest or something, I don't know. 

I don't eat breakfast most mornings.  Yeah, I know that's a bad habit.  If anything, I might have cup of coffee with some French Vanilla creamer.  Mostly though, I enjoy a nice big cup of iced water.  There's something hugely refreshing about cold water in the morning.  I'm not hungry anyway, so I kiss the kids and wifey goodbye and hit the road.

The office is about 30 minutes from my home.  I lease space close to where my employees all live as a conveniece for them.  I don't mind the drive since it gives me time to think about solutions to problems, brainstorm new ideas and have telephone conversations (if necessary).  I am probably more of an introvert than I should be but I can't help it.  It's just the way I'm wired.  I do obviously communicate verbally (some would say rather well) but I prefer email or even (God forgive me) text message.  I have not taken the KoolAid on Twitter yet but who knows what the future may hold.  Anyway, back to the drive to work:  I always have a pad of paper to jot down my to-dos for the day.  Then I work from that list all during that day.  On my really good days, I can work through all the chore-type to-dos before noon.  My list may look something like:

  • Go through email in-box
  • Figure out this problem
  • Investigate what's going on with that issue
  • Order more of these or those
  • Have that difficult discussion with an employee/client/vendor/family member

In case you didn't know, I'm not a working reporter.  I do miss the days of being on my machine but a few years back I had to make a decision about whether I wanted to be a court reporter or court reporting agency owner.  I chose the latter.  It's a much better fit for me for a lot of reasons, but I do miss steno and the excitement of being on the record.  When I arrive at the office, I like to immediately get cracking on my list of to-dos.  I don't allow myself to do any of the fun stuff until most of my toughies are handled.  This is more out of wise self-knowing than great discipline.  I know that if I get caught up in the stuff that I want to do, than the more mundane or unpleasant things will fall by the wayside.  So for instance, if I have to respond to an unhappy client -- something that's not very fun since I hate confrontation -- I will plan to do that first thing in my day rather than procrastinate until later.  I save the enjoyable things, like blogging or creating new marketing campaigns or working on other secret projects for later.  That's another thing my mom used to say, Dinner first, then dessert.  Or something like that.  That's probably why I got a little fat as an adult -- all that dessert, you see.  Anway, I digress...

I usually forget about lunch and work right through.  So if you're keeping track, that's a total of zero food so far. I know, I know, that's a bad habit.  I keep our fridge stocked with diet Coke, water, and Gatorade.  Actually, of late I've become quite a Coke Zero fan.  It tastes just like Coke Classic but with tons of healthy stuff added in -- ha ha -- at least that's what I heard.

I'll work until 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. most days and then head home.  On the drive home, I'll call my wife to see how her day went and what's for dinner.  My favorite thing to do is pick up Thai food and eat in since it's hard to take a baby to a restaurant and have anthing resembling a peacful dinner.  Once I'm at home, it's family time including kids' baths, homework for the 'tweener, and bedtime for them by 8:30.  My wife and I typically will either watch a show together or work through one of our devotionals.  We read books on communication and are trying to learn how to become better spouses for each other.  It's a work in progress (on my part).

I try not to do any work after hours if I can avoid it.  Sometimes, however, I feel the need to do some late night research or actual work from my laptop.  Bedtime is around 10:30 and I do my best to make my last thoughts right before sleep not be about work.  I may read some encouragement from the book of Psalms or some light reading from my Inc. magazine.  I tend to stay away from fiction.  Anyway, I've found that I sleep better when I put all that out of my mind and fall asleep thinking about non-work related stuff. 

That's my day and that's how I work.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Todd Olivas

Todd Olivas is a court reporter and entrepreneur.
He founded TO&A in 2003.

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