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How I Work: Louise Spiteri

How I Work: Louise Spiteri

April 4, 2016

Louise Spiteri is an associate professor at the School of Information Management at Dalhousie University. Her research focuses on social tagging, metadata, and social catalogues, with particular emphasis on how user-generated metadata can be used to enhance access to bibliographic databases and records. Dr. Spiteri teaches in the areas of the organization of information, cataloguing, indexing, and records management.

Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia

Current Gig: Associate Professor, School of Information Management. Dalhousie University

One word that best describes how you work: Organized

Current mobile device: 

  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge (Smartphone)
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 (Tablet)

Current computer: 

  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Laptop (work)
  • Samsung NP-QX411I Laptop (personal)

What apps, software, or tools can’t you live without?

  • Zotero
  • OneDrive
  • Dropbox
  • Amazon Cloud
  • WordPress
  • Google calendar
  • Transit (I don’t own a car)
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • EverNote
  • Todoist
  • Movie Collect (to keep track of the films I watch or own)
  • TripIt Pro (to organize my travel)
  • Goodreads
  • Kobo e-reader
  • The e-databases and e-journals at Dalhousie Libraries
  • Halifax Public Libraries catalogue
  • My fountain pens
  • Clairefontaine notebooks

What’s your workspace setup like?

My office is tidy and minimal, with a few decorative touches of locally-made items I can’t work well in a cluttered environment. I maintain only digital records, so my filing cabinets are empty and are used to store extra shoes for my lunchtime walks, as well as freshly-ground coffee beans, a French press, and locally-made ceramic mugs. On my desk is my laptop, my landline phone, and a desk lamp. I use the network printer. I keep one of my fountain pens and Clairefontaine notebooks at hand.

At home, I work in my den. Again, I keep the room as clutter free as possible. I prefer to work at my desk with my personal laptop. I don’t own a home printer, as I use the one at the office. A fountain pen and Clairefontaine notebook. Turkish coffee or espresso is usually present, which is one of the luxuries of working from home.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut?

I use the Pomodoro technique to control the amount of time I spend on any one task, and to ensure that I take sufficient breaks as I work. The Pomodoro technique has you work in a very focused manner for 25 minutes, after which you take a five-minute break. After four pomodori, you take a 15-minute break. And by break, I mean, stand up and walk around, play with the cats (if I am home), look out the window, and so forth. It’s important to take a real break from digital devices.

I make it a point to read email only at certain times of the day. Keeping my email apps open as I work is too distracting, as I would feel compelled to read any new message or respond to it, which takes time away from other tasks. I assign a Pomodoro (or more than one) to read my email.

What’s your favourite to-do list manager?


Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?

My AeroPress coffee maker (at home), and my French press (at the office). Life is too short for mediocre coffee.

Do you find yourself always working on something? Or when you finish a project, do you take time to let your mind wander without concern for what’s next?

My Pomodoro technique helps me ensure that I work on only one task at a time. Although we often claim that we can multi-task well, research increasingly shows that this is often not the case. I try to not work on more than three different projects in one day, as I prefer to focus on productivity, rather than quantity and varied.

I take time every day to do things that are unrelated to work, such as cooking, reading for pleasure, taking a walk, watching a film, or working on a piece of choral music. I find that in these moments, I am more likely to allow my mind to relax and think of what’s possible, rather than focus on what needs to be done.

What do you listen to while you work?

I avoid listening to any music that involves singing, as I am likely to join in, and thus become distracted from the task at hand. Classical music, particularly chamber, Baroque, and Renaissance, provides a soothing and calming background. I have always found beauty to inspire good work.

What are you currently reading?

The nature of the beast, by Louise Penny (Inspector Gamache series)

Richard III:  A ruler and his reputation, by David Horspool

How do you recharge?

Choral singing, cooking, watching classic Hollywood films, volunteer work in my church and animal rescue societies.

What’s your sleep routine like?

Very consistent. I go to bed early and wake up at 4:30 am on weekdays (no later than 7:00 am on weekdays). I’m an early bird and function best in the early hours.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Never assume. Always verify.
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted
Always have a backup plan.

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