GSD // Hitha Palepu of Hitha On The Go

hitha palepu

HITHA PALEPU

Vice President of Business Development, SciDose
Founder, Hitha On The Go
Founder, Portavi Company

What does a typical day look like for you?

No day is ever the same! But I try to keep my mornings as consistent as possible – a green juice and tea (and my vitamins!), going to the gym, and then getting my day started.

Each work day is different, but it all contains a flurry of e-mails, teleconferences, and offline work. I try to schedule my e-mail and offline work blocks around the day’s calls. My job’s work takes precedence during the day, but I do manage to get a fair amount of Portavi and blog work done during my offline work blocks.

I set reminders to grab snacks and lunch – otherwise I forget to eat!

I like to break at 5 pm to watch the news, flip through magazines or a book, and prepare something to eat. It’s nice to unwind for a couple of hours. My husband (when he’s not traveling) and I get to reconnect and catch up on our days, and when I’m home alone I get to indulge in my “single girl” behavior – singing along to the Pitch Perfect soundtrack at the top of my lungs and dancing around, doing a face or hair mask while watching Hardball (or a Real Housewives rerun), eating peanut butter right out of the jar, etc. Solo time is also a great time to go out and catch up with friends over a good meal or a drink – but on those days, the probability of getting work done later on is low, so I plan my day accordingly.

I usually log back in at 8 pm and work for another few hours, usually on the blog or Portavi. I like to end each day making sure all necessary e-mails are answered, calls are made (if not, that they’re scheduled for the next day), and my desk is clean.

hitha-at-desk

What parts of your job do you love?

I love working from home.  I worked in a traditional office environment for just one year right out of college, and it was long enough for me to realize that it wasn’t for me. I love that no day is ever the same, and that I have the flexibility to design my day to be the most effective for me.

I really love my job – business development is the perfect role for me. I enjoy all aspects of the job: pitch meetings, negotiating, working with other companies to find the right fit. I even like the grunt work – assembling PowerPoint decks, staying on top of constant e-mail exchanges. And I love using my creative side of my brain for the blog, and fulfill my entrepreneurial spirit on Portavi.

What parts of your job do you dislike?

The stress – launching a startup, managing a blog on top of a demanding full-time job can cause a tremendous amount of stress, overwhelm. I also have had to miss out on dinners and fun events because I’m traveling or about to launch something new.  There is always going to be uncertainty of success in any new venture (launching a new series or Portavi product, starting the partnering process of a product), and learning to manage my emotions to that prospect of failure has been an evolving process. Currently, I find comfort in a good workout or taking an hour-long break to read a novel and drink a cup of tea.

What things do you have to do that you didn’t realize going into your job?

Being flexible. When I started at the company almost four years ago, I had no pharmaceutical industry experience. The first 6 months were a tremendous learning curve, and it taught me that keeping an inquisitive mind and always wanting to learn will be an asset, no matter where I go. I’ve grown into overseeing technical operations, and moved into business development, and I continue to absorb new information with each project I work on, and each role I take.

From a tactical perspective, it was learning that no job is too small. I booked travel and took care of administrative duties when I started, simply because that was work I could do as I got my hands around the business and all our projects.

What type of calendar do you keep?

I live and die by my Outlook calendar – I use it for both work and personal matters. I do keep a handwritten editorial calendar for my blog, which I set weekly and pin to my bulletin board.

How do you plan out your calendar?

I’m diligent about putting any appointment, meeting, reservation, travel in my Outlook calendar as soon as the plans have been made.  I also buffer in transit time in with each meeting, to ensure I’m not late for my next appointment.

hitha-desk

How do you organize your to-do list?

I write a fresh to-do list each day, and throw it away that evening – it’s my way of starting every day with a clean slate.  I keep the list restricted to “must-do” items that are specific to a project. And I try to never go beyond the 15 lines on my to-do list notepad.

How do tackle your to-do list? 

I stack the list with the most difficult tasks first, and try to tackle those first things in the morning. I also rotate between work, blog, and Portavi tasks, as I find it keeps my mind fresh.

How do you attack your never-ending email? Do you have a certain strategy you use?

I schedule specific time blocks to go through my e-mails (though I keep my work e-mail open all day, and immediately answer any important ones). When I’m going through the e-mails, they immediately get replied to, erased, filed, or remain. I treat my work e-mail as a secondary to-do list, and e-mails that remain in it are ones that have attachments to be read, or need a more thoughtful response. Once they’ve been addressed, they get filed. I file all e-mails by the month and year, and try to end each day with a clean inbox.

I treat my personal, blog, and Portavi inboxes the same way, except for the filing-by-month method. As they’re all powered by Gmail, archiving them is sufficient enough.

How do you plan out your projects for Hitha on the Go, Portavi, and the other work that you do?

I like to spend a few hours during the weekend focused on the strategy behind my job, my blog, and Portavi.  I examine my analytics, social media feedback, and my own notes and see what’s working and what’s not.  I use the weekend to tweak and pivot as needed, and prepare my tactical plan for the week.  Each week is focused on execution.  I find keeping that balance helps me focus on the short-term and long-term simultaneously, and without driving myself crazy.

hitha_board

How do you get your blog posts organized and published?

I’ve tried to be that diligent blogger who schedules her posts for the week, but unfortunately that doesn’t happen.  I set each week’s editorial calendar over the weekend and have at least one blog post ready.  I write, design, and photograph the week’s posts during the week itself.  Preparing posts are a nice break from my job, as it allows me to exercise my creative side during my overly technical work day.

I schedule each blog post’s Facebook and Twitter postings the morning the post goes live.

What is your process and/or work strategy? Anything that you have found that works for you?

Following the Pomodoro technique is a lifesaver – my days used to be so erratic and not nearly as productive until I started following it.  The 25 minute work/5 minute rest breaks down the day in manageable chunks, and gives me time to check in with social media throughout the day.

Blocking out time for e-mails also allows you to focus on the task at hand.  I used to be the biggest champion of multi-tasking, until I realized how mediocre the resulting work is. With the exception of playing music in the background, I fully focus on the item at hand – e-mails, finishing a blog post or a PowerPoint deck, editing a photograph. I’ve also found that shutting off my computer during teleconferences and scribbling notes in my Moleskine has helped me absorb the information much better, and be more effective in my work.

My most important list to reference isn’t my to-do list – rather, it’s my To-Ignore list that’s hung on my bulletin board.  When I find myself wasting time on social media or online shopping sites, I take one look at the list and it’s the swift kick in my ass that I need to get back to work. I read about the To-Ignore list in Peter Bregman’s 18 Minutes, which is chock-full of stellar productivity advice. I highly recommend it.

When you are stuck on a project, how do you get out of the rut?

I take a break to do something totally unrelated – putting away laundry, washing dishes, etc. (the perks of working from home!). Getting up from the desk and doing something unrelated and somewhat active can do wonders for changing my perspective on a project. A cup of tea and a flip through a magazine can also help – though for me, it usually inspires me to rearrange the furniture in our apartment.

hitha-view

How do you GSD at home?

We live and work in a 500 square foot apartment, so we’ve put together a great at-home GSD system. When we first moved in together, we assembled a chores chart to divide who’s responsible for what. Each night, we straighten up the apartment and do a quick cleaning every weekend – he tackles the bathrooms and laundry, and I’m responsible for cleaning the floors and dusting.  We have a housekeeper to do a thorough cleaning monthly, and it keeps our place constantly tidy and clean.

You can get just about anything delivered in NYC, and we take advantage of that. Groceries are purchased through FreshDirect weekly (we have a “necessities” grocery list on our fridge to reference), and we use Drugstore.com and Amazon to take care of other home essentials.

Our apartment is decorated for both function and design. Every rearrangement has allowed us to invest in more storage items (we just added two small chests in our bedroom), and we take full advantage of that.  Since we share a small bathroom, I set up a small side table and vintage mirror in our entryway to double as a vanity.  I keep my commonly worn jewelry items on display on my chest in the bedroom, so I can throw on a few pieces as I run out the door.  All my flats are in a basket in our entryway, which makes it easy to find and throw on a pair of shoes when I’m in a rush (the heels are in the closet, each pair housed in its own transparent box).

To make sure I get in my workout as early in the morning as possible, I set out my workout clothes next to my bed before I go to sleep.  Finding 5 Factor Fitness has been a lifesaver, as it’s allowed me to get in an effective workout in under 30 minutes. I highly recommend it, if you’re looking for an effective workout to squeeze in your busy day.

Listening to instrumental music has been the perfect accompaniment to the work day. I love film scores, and have either this Songza station or Pandora station playing at all times.

Nuggets of advice you’ve been given that have stuck?

“You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.”

“It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be DONE.”

“Winners never quit and quitters never win.”

I think it’s important to have a personal board of directors you can call on when you’re having an issue or problem, or need a pep talk.  Depending on the issue, I have a number of people I can phone or e-mail to outline my problem and solicit their input – it’s an important group to cultivate early on in your career, and continuously as you grow.

WHAT YOU USE TO GSD

Microsoft Office (for my computer) and iWork (for my iPad) – I’m constantly working on spreadsheets, decks, and development documents and these applications are always open on my computer and tablet.

Microsoft Outlook (for work e-mail) and Postbox (for all other e-mails)

SnagIt – Collages and graphic elements for the blog and Portavi Guides.  Eventually I will learn Photoshop Elements with Victoria’s help.

Dropbox – Not only does it sync my iPhone camera pictures seamlessly, it also holds all the documents I could ever need, and allows me to access it from any device.

A Moleskine notebook and a Sharpie pen – I’m constantly making notes and scribbling down ideas, and I like having a single notebook to reach to and reference at all times.

An egg timer – I stay focused by using the Pomodoro method (25 minutes work, 5 minute break) and use my egg timer on my desk to keep track of time

POP handset – A fun handset for my phone that also cancels background noise – a necessity when my husband and I are both working from our home (an alcove studio apartment in NYC).

My bulletin board – I use it to archive recent magazine clippings of interest, my editorial calendar for my blog (I’m old school – have to write it on paper before putting it on my calendar), and my To-Ignore list

A to-do list notepad – Bought them after seeing them on Meg’s blog, they are my new favorites.  The 15 lines force you to write down the must-do items.

APPS

Dropbox & iWork (see above)

Pomodoro App (when I’m not working at home)

Shopify (to track my Portavi storefront)

Calendar app (I schedule EVERYTHING in my Outlook calendar)

OpenTable (makes restaurant reservations a breeze to make)

Morning Worm (the only alarm clock app that gets me out of bed without hitting the snooze button for an hour)

Uber (for when I can’t find a cab)

NYC Subway (even though I’ve lived here for two years, I still have no idea how to get to certain places)

United (keeps all my flight details organized, plus I can book/change flights from the app easily)

Seamless (when I don’t feel like cooking, I can order in without having to talk to a stranger.  Genius)

Songza (my favorite music app – pick a station based on your mood or activity)

The usual social media suspects – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest

Urban Daddy (great when looking for a new restaurant/bar/lounge in a new-to-me neighborhood, or when people are visiting)

Flipboard – a beautiful way to catch up on my favorite blogs, social media, and the day’s news

NYTimes/WSJ/WWD apps – I read all three publications each day

Kindle – when I happen to have extra time to read.

WEBSITES

Google and its subsequent sites – Gmail, Reader, Analytics, and Search are my go-tos.

WordPress — To manage my blog

Shopify — To manage Portavi Company

Hootsuite — To manage my social media for both websites

Instapaper – To organize interesting links I stumble across the Internet.

rewardStyle – A blogger’s best friend.

Amazon – for EVERYTHING.  Prime is a lifesaver.

Hulu – I rarely watch one of my favorite shows when they air, but Hulu makes it easy to catch up on an episode when I have a spare minute.

PROGRAMS & TECHNOLOGY/span>

(See first question – I mentioned Microsoft Office & Outlook Postbox, SnagIt, Dropbox)

Evernote – I keep blog post and Portavi Guide drafts in here, so I can work on them on-the-go.

iMovie – A new program for me, as I’m trying to create more video content for my blog.

Spotify – I rarely purchase music from iTunes anymore, as the Spotify Premium service satisfies my music needs.

Lightroom – For editing my photographs.

Skype – For calls with my team in India, Skype sessions, and keeping in touch with family members all over the world.

GADGETS

MacBook Pro (at home) and Air (when traveling).  Excessive, I know.

Thunderbolt Display (for my MacBook Pro).  I don’t know how I lived without it.

AKG noise-cancelling headphones – noise-cancelling and chargable through a USB cord, they make my life easier at home (especially on work from home days with the hubs) and when traveling.

Kindle – I can get distracted by my iPad (too many apps!), so when I want to hunker down and read, I reach for my old-school Kindle.