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I'm Doug Belshaw, and This Is How I Work

Illustration for article titled Im Doug Belshaw, and This Is How I Work

Dr. Doug Belshaw is a former teacher who currently works on Open Badges and a new Web Literacy Standard for the non-profit Mozilla Foundation. He's an advocate of working openly. Doug wrote his thesis on the concept of digital literacy and keeps up several blogs, all linked from


Location: Northumberland, England
Current gig: Badges & Skills Lead, Mozilla Foundation
Current mobile device: Geeksphone Keon (running Firefox OS)
Current computer: MacBook Pro
One word that best describes how you work: Systematically


What apps/software/tools can't you live without?

I'm reviewing almost everything I use in the light of the NSA revelations, but I really couldn't be without Twitter (I'm @dajbelshaw). It's led to job opportunities, wonderful serendipitous connections, and even the EFF recognise the fact that Twitter's got your back.


What's your workspace like?

I've got a study in my house which is basically a converted garage. It could be tidier.

Illustration for article titled Im Doug Belshaw, and This Is How I Work

I don't like being in there all of the time, though, so I spend time working at the dining room table or in an armchair up in our bedroom to mix things up.


When I can, I get out of the house and work either at a library or a co-working space.

What's your best time-saving trick?

Making sure I'm working on the right things and planning my day.

What's your favorite to-do list manager?

I use a combination of tasks in Google Calendar and my own custom daily planner. Everything else I've tried doesn't fit my workflow. I do need a weekly planner though, perhaps based on the Eisenhower Method.


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

My Fitbit. I've never had a device that's led to a bigger sustained behaviour change. And their customer support is excellent.


What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?


What are you currently reading?

Makers by Cory Doctorow and Untangling the Web by Aleks Krotoski.

What do you listen to while you work?

It depends on the time of day. In the morning, maybe my Electro House playlist on Spotify, then later probably something from my Hype Machine stream. I'm also a big fan of SomaFM's Groove Salad when I'm unsure as to what to put on.


I'm delighted that I've only just recently (literally in the last month!) seemed to have developed the ability to write words while listening to different ones! I can't tell you how much that feels like a superpower.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

According to every test I've ever taken I'm pretty much right in the middle of the spectrum. What that looks like in practice is that I'm fine presenting to a room full of people and in social situations, but then need to retreat to be by myself to recharge.


What's your sleep routine like?

I try to avoid screens for at least an hour before bed and make sure that I have a hot shower to lower my core body temperature (I have a cold shower in the mornings to wake me up). I read (dead tree fiction books) until I'm tired.


Fill in the blank: I'd love to see ______ answer these same questions.

Christian Payne (@Documentally)

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

To get to know a fantastic book inside out . For me, it's a book by a 17th century Spanish Jesuit called Baltasar Gracian sometimes translated at 'The Art of Worldly Wisdom' but my version is called The Pocket Oracle and Art of Prudence, for some reason. 200 maxims to live by. I read it on repeat.


Is there anything else you'd like to add?

While productivity is an iterative process, it's worth remembering a couple of things:

  • The aim is to have a productive system, so I usually approach this on a 'freeze-thaw' model. In other words, give a system a chance to work before changing it.
  • Productivity has to have a purpose. There's no point in doing useless things faster!

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