In 2012, Jessica Richman co-founded uBiome, a company that aims to better understand the human microbiome. Since then, she’s raised $27 million from investors including Y Combinator, Andreessen Horowitz, and 8VC. Her name is on six issued patents. In 2016, she completed her doctorate in computational social science from the University of Oxford. And in November, uBiome released its second test, called SmartJane, which screens for sexually-transmitted infections, HPV, and the presence of 23 bacteria.
In other words: Richman’s been busy. Here’s how she stays productive, whether she’s in the office, at a coffee shop, or traveling.
1. Eat a backup breakfast.
Richman travels a lot, so she says her morning routine isn’t based on waking up at a particular time. Instead Richman, who used to be a bodybuilder, starts the day by eating two raw eggs. They’re mostly protein and fat and easy to digest, she says. She generally eats a second breakfast at work. But if her day suddenly goes sideways and she doesn’t get to do that, well, at least she’s eaten something. And, she says, “You also kind of feel like a badass eating raw eggs.”
2. Start with savers.
Richman says the best morning productivity concept she’s found is S.A.V.E.R.S., an acronym that stands for six things–silence, affirmation, visualization, exercise, reading, and scribing. (“Scribing” is really journaling, she says. On some days, she might write down things she is grateful for, and on another, an angry rant that needs to get out of her head.)
Even better: There’s no rule as to when S.A.V.E.R.S. begins and ends; it might take her just 10 minutes or even an hour. “You can do most of it on the subway if you have to,” she says.
3. Find an office away from the office.
Richman spends a lot of her office time in meetings. But if she has to do some writing or plan out what a new product should look like, she’ll find a nice coffee shop or library to work from. “I think it’s important to have time away from work to work,” she says.
4. Streamline the virtual office
Richman is as attentive to her virtual workspace as she is to her physical one. The desktop on her computer, she says, is mostly empty. You won’t find sticky notes all over the place, and she doesn’t allow any notifications to come through on her phone. “The technology should not be telling you what to think about,” she says. She also unsubscribed from every newsletter that once came into her email box. “Just because someone wants to email you does not mean they get to,” she says. “And if some random person emails you, you don’t owe them a response.”
5. Use poetry for productivity.
You might not think of poetry as a productivity tool, but Richman swears by it. “It’s really underutilized, because it’s not like reading the latest summary of a business book.” She says she reads poetry–her favorites are Mary Oliver and Edna St. Vincent Millay–because it gets her thinking about things that are eternal. “It puts you in that right, solemn, frame of mind,” she says. “A book of poetry can be a great companion.”