How I work: John Shoemaker



Co-Founder and other Creative Director. Depending on who you talk to first, I may or may not add the word “other.”

One word that best describes how you work: 


Current mobile device: 


Current computer: 

Macbook Pro Retina 15 inch Mid 2014

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

Trello, Evernote, Newton, Pocket

I use trello for my personal task management (discussed below) as well as organizing the list of projects we’re currently working on for our production meetings.

Evernote has become my go to note taking app for meetings, brainstorms, rough draft scripts, etc. I like taking notes in a paper notebook as well but then I try to make sure they are scanned into Evernote so I can recall them later in search. I’m a big fan of “brain dumping” to reduce stress and keep my head clear so any ideas go straight into Evernote and then I can stop thinking about them until later.

Newton is the lame name of the software with a lamer former name, CloudMagic, that I use for email. We use the Google suite of apps at Backflip but I love the clean, simple interface of Newton and the extra features make it extremely valuable. I can snooze emails until later in the day or set a later date to come back, I can schedule emails to send later at a more convenient time for the recipient, and I can even send emails directly to Trello (for tasks), Evernote (for project related ideas or info I’d like to save), or Pocket (for fun things I’d like to read later).

Pocket is a great tool to save articles that I want to read later. I have the app installed on my phone, a browser extension, and an integration with my email app. Whenever I run into an article that I think sounds interesting but don’t want to take the time to read right then, I can easily send it over to pocket for later. Pocket cleans up the articles into a nice sleek look for a pleasant reading experience and then I can check them complete after I’ve read them.

What’s your workspace setup like?

At the heart of the office, I have a window to the keurig and the water cooler (yes, a literal water cooler) that allows me to keep close tabs on everyone, or rather, step into every conversation within earshot to add some derailing joke.

My desk is usually in standing position to start the day and my office has plenty of floor space for me to pace while in a call or writing. I absolutely cannot stand still while having a phone conversation and somehow that same mental state forces itself upon my work drafting scripts or proposals. The words don’t come unless I’m wandering.

I love the idea of minimalistic furniture and desk decor but in practice, I just can’t keep it like the magazines.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?

Reduce your wardrobe, set out your clothes the night before. My wife read a book about organizing clothing and downsizing or something (apparently I don’t know what it was about) and we decided to put some of the recommendations into practice. There are actually several successful people – Steve Jobs, Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg, to name a few – that have reduced their wardrobe to very few items and in some cases, just one outfit. Well, multiple copies for laundering. One of the reasons cited by many of the fans of the “capsule wardrobe” is reducing decision fatigue. It may seem small, but when you have a ton of decisions to make all day long, reducing the number by 1 goes a long way. Setting clothes out the night before is my addition to this and helps eliminate those early morning running late “where’s my other sock” moments.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

Trello has become the backbone of my productivity when it comes to tasks. The software is designed to do many things and I only use a tiny amount of the capabilities on a daily basis but it’s simplicity makes it great. I keep many lists but my main workflow is to use a board with several lists, one for each day of the week, one labeled “done” and then a couple for “long term” and “[DATE].” Each task is typed on a card and placed in a list. Using separate lists for each day of the week allows me to drag tasks around based on when they need to be addressed and then at the end of each day, I can drag leftover tasks or new tasks from the day into the next day or days. All tasks in the “done” list get dumped into a list with Friday’s date on it and I can review at the end of the week before archiving.

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

Last year I treated myself to a natural light alarm clock. Yeah, I’m cool like that. This is apparently what I get excited about in my 30s. But seriously people! The first morning after I tried it – the FIRST MORNING – I woke up at 6am. Not to a blaring fog horn or frightening military compound beeper, I just woke up. I opened my eyes and saw that the light was beginning to dim up just as advertised, from nothing toward the light level I set the night before. I got out of bed, wandered into the living room encountering a new world of soft orange morning light and a quiet house.

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?

Like many have said in their “how I work” posts, there is always more work waiting when one thing is completed. There isn’t much downtime between projects but I do think I allow myself the mental space at times to ask “what should I be working on?” With so much to do and living/working in a work focused society, it is important – especially as a business leader – to ask yourself what you should be working on next instead of just reacting to every thing set in front of you. Asking this question will allow you to see the bigger picture and do a better job steering your company or your team in a particular direction.

When I’m at home, I imagine myself completing awesome side projects while my wife actually completes hers.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?

Hm, there are so many things it’s hard to pick just one. I suppose humility. I’m way more humble than everyone else.

Ok, maybe I’m good at some stuff but it’s hard for me to say “better than everyone.” I think I’m really good at synthesizing ideas. I spend a lot of time brainstorming in my job both in groups and individually. But when working with a group of people, I think I’m pretty good at identifying the common thread in what everyone is saying and pulling that together into a cohesive idea that we can use to start a project.

What do you listen to while you work?


There’s a story there, but we’ll have to talk about it another time. I cycle through different pandora stations depending on my mood – mumford and sons, imagine dragons, indi rock, 90s, bethel music, etc. When I’m writing though, I go for chill/ambient kind of stuff with no words.

What are you currently reading?

Can I call it reading if I’m listening on Audible? Creativity, Inc. is amazing. You should all go read it right now. Also, I try to keep reading what Jesus said. Ya know, good stuff.

How do you recharge? Do you play video games? Board games? Hiking? Skydiving? Etc.

You’d think I tire of media, but I really don’t. My wife and I love to watch Netflix and make fun of our Great Dane. That’s a pretty standard recharge but when I’m feeling ambitious, cutting wood or staining trim or some other physical house task is actually quiet revitalizing. I actually remember in the summer during some incredibly busy seasons of work, desiring physical labor when I got home.

What’s your sleep routine like?

*See gadget section above.

I try to get enough sleep to be healthy and productive. 11pm is my target if I’m not up late working on something. Also, I gave up caffeine for lent so my crutch is gone. I once heard a guy I know who had lost about 25 pounds say the only thing he had changed was getting regular sleep. (true story) That seems like a pretty awesome way to stay in shape… sleep it off! Ha.

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

When I was a sophomore in college, I was stressing about my major (at the time I was pre-med) and brought my concerns to my biology professor. I shared my anxiety about which med school I’d have to pursue given my grades at that point and what options I had available. This smiley latino man in a sweater vest with a beard and glasses stopped me and asked the question we’ve all heard and dismissed, “What would you do if you could do anything you wanted?” I hemmed and hawed a bit but eventually said, “I guess I’d be a filmmaker.” He sat back in his chair with a look like we’d just solved the world’s greatest problem and then leaned forward and said in a thick Mexican accent, “Well then you have to follow your dreams.”

Want more? See everyone else's answers in our How I Work series.

This entry was posted in Behind the Scenes, evernote, Fun, How I work, pocket, Business, trello