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Ways We Work

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Thomas Honeyman

Musician, Writer & Co-Founder

Thomas Honeyman is a musician, writer, and entrepreneur in Los Angeles, CA. He began attending the University of Southern California in 2011. In 2014, he co-founded FindMySong, a popular online music collaboration platform.

What do you do?

Right now I think I'm doing too many things! I just like creating, pretty much everything I do is related to that somehow. I write and produce music, and I write words as well, so there is some artistic work I do on my own.

But I also work with this amazing team, a designer named Alberto Escolano and a business guy named Vince Fong. Vince and I met in college here at USC, and the three of us created a popular music collaboration platform called FindMySong. People from all around the world can meet and make music on the platform from wherever they are. The reason I'm in all these other things now is because we enjoy working together so much we started a design agency and a new venture! We're starting SecondHome, an app that helps people connect to the people around them and buy and sell, especially for college students who are in these tight-knit communities and are always moving in and out of new apartments.

Then there's SimpleTiger, an SEO agency based out of Florida. It was started by these two brothers, Jeremiah Smith and Sean Smith. I really wanted to learn more about content marketing from some true experts, and they were gracious enough to hire me on as their content manager. I'm almost like a magazine editor there, working with our writing team to get our clients set up with really top articles for SEO.

What do you find most rewarding about your role? Most challenging?

The writing and music I do is so fulfilling. It's just intrinsically fulfilling. Music has always kind of been my thing, so if I'm feeling emotional about something I can just start writing and I love that.

For the business side of stuff, I really enjoy the camaraderie that comes from working really hard on something with your team. Especially with the guys who I built FindMySong with, but also with SimpleTiger now that I'm with them. We work totally remotely and communicate through Slack and video chat, which might seem distant, but still there's just something about working really hard as a team that brings everyone together.

The most challenging? Probably organization, that's why I focus on it so much. I'm kind of naturally disorganized so I have to force myself into it. Other than that, often I struggle to come up with ideas for writing or business. Once you have an idea, it's more about just showing up every day after that, but coming up with the idea -- I'm never really satisfied with my ideas until I'm six months into building them.

How do you stay up to date with trends in your industry/field?

The big one is definitely Twitter, for everything that I do. I follow a lot of artists and labels for the music side, and the whole staff of the New Yorker for writing. In tech, of course, you almost have to be on Twitter to know what's going on. I also use Feedly as a mainstay, mostly for collecting articles I want to check out later.

Another good source for tech is these curated email lists that have exploded onto the scene in the last year or so. The MatterMark Daily one is so good.

One shout out I want to make. There's a guy named Ben Thompson, he's made this subscription service called Stratechery and it's just his writing. He writes every day on trends in tech and his writing is just the most insightful stuff out there. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone in tech.

What are your top five applications or programs?

Evernote - I'm careful about what I actually save into Evernote. I view it more as my repository for top quality knowledge instead of a way to store everything. If I need to find information on a topic I can go to Google, that's not what Evernote is for. My Evernote is for moments like, "Oh, what do I know about product management?" I check that tag and it's this huge list of top quality articles that have smart ideas.

Mailbox - For email. I can't get over how amazing it is.

Slack - Every team that I'm in, we all use Slack, it's great. Slack is the newest unicorn.

Trello - All of my to-do's are done in Trello.

Typed - I always write in Typed. It's really minimal. They have this zen mode where you can listen to the rain forest or whatever catches your fancy and I really love it. So that's what I write in all the time.

That's already five, but I really want to give three more! For coding: Sublime Text 3. For design: Sketch 3. For anyone doing music, I've really fallen in love with Bitwig Studio, made by some of the developers from Ableton Live.

Best way to stay on top of email?

Email is just one of the biggest things you need to deal with, and I have like 12 email addresses. Mailbox is the first step for me, it has this feature where you can automatically swipe things into lists which really helps organize your inbox.

I only use email three times a day, I try to avoid it otherwise or I'll be distracted forever. In those times, I'll spend like an hour and hit every email that I can. I have notification phobia, so every time I see like 300 notifications I just hate it.

So to summarize that...One is don't be in your inbox all day. Two is organize stuff into lists. Three is deal with whatever you can ASAP instead of letting it sit there for a few days.

What is your best time-saving trick?

Probably sleeping. Sounds kind of strange, but when I sleep enough I'm just so much better. Things will take half an hour instead of taking two hours because I'm being an idiot and making mistakes. I can't recommend anything more highly.

One non-tech thing you can't live without?

Just getting out of the house and seeing friends and being around people. Especially with tech stuff, it's easy to be head down, work hard, word hard, work hard, and then you don't see anyone and become like super neurotic in your hermit cave. My ability to work just tanks if I don't go out and see people.

What does your workspace look like?

I’ve got this minimal black desk with my laptop up on a stand, but the whole thing is schizophrenic. So the centre of my desk looks super San Francisco tech guy but then dominating the whole desk are these giant studio speakers for music production and I’ve got a candle on one and incense on the other one. To my right I’ve got a huge sub woofer cause I’ve been doing a lot of R&B stuff, but on top of it is a printer. It’s definitely a mishmash of a workspace.

Structure of your typical day, how do you divide your time?

It's pretty chaotic. The only thing that's really set in stone is that I get up at 7 in the morning and make coffee and write for a bit. After about 7:45am it's all up in the air. It’s kind of whatever is most critical thing that shows up. It’s pretty disorganized, despite all my attempts at organization, it’s pretty disorganized. I’ve always got random stuff scheduled at different hours and obviously I have to work around my school schedule.

What’s cool about my work is that I don’t really have any structured working hours, which means if I want to go and do something for a few hours in the middle of the day I can. The flip side of that is that I can easily keep working for hours and not stop myself to take a break or focus on something else.

Why do you do what you do, what motivates you and makes everything worth it?

Oh man, that’s just such an existential question. A lot of it goes back to the answer I gave for the most rewarding part of what I do.

FindMySong, for example, didn’t come about because I was like “I want to do a music collaboration thing”. It was because I met this guy Vince and he was cool and he had this music idea he was working on, and I didn’t know if I even wanted to do it. I just worked with him on the idea for a little while. Over time I figured out this is awesome, I really want to do this. And we built it out, we really built it out, we raised the funding for it and everything and it was so rewarding to go through that whole journey as a team. To work hard every day with your crew and really build something.

What is the greatest piece of career advice/wisdom you've ever received?

Oh man, I've received a ton of really good advice. At the same time, I think my advice in return is to not listen to advice that much. I've always been a bit mis-led by advice, there are kernels in people's advice you can learn from, but it's dangerous to just accept advice at face value and think it applies to you. Generally some of it will, and some of it won't, so you have to figure out which half to take.

Who would you like to see featured on Ways We Work?

Ev Williams! That’s a lofty target but he would definitely be one.

Also, I’m always really curious to see what people outside of tech are doing, like film directors, or artists, or people who aren’t working in those structured environments.