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Working better: Interview with Taylor Otwell

Working Better

Noisli - Interview with Taylor Otwell

This interview is part of the Working Better series.
The series aims to show how people from different fields work, how they balance life and work and how they take care of their wellbeing.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, what you do, your background, and how you got to where you are today?

I grew up in Hot Springs, AR and attended Arkansas Tech University where I received a degree in Information Technology. I was always interested in computers and programming growing up, and started building my first small websites when I was about 12 or 13 years old – mainly about video games and Pokemon.

After college, I worked for ArcBest Freight where I was primarily a .NET and COBOL developer. I started using PHP to launch side projects and eventually created Laravel after not being totally satisfied with any of the existing PHP web frameworks that existed at the time.

On a typical week, where do you usually work from?

I work from my home office – typically from 8am-5pm.

What are the things you do to help you start the day in the best possible way?

I always start my day by tackling any questions from our customers and handling incoming GitHub pull requests. I am a big fan of Todoist and use that to plan out essentially every day of my life with a Bullet Journal inspired approach to using the app.

Can you take us through a typical workday?

I handle all incoming customer requests and GitHub pull requests first, then I typically review any code that other Laravel team members have written. After that, I’m free to work on whatever I’m interested in hacking on at the time. Usually, that’s a Laravel related feature that I’m interested in.

How do you take care of your wellbeing while at work?

I love to read self-help books… anything about productivity, personal growth, spirituality, and so on.

What are the things you do that help you when you’re stuck, feel uninspired or need some motivation?

If I feel stuck or uninspired, listening to upbeat music or tackling a few simple tasks usually gets me back on track. Sometimes I think your brain needs some quick wins before it can tackle a bigger, harder problem. It helps build momentum.

What do your typical after-work hours look like?

After work, I just hang out with my wife and kids until we go to bed. We like to watch Jeopardy every day.

What do you do to maintain a healthy work-life balance?

I don’t work much outside of the typical work hours of 8am-5pm. However, I’m lucky that I can do this since Laravel is now my full-time job.

In general, over the course of the year, what else do you do to take care of your wellbeing?

I try to always ensure I’m getting enough quality sleep. I can really feel the difference in my mood and energy even if I just dip down to 6 hours of sleep per night. I really try to get 8 hours of sleep each night.

In general, what had the biggest impact on your wellbeing?

The biggest impact on my wellbeing has probably been discovering Marcus Aurelius and Stoicism. Striving every day to only focus on what is actually within my control can be very liberating. It can just be hard to remember that in the moment.

Which advice would you give to someone in your field when it comes to wellbeing and productivity?

The biggest advice I would give someone in my field is to stay social and read good books. This field (computer programming) can be very isolating and it’s important to maintain friendships with peers and others who can lift your spirits. Over the thousands of years of human history, so many helpful things have been written and it’s a shortcut to gaining a lot of wisdom if you can learn from those who came before you.

You can follow Taylor on X or on LinkedIn.

A big thank you to Taylor for this interview!

Avatar photo Written by Sabine Staggl

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