Kristin Tessman

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Kristin Tessman. I am the State Coordinator for Montana for American Jobs for America’s Youth, a non-profit working with communities to build life and work skills in youth through creative collaborations.

What is one habit of yours that helps you be productive

I take diligent, dated notes. After a meeting, I then turn those notes into actionable tasks, which get entered into my productivity platform. See answer #6 for more about that

What is your morning routine and how does it help you get the most out of your day?

To be honest, my mornings are all about my little kids. I am NOT a morning person, so I struggle to get the most out of my mornings. My husband is a trooper and often takes the morning shift when I’m too sleepy to be helpful. In an ideal world, I wake up at 6:30am (after having slept 8 hours), I drink a full cup of coffee, have two eggs and sautéed greens, and read the local newspaper or listen to NPR. The kids sleep late, but we still have time to play before daycare. We leave the house organized, calm and with everything we need for the day. That’s definitely not what happens

In the last few years, what lifestyle, habit or behavior change has had the biggest positive impact on your life?

I’ve always loved to be outside, but moving out west has made that love possible in my daily/weekly routine. I used to spend a lot of time exercising indoors, but now I take it outside every chance I get.

When you feel unfocused, what do you do

I go for a hike. So much of my work is about being creative and thinking outside the box, and I can’t do that sitting at my desk. With complex problems, there is a tendency to get more and more in the weeds – research, data, etc. But I’ve found that separating myself from that influx of information and switching to active movement in the woods is the best way for me to sort through the issues.

What is one piece of software or a web service that you get immense value out of? How do you use it?

I use ClickUp. It’s a productivity platform that organizes tasks by project, time and lead. My team all works remotely, so this allows us to stay organized and have an idea about what’s happening and when. I used to use Stickies on my computer and diligently track deadlines with iCal, but that doesn’t work when you have more than one person working on the same project. ClickUp solved that problem for us, and we love it!

What is the one book you most often recommend and why?

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. It’s a masterpiece. I’m fond of nonfiction, and although this book is fiction, it takes some of the best components of nonfiction writing and uses those as tools to tell the raw, emotional and gritty side of humanity

What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?

My advice would be to spend a year doing something “out there,” uncomfortable, and off plan. Europeans and Australians take a “gap year” and I think it’s something we’re really missing in the States. I went straight through from college to law school, and I think important life lessons came out of order because of it.

So, my advice to ditch? Pressure to plan too far in advance… I think ambitious young people have a tendency to plan out as much of their lives as possible. But, I think all that intense planning sets up expectations that you have more control of your life and the intervening variables than you actually do. I think it’s great to have goals and plans, but be willing to change them and go easy on yourself when an avenue you had intended to take is no longer available

What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland