April 22, 2013 · 11 min read

Captain Multitask

Stephan Kuslich is the founder and CEO of Ghost Productions Inc., a medical animation studio that produces absolutely breathtaking movies for large medical and pharmaceutical companies and educational television networks. Stephan, like many entrepreneurs of his time, plays a role in nearly everything the company does. He’s one part strategic marketer, sales person, project manager, animation director, script writer, IT guru, and when the company requires it, he’s also likely to hunker down and produce motion graphics, music, and sound effects for client projects. So how does he focus on the many facets of his job without completely losing his marbles while still finding time for his family, friends, and an out of control wakeboard habit? Read on and learn the tools and tricks to maximize effective multitasking. 

How many hours a day do you work?

It largely depends on how busy we are with client work and how busy I wish to make myself with internal projects. In the winter I’m likely to stack on more marketing and R&D projects because I live in Minnesota and there’s really nothing better to do anyway.  In those months I’ll come into the office anywhere between 6:00 AM and 10:00 AM and work until 6:00 PM. Then I’ll go home, hang out with my family and often do research after the kids go to bed until 1:00 or 2:00 AM. In the summer, I do my best spend no more than four days in the office per week. I’ll check email in the morning, join meetings over the internet, and keep my phone on me in case of surprises, but I want the bulk of my day spent with my family having fun outside enjoying the only three months that make Minnesota a tolerable place to live. 
 

With all the jumping around from project to project and role to role, how do you keep it all straight?

We use a fantastic office management program called Daylite that ensures I’m where I’m supposed to be when I’m supposed to be there and ensures I never get double booked for meetings. It also automatically tracks email correspondence and links it to the project and client so that I can instantly get caught up on the last interactions in a moment’s notice, no matter who last served the client. Daylite also keeps track of my tasks and deadlines and allows me to delegate tasks out to my very competent staff. This gives me exceptional agility while also guaranteeing that nothing gets lost or forgotten. 

We’ve also had the Poltergeist Media Server for over a year now and that has revolutionized the way we review drafts and get instructions and approvals from our clients. Now I can be sitting in my kitchen, sipping darjeeling while reviewing the latest draft of an animation, and draw directly on the movie to indicate changes I want the animators to make. Comments I make are logged and shared with my staff and the client, and the client can do the same. We’re no longer communicating with sock puppets to get the point across and we’re more likely to get it right the first time because it is so easy for the client to explain to us exactly what they want.

How do you find time for resting, hobbies, and exercise?

I’m not very good at resting or relaxing. We’ve got these super comfy hammocks right on the beach and I’ve never been able to spend more than a few minutes in them before I start looking around and seeing improvements that could be made around the yard. Then I’m up and chainsawing a dead tree or moving boulders around with the Bobcat. 
Exercise is no problem in the summer, but in the winter, it is difficult to face the -10˚ days for the mere benefit of a longer and healthier life. Our building does have a glass stairwell that runs up the eight flights to our studio, so it is at least a scenic stair-climbing experience. I did recently replace my Herman Miller chair and desk with a standing treadmill desk that allows me to walk all day long. It isn’t distracting at all though I will say that mouse accuracy reduces at walking speeds over 1.7 miles per hour. Typing is no problem at 2-2.5 mph and I can easily read and talk on the phone at well over 3 mph. Oh and you wanna know a secret? Treadmill desks (from LifeSpan) cost about $100 less than a traditional ergonomic workstation. 

I get most of my major, non-news related reading accomplished while in the car. I’ve got a gold account at Audible and they have nearly every book I’d like to read in an audio format that I can download to my iPhone. I’ve got a forty-minute commute each way so I can digest most books in less than a week. My iPad serves up the rest of my news needs as snippets from about 15 news sources that I can expand should something pique my interest. I do enjoy reading Time Magazine as well because it does a great job of giving me what I’m most interested in knowing about without wasting my time getting to the good stuff. I also love the way they compare analytical data in the first 15 pages. 

On the weekends I really do try to let work go and focus on my family and friends. We play lots of boardgames (SmallworldCatan etc), build stuff in our workshop, make stuff in my wife’s craft room, go wakeboarding, snowboarding, skiing, and biking. I also seriously enjoy landscaping and working in the yard when the weather is being kind. This summer, I’m taking my son on two major trips, kayaking from Taylors Falls back down into Stillwater, and we’re biking the Willard Munger Trail on our recumbents. That should make for a pretty adventurous summer. 
The Lifespan Treadmill Desk
The LifeSpan Treadmill Desks are currently undergoing testing at Ghost Productions. Soon employees of the medical animation studio will have the option of choosing between sitting, standing, and now walking desks.