I’m Ken Ruggiero, Professor of Nursing and Psychiatry, and This is How I Work


I am Professor of Nursing and Psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and Research Health Scientist at the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center. On the MUSC side, I am Co-Director of the Technology Applications Center for Healthful Lifestyles and Director of the Telehealth Resilience and Recovery Program. On the VA side I am Associate Director of the HSR&D Health Equity and Rural Outreach Innovation Center. I have served as principal investigator on several grants funded by the National Institutes of Health, Department of Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs. I also spend a lot of my time providing mentorship and consultation relating to the use of technology-based resources with a wide range of at-risk populations, including child abuse victims, disaster victims, OEF/OIF Veterans, firefighters and other occupational stress populations, and adolescents who engage in health-risk behavior.

Location: Charleston, SC
Current Gig: Professor in Nursing and Psychiatry, Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC); and Research Health Scientist at the Ralph H. Johnson VAMC.
One word/phrase that describes your work style: Juggler?
Current computer/mobile device: iPhone – I think it’s a 6 but am not certain – and Macbook Pro 15” laptop

What apps/tools/software can you not live without?
Office, Omnifocus, Google Maps, Yelp, MyRadar, Pandora, Screen Time (to keep tabs on my 12 year old), and Mint.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
Keeping the inbox down to 10 e-mails or less. If it gets over 20, I will set the alarm early to tackle it, and if it gets to the point where it develops a scroll bar I become frustrated. If an e-mail requires < 2 min for a response, I address it immediately. I also create 5-6 inbox subfolders into which I file lower-priority e-mails that will require 10+ minutes to respond – the inbox subfolders are labeled “respond week of [next Monday],” “respond week of [following Monday],” and so on. This allows me to space these e-mails out a bit without having to look at them in my inbox every day, and I’ve found to my surprise that roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of the time the e-mails that sit in those folders have already been addressed or no longer require a response by the time they are in front of me again. That is reinforcing. I will also say that hiring the right staff can have enormous time saving benefits. I feel very comfortable delegating tasks at most levels of difficulty and complexity to members of my team, to the point where I often delete the original e-mail because I know the work will get done well without any monitoring or oversight from me. If I didn’t have highly competent, dedicated, well-organized staff we would never be able to get half of the things done that we do now.

What’s your workspace set up like?
Nothing exciting: two big monitors and a keyboard on an L-shaped desk.

How do you keep track of things you need to do (any to-do-list apps)?
I’ve been using Omnifocus for a few years now and depend on it. It helps me plan and track my own activities but also tasks I’ve delegated to other team members (my team meetings run much more efficiently than they would as a result). I no longer worry about whether I’ve forgotten to do something and no longer spend time thinking every day about what I have to do. My list is ready to go at all times and that allows me to come into the office and just do. Omnifocus was designed based on David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” method.

Besides your phone or computer, what gadget can’t you live without, and why?
Give me my laptop and iPhone and I’m good to go. My Fitbit has grown on me, but I can live without it.

What everyday thing can you do better than most people? What’s your secret?
That’s tough – certainly not much. I think perhaps one thing is that I have learned how to think about a new idea from many different perspectives at the same time. For example, we’re developing some iPad-based resources for mental health providers to use as a way to engage children more actively in mental health treatment. Planning this work requires taking into consideration the perspectives, values, and interests of treatment developers, policymakers, children, caregivers, mental health providers, clinic directors, grant reviewers, journal reviewers, and so on. I can usually spot a threat or challenge at any of these levels early in a discussion. I am not sure why. I think it’s probably the result of years of experience as a parent, mental health provider, grant reviewer, and journal reviewer. I think my father’s analytical skills helped to shape this as well.

What do you listen to while you work?
I have Pandora stations ranging from George Winston to B. B. King to Led Zeppelin to Rage Against the Machine. I’m all over the place. But because I spend a lot of my time writing, editing, and reading, I’m not able to listen to any of them too often (too distracting).

What are you currently reading?
Depending on what kind of mood I’m in, 1776 (David McCullough), Essentialism (Greg McKeown), and Tasting Beer (Randy Mosher). Also, my 9-year-old son and I are reading the Harry Potter series together. We’re halfway through the 6th book – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

How do you recharge?
Three ways. First, Deana, the kids, and I take 2-week trips to visit family twice per year and I almost never connect to e-mail during these trips. Second, I play basketball once or twice per week, tennis once per week, and squash once per week. These are great recharge sessions because you can’t play these sports without having 100% of your head in the game. Third, I run 1-3 times per week. These are partial recharges because it’s tough to disconnect fully, but it’s a place where I can get some good, clear 10000-foot-level thinking done if I’m in the right frame of mind.

What’s your sleep routine like?
Nothing too exciting – generally 11-6 most nights, give or take.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Well done is better than well said (Ben Franklin)


-Ken Ruggiero




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