I’m Daniel Kruger, Research Assistant Professor, and This is How I Work

Daniel Kruger

My research ranges through applied and collaborative community health, social psychology, evolutionary psychology, and using evolutionary theory for understanding community, social, health, and demographic patterns. I recently completed my term as President of the NorthEastern Evolutionary Psychology Society and am now the Membership Officer for the International Society for Human Ethology.

Location: Mainly Ann Arbor, MI, elsewhere depending on my schedule.

Current Gig: Research Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan.

One word/phrase that describes your work style: I take interesting things and turn them into science.

Current computer/mobile device: Office PC with two screens, Macbook for the virtual office, iPad for conference note taking.

What apps/tools/software can you not live without?

Google Drive and Google Docs. My lab does field observations and other work that is entered into a spreadsheet; shared, cloud based documents are wonderful for sharing information and updating. A few years ago I was juggling multiple copies of spreadsheets and it was quite an effort to integrate everything. Google Docs are also great for co-authoring manuscripts with collaborators; there are still some limitations and not everyone is savvy at using them, but it is generally helpful for workflow.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?

I am more productive when I exercise first thing in the morning. Also, if I am working on a manuscript that is a top priority, I will start that first and only open up my e-mail accounts after I have made considerable progress.

What’s your workspace set up like?

It varies widely now. I used to spend most of the day sitting in front of the computer in my office, but now I am on the move most of the time and bring my virtual office with me.

How do you keep track of things you need to do (any to-do-list apps)?

I have a spreadsheet with manuscripts and projects, now updated via the cloud.

Besides your phone or computer, what gadget can’t you live without, and why?

My car. It is quite large for a gadget, but I could not live my current lifestyle without it. I do not drive for ordinary work and I never bought a parking pass at my current gig. I bike to school and take the bus when the roads are covered with snow. I have community-based projects and prefer to meet in person, as well as being in a dual-academic career, dual location relationship. We also visit family members near and far, go on weekend trips, etc. I wish we had a public transportation infrastructure as in places like Europe where you can walk a few blocks and hop on a bus, tram, or train and eventually get a few blocks from most places you need to go.

What everyday thing can you do better than most people? What’s your secret?

I have a broad range of interests, a high need for cognition, and am fascinated by areas outside of my research. I really enjoy fostering the intellectual curiosity of my students and others, and when I can contribute knowledge and understanding to something they are wondering about (something they heard in another class, etc.). If I meet someone with expertise in an area, I like to listen to them talk about it and sometimes grill them with (genuine) questions. So I have a broad base of knowledge and understanding, and when my friends joke about it (calling me Wikipedia, etc.), I tell them that it is not just a random collection of facts, but also an understanding of how everything fits together.

What do you listen to while you work?

I do not listen to music when I have to focus, which is most of my work these days. When I was in grad school and entering data manually, I listened to classical music. I sometimes have music “playing in my head,” especially when I am in state of flow.

What are you currently reading?

I pick up university newspapers, including when I give invited talks. They give me a feel for the school. I read the news daily on-line and follow psychology and evolutionary groups on Facebook. It’s pretty remarkable how much academic activity is facilitated through social media like Facebook. I also read the New York Times when I have a chance; I really like the writing style and the subtle dry sense of humor. I read the Economist when I visit my folks. I imagine myself someday (retired?) going to the library everyday and reading through a hardcopy of the New York Times, but I am way to busy to indulge in such a luxury now.

How do you recharge?

Going out to eat, local cultural adventures, visiting family and friends, camping in the woods with family and friends, staying in the family cabin, and travel. Most of our long distance travel is related to conferences; fortunately they are often in interesting locations and we take some additional time to sightsee. We go on at least one big trip a year, often travelling with fun colleagues.

How do you balance your work life and your home/family life?

It helps that we are both on the academic path and extremely busy, also based in two different locations. So we spend about four days a week in our own work worlds and three days together, often working in parallel, but also taking time to have fun. We follow a few series on Netflix and will sometimes watch an episode late at night to relax. This is the life stage we are in now, before kids and “permanent” positions.

What’s your sleep routine like?

Sleep is a priority, so I usually get eight hours a night. My bedtime fluctuates though.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

There is lots of great advice; the key is to keep it in mind. I have also received some really great advice that I was not ready for yet; I could see the goal but not the path forward. When my wife was being recruited from a professional career back into graduate school, I made up my own syncretic advice, “Be the best you that you can be.”


Dan Kruger


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