Cristy Clarke has made a career out of awkward silences -- or, rather, out of filling them. Clarke is founder of TableTopics (No. 364 on the Inc. 500), which publishes packs of cards with conversation-starting questions. ("If you could have any view from your back porch, what would it be?") As the company's primary question writer, Clarke tries to give free rein to her creativity. But she also needs tools that bring her back to reality.
"When I start writing, I forget everything else in my life -- I'll even forget to pick up my kids. I keep these alarms at home, in my purse, and at work. They're easy to set, and when one goes off, I know I have to stop writing and get on with life."
"I use the Time Timer to stop procrastinating when I have to do things I don't want to do. Last week, I had to start writing our employee handbook. I set one of my three Time Timers [above] for 30 minutes and made myself work on it for that long."
"I often work while I'm waiting for my kids' sports practices and orthodontist appointments to be over. This adapter charges my laptop in the car or on a plane, and it keeps me working as long as I've got the energy to keep going."
"My passion for cheese knows no bounds. I'd love to go to France with a cheese expert and travel through the country trying cheeses from all the small villages and towns."