The Huffington Post is, of course, one of the landmark blogs of the internet, and it has grown into a diverse outlet that covers everything from politics to entertainment to local news. Overseeing the editorial operation is Jimmy Soni, whose own work has been featured in The Atlantic, Politico and more. We caught up with Jimmy to learn how he manages his workload and the HuffPo empire.
Location: New York, NY
Current Gig: Managing Editor, The Huffington Post; Author of Rome’s Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato
One word that best describes how you work: Intensely
Current mobile device: iPhone 5s; iPad
Current computer: MacBook Air at work; MacBook Pro at home
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Why?
For reading, I swear by Pocket. Truth told, I don’t know how I managed without it. I work on the web and I consume more media than I care to admit, but the internet can be quicksand for the curious. Pocket lets me avoid all that and binge-read, and it saves more time than arguably any other app I use. Otherwise, I’m a low-tech reader. It’s hardcovers and paperbacks by the armful. These days, my apartment is just a glorified storage unit for my books.
For work, G-Chat is the lifeblood of our newsroom, but I use Adium to confine chats to a holding pen away from email. I’m a fan of Dropbox for writing projects, and Google Calendar and Gmail for, well, everything. Backblaze hums in the background, quietly saving everything to the cloud for that inevitable day when my laptop and my coffee become better acquainted. I’ve started playing around with Boomerang, the email app, and I’ve found it useful. Also, for anyone who is subscribed to too many newsletters and email lists, Unroll.me is a lifesaver. Finally, I love Jumpcut, a souped-up copy-and-paste app that seems almost needless until you starting using it, at which point you can’t imagine life without it.
What’s your workspace setup like?
I have a standing desk (pictured above), and I evangelize about it every chance I get. By all accounts, sitting is a modern plague; some have gone so far as to call it “the new smoking”. So I stand, and while it was an adjustment at first, now I feel out of sorts when I sit for too long. Were it socially acceptable to get a treadmill desk, I’d get one in a heartbeat. One quick recommendation: The book that sealed it for me on the whole sitting-versus-standing debate was Eat Move Sleep, by Tom Rath. It’s a fast read, and it’s that rare book that encourages reflection on familiar things like food and sleep.
What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?
There’s decent research on “decision fatigue”, the notion that you only have so deep a well from which to make choices throughout the day. The same is true of willpower. If you accept that both your ability to choose and your ability to act are limited, you discover the virtue of routines. I try to “pre-program” as many of the mundane decisions (what to have for lunch, what to wear, etc) as I can. A rough regularity on the insignificant things helps preserve energy for the significant ones. For me, each day’s rhythm tends to resemble the next, and while this might seem ridiculously simple, it’s actually a hard thing to manufacture. Even thinking in these terms can increase what you can get done.
What’s your favourite to-do list manager?
A single Google doc. Keep it simple.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?
I’m a big fan of kettlebells. The kettlebell is the ultimate “hack”: it’s a small piece of equipment, but you can do an astonishing array of things with it, even in a small space. Keeping a kettlebell around also quiets the well-there-simply-isn’t-enough-time-for-the-gym voice in my head.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?
Deploying obscure historical references. I’ve got an endless supply.
What do you listen to while you work?
An omnivorous — and slightly embarrassing! — Spotify list that contains everything from rap to bhangra to EDM to pop to classical. I listen to music when I’m writing but not when I’m reading. I like to lose myself in books, and I can’t do that with a soundtrack.
What are you currently reading?
On weekends, I alternate from books to articles for a few hours until I’ve had my fill. With books, I like to read two to three at a time. At the moment, I’m making my way through The Most Powerful Idea In The World by William Rosen and What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer. I also try to read one book I’ve read before for every three or so new books I read; I find that most are better the second time around.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
Extroversion is essential in this job, one in which you are dealing with all manner of creative and organisational challenges that are best tackled through teamwork and discussion. But when I’m off the clock, I spend heaps of time alone. There is a side of my personality that treasures long stretches of uninterrupted time for reading and writing and thinking.
What’s your sleep routine like?
I work for one of the world’s great sleep evangelists, Arianna Huffington, so this question gets more than the usual attention in our newsroom. To be honest, I’ve transformed in recent years. In my pre-HuffPost life, I wore my sleeplessness as a badge of pride. But the science on sleep is overwhelming, and it has made me a convert. I now try to get quality sleep every night, and I try to make sure the quantity is there too. One app that’s helped is F.lux. It adjusts the light on your computer to the time of day, so the lighting from your screen isn’t as harsh at night. It’s a subtle change, but I do feel a difference.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.
Among the living: Louis C.K., Reed Hastings, Dean Karnazes, Sheryl Sandberg, Tobias Wolff.
Among the departed: Michel de Montaigne, George Marshall, Henry Thoreau, James Baldwin.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
An old one from Marcus Aurelius: “Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”
Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers/fans?
There’s a scene from Homer’s The Odyssey that is arguably the original “life hack”: the story of Odysseus lashing himself to his ship’s mast to avoid the temptation of the Sirens’ song. A whole body of research exists now that validates the story’s underlying lesson, which is that our willpower is substantially more limited than we think it is — but that we can engineer circumstances that determine our behaviour. I try to apply that concept — “lashing yourself to the mast” — whenever I can. Think about the binding structures you can build to force yourself to do the things you avoid.
We’ve asked a handful of heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Every week we’ll feature a new guest and the gadgets, apps, tips and tricks that keep them going. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.