There's something about Farhad. Tech reporters can quickly become jaded and cynical about their work, but Farhad Manjoo's lucid writing lacks any sense of needless snark when he discusses how technology affects our lives. Though when I talk about Farhad's writing, I'm really talking about his tweets.
He is a technology columnist with the New York Times, formerly of Slate and the Wall Street Journal. Those of us who spend our workdays idling online probably know him best from his Twitter feed, where he offers the expected commentary on the day's news, but also amusingly straightforward and earnest observations about life. It's a source of fascination. But this isn't about his tweets — this about his actual work. We asked Farhad to tell us a little about his workflow and favourite tools he uses to get things done.
Location: Mountain View, CA Current Gig: Technology Columnist at the New York Times. (AND co-host of the Jay and Farhad Show.) One word that best describes how you work: Naked Current mobile device: iPhone 6 Plus Current computer: iMac 5k, 13" Retina MacBook. (I feel like a cliche.)
What apps, software, tools can't you live without?
Workflowy. It's a very good cloud outlining program that I use for everything: Notes, lists, reminders, etc.
Dropvox. It's a really great audio recording app that stores your recordings on Dropbox.
I use Google Voice which rings, among other things, Skype, to which I can attach an audio recorder for phone calls. I use Call Recorder for Skype.
Paprika: Cool recipe manager. (I cook a lot.)
Also: Microsoft Word (I'm old).
What's your workspace setup like?
Home office, sit/stand desk by GeekDesk.
Maybe-interesting story: Before I got this iMac I used a homebrew Windows machine as my main desktop; it had multiple screens (even though I think one screen is better) and each one was attached by an arm. The iMac, of course, has its own stand. But I quickly discovered that the screen stand height needed to be readjusted when I switched my desk from standing to sitting. AND I also discovered that there's no way to detach the built-in stand on an iMac and attach a VESA arm adaptor. Instead you have to choose a VESA, arm-less version when you buy your iMac. That's dumb, right?
After a lot of searching I found this very cool VESA adaptor for an iMac that attaches to the built-in stand. It works well! Now my iMac is on an arm I a can easily adjust its height when I switch my desk from standing to sitting.
What's your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
Nothing, nothing at all. I'm sure I do stuff that saves me time but I fill up literally all my free time tweeting so it always feels like I'm procrastinating. I am constantly scattered and unfocused. I have tried things like reading lots of Lifehacker and attempting GTD and all that but then realised that being a little bit procrastinatey is probably just my nature and it's probably impossible to tamp it down and even if I could I'd probably be unhappy.
What's your favourite to-do list manager?
Oh, per above, Workflowy!
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without and why?
All of them! As I've written before, my life is overflowing with gadgets and tech. I never use a manual method when I can waste time and money on an electronic one. I have bidet toilet seats! My job facilitates this; I get access to all the new stuff so I never have to choose, really, to live without some new gadget or the other. But it's also in tune with my philosophical outlook. I'm obsessively dependent on technology of all kinds and to live without it is to live a lesser life. (Does this sound sad? Probably it does.)
What tools do you use to write?
Word mostly. I'm working on a book for which I'm noodling with Scrivener.
Do you find yourself always working on something? Or when you finish a project, do you take time to let your mind wander without concern for what's next?
Always working, when I'm not reading the news. 70 per cent of my job is reading the news, 10 per cent is thinking and tweeting about it, and then there is the actual reporting and writing to fill in the rest.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?
My guacamole is better than yours, but I won't tell you my secret.
What do you listen to while you work?
Silence. Even faraway talking ruins me. If the kids are at home I usually can't work.
What are you currently reading?
The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. Everyone should read it.
What's your sleep routine like?
I sleep poorly. I have two young kids and their early rising forces me to wake up early, but also I can never sleep early, and sometimes even when I do I wake up in the middle of the night. I would probably be better at everything if I slept more, but then I'd miss out on a lot of time to read the news.
Fill in the blank: I'd love to see _________ answer these same questions.
Taylor Swift. Felix Salmon. Ira Glass. Terry Gross. John Herrman. John Gruber.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
(Sorry I don't have any real thing here. Mostly it's whomever told me to work hard and that life is mostly about luck.)
Is there anything else you'd like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans?
You should go back to work now.
We've asked heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.