I'm Josh Ocampo, Lifehacker Staff Writer, And This Is How I Work

Every week, we share the shortcuts, workspaces and productivity tips of our favourite experts. This week, we’re going behind the scenes at Lifehacker. I’m Josh Ocampo, and this is how I work.

Location: Manhattan

Current Gig: Staff writer at Lifehacker

Current mobile device: iPhone X

Current computer: MacBook Pro at home

One word that best describes how you work: Caffeinated

First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.

My first job out of university was on the business side of a record label, handling payments and contracts. I got laid off, and on a whim got a job in the legal department of a magazine publisher.

I worked my way into the business side of a few magazines — which means I processed a lot of invoices — and eventually started writing. While writing professionally, I was laid off two more times and now I’m here at Lifehacker (and very knowledgable about the New York State unemployment process).

Take us through a recent workday.

My day starts at night. At around midnight, I’m usually searching for story ideas and Slack them to myself. I have an RSS feed set up through Feedly, but I usually make it a point to read/skim headlines on the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and check Twitter and Reddit. (I’m a frequent user in r/Politics and r/Fitness.)

I wake up around 7:45 a.m., feed my cat, and look for more story ideas and watch the news⁠ on ⁠NY1. If I have time, I’ll also watch the Today Show or Good Morning America (or watch Watch What Happens reruns from the night before). I’m lucky that I live close to the office, so I can usually leave at 9 on the dot and get in within 20 minutes. By 9:30, I usually have a good game plan for my day and start researching and writing.

What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you live without?

Photo: Josh Ocampo

What’s your workspace setup like?

Since we’ve only been at our new office for a few months, I don’t have much and most of the things on my desk don’t belong to me, aside from the laptop and sign in the back I made for the Climate Strike. (I work from all over the office, so my desk setup isn’t a big deal to me.)

The books you see were sent to our remote editors. The keyboard on the right was sitting on my desk when I got here (and possibly belonged to BET staff, who occupied this space before us). And the sickly plant (named Brian) belongs to our deputy editor Alice. I can assure you he is thriving now!

Honestly, I’m just very grateful to have a work laptop. At one of my first writing gigs, I had an enormous desktop computer and my personal laptop was on its very last limb. I’m very happy to have the ability to physically move and still work. (It’s the little things.)

What’s your favourite shortcut or hack?

This isn’t groundbreaking, but I have a lot of Google alerts set up for story ideas and particular phrases (maybe 25+?). When I worked at Mic, we had a column called “Food and Politics,” which was devoted to politicians’ eating behaviours (lol). Google alerts really came in handy here because it wasn’t like the New York Times reported on what Beto O’Rourke ate that week.

Take us through an interesting, unusual, or finicky process you have in place at work.

I get up a lot from my desk and take a walk to the kitchen or grab a coffee before I submit most stories. I can develop a one-track mind when I’m writing and I think it’s helpful to get some perspective. By the time I’m back at my desk, I can more clearly edit/decide when things aren’t making sense. If I’m able to, I’ll wait until the next morning to edit something just for more clarity.

Who are the people who help you get things done, and how do you rely on them?

Goes without saying, but my editors. I’m very in my head when I write and can be self-critical. I’ll reach out if I’m deep in a hole I can’t crawl out of myself; usually it’s because I’m so caught up in details that probably don’t make sense/impact the outcome of the story.

I fed goats on a farm in Hawaii for an assignment last year and was very excited about it (but not as excited as the goats). (Photo: Josh Ocampo)

How do you recharge or take a break?

I eat or have more coffee. I’ve also very recently gotten into album/song reaction videos on YouTube. I can’t adequately describe why they’re so great but it’s fun to hear people respond to albums for the first time that you love so much. I’ll listen to one while I’m struggling with a story or just want a little break.

Outside of work, I take a half-hour nap every day. It’s life-changing.

What are you currently reading, or what do you recommend?

I’m in the middle of Michelle Obama’s memoir right now and plan to read Pete Buttigieg’s Shortest Way Home next (or Abbi Jacobson from Broad City’s I Might Regret This; can’t decide).

I very recently re-read Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential (which I love) and finished Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter.

Can you share a music playlist you’ve made, whether for working or elsewhere?

I don’t have public playlists, but a few songs currently on rotation:

  • Banks “Gimme”

  • Marina and the Diamonds “Karma”

  • Gabrielle Aplin “Kintsugi”

  • Alabama Shakes “This Feeling” (thanks, Fleabag!)

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?

Nathan Fielder or my cat.

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

“Don’t tell people that you’re willing to work long hours because they’ll take advantage of it.”

What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?

How little sleep I can survive on without compromising my ability to think rationally.


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