I Am Manush Zomorodi, Host of New Tech City, and This Is How I Work

Manush Zomorodi is the Lead and Managing Editor of WNYC New Tech City , a public radio podcast that explores how technology is affecting the way we live, whether it’s the pervasive observation of our data or the new frontiers of space tourism .

Earlier this year, they asked listeners to take part in an experiment called Boring and Brilliant – a provocation to stop obsessively checking their phone to see if they disconnect a little more from the digital world, foster a greater sense of awareness and creativity. Did it work? Wait a second – let me check my email while we talk to Manush about her favorite tools for managing her workflow and whether digital detox has made a lasting impression.

Location: Round trip between Brooklyn home and Manhattan office. Current place of work: Lead and Editor-in-Chief of New Tech City WNYC Magazine. Mother of two children. One word that best describes how you work: furious. Current mobile device: iPhone 5 Current computer: MacBook Air. Big. But I often wish I had a smaller size. I hate taking him back and forth from home to work on the subway. I have a keyboard for an iPad, but it’s not the same at all.

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

Audio applications on demand. Without them (iTunes, Stitcher , Overcast , WNYC’s own app ) I wouldn’t have a show AND I wouldn’t jog a lot. Having said that, I look forward to a future where podcasts will be easier to find and share.

Other apps I rely on include a calendar app (obviously, I know, but between kids, coworkers, and work events, I have nine different schedules to keep track of).

I kind of screwed up my email by using a Yahoo account and using that to open a Google Docs account. Then I decided to give Gmail a try (you know, peer pressure), and by opening a Gmail account, you will automatically get a different Google identity. So now Google thinks that I am two different people. On the one hand, this is great because I like the idea of ​​messing with Google data; on the other hand, now I cannot log into Yahoo and Gmail at the same time in the same browser. My email fantasy is to pay for a service that will allow me to migrate and archive all my old email without tracking me or shutting down immediately after I give everyone my new email address. I check Lifehacker every month to find a solution to this puzzle. So far, no one is satisfied with the existing services. I believe in Alan Henry .

For reading, I use Pocket like crazy because I subscribe to a stupid amount of newsletters and want to CONSUME EVERYTHING. At the end of the year, I received an email from Pocket stating that I was in the top 0.1% of users. Maybe they’ll send it out to everyone. But they SHOULD send an email stating what percentage of your saved articles you are actually reading. My number would be significantly less, in part because Pocket is very difficult for me to organize. All I need are good old folders that I can browse.

As a host, I go through dozens of articles looking for ideas, and then dozens more in preparation for all the interviews I give. We do one episode a week and there are at least two to three interviews in each episode. I think that because I’m such a visual person, the tags just don’t satisfy me (another reason I’m not in Gmail). Also, Pocket doesn’t work on Kindle, so I haven’t bought an e-ink reader yet (it is, and I have control issues with Amazon). I recently tried to set up a system where I submit my Pocket articles that I want to reference later (for future shows or whatever book I’m working on) to Evernote. For some reason, Evernote and I never pressed. I love reading articles about how people use Evernote, but until I can read Evernote on my phone, I will read Pocket, Evernote and I will remain close friends. Pocket and I are lovers.

As Ira Glass famously said on Lifehacker last year , my show also “works on Google Docs.” In the Scripts folder, each show gets a separate document where we put all links, interview transcripts, notes and ideas. That way I can easily reference everything when it’s finally time to start writing. I’m embarrassed to use a free service that has access to everything I write, including this very offer, but this is our modern deal with the Devil, right?

Finally, I am very knowledgeable about whiteboards and stickers. About a year ago, the Toyota efficiency guru gave me recommendations for improving performance (we filmed an episode about that ). He convinced me that I need to SEE all my ideas in front of me and watch them develop or stagnate. So we have a big board with ideas for the show, a calendar to visualize the workflow, and stickers all over the place. Each show receives a poster that moves up the board calendar. After the show goes live, the sticker will move to our Wall of Satisfaction. I also really like the “Grande” posters. I love most of the office supplies.

How is your workplace arranged?

My crew and I have a three-post “band” on NYC Public Radio, but as you can imagine, the radio amateurs are pretty chatty so I can’t write a ton there. So I usually script the show on weekends, or at Whole Foods, where coffee and wifi are good and I can combine work with grocery shopping, or curled up in a big fluffy bean bag chair by the window that gets a lot sun in our bedroom. One day I was typing and I stopped to look out the window. The tree was full of green parrots gnawing on semi-frozen berries. We looked at each other for a while, and then we all went back to our business.

What’s your best time-saver or life hack?

I don’t read the Internet anymore because of the newsletters. I fully curate thanks to This , Pocket, Mediabistro , Today In Tabs , MediaREDEF , NiemanLab , The Conversation , Everything Changes , Caitlin Dewey , HotPod , WNYC , Next City , Gary’s Guide , #AwesomeWomen , The Ann Friedman Weekly , Real Future . I’m sure I forgot someone vital. Apologies.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

I’m obsessed with to-do list managers. For many years I have been looking for an app that fell into a middle ground between “Reminders” and Omnifocus . I wanted to love Wunderlist because it looks great but lacks functionality. On the other hand, many of the more powerful list apps are downright ugly. I spent hours reading Lifehacker articles discussing the merits of various list managers. After trying at least a dozen, I got comfortable with Todoist . It’s a GTD without obsession, attractive but not overly smart. It doesn’t integrate with my calendar, but for now I’m calm because I can prioritize and repeat tasks and snooze them until next month or ever. I can also get a glimpse of weekly tasks and move them around easily. Since becoming a parent, my brain has become a sieve. Seriously, my kids will never return their library books unless I write a reminder to find and put them in their backpacks.

What device, besides a phone and a computer, can you not live without and why?

No other gadgets. I try to keep life simple. Apart from all the crap my kids get from their grandparents (on both sides) and the incredible amount of books and magazines that my husband and I try to spill, I don’t want any more. By the way, this answer will get me in trouble.

Has Boring and Brilliant influenced your approach to gadgets in the long run?

Yes. I try (try!) To keep my phone in my pocket (that was problem # 1 ) as I walk, and I only look at it purposefully, not just because I feel socially awkward or check my email on one of my OCDs. loops (you know, those days when you just keep checking and checking and checking). I took 2Dots off my phone because I used it as a crutch when I was tired or stressed. I didn’t reinstall it, but I noticed that I was back on Pinterest. After listening and writing all day, I seem to need visual stimulation. I’m thinking about subscribing to some nice magazines again.

What are some of your best everyday activities? What’s your secret?

I can be ruthlessly effective. Sometimes it’s good (planning birthdays, organizing vacations); in other cases it is bad (talking, explaining a complex idea). Over the years as a TV news producer, I’ve learned to try really hard and do more than anyone else. Unfortunately, this also leads to burnout. I learned the hard way how important it is to manage your energy.

What do you listen to while you work?

Sometimes I listen to the “Focus” playlist on Spotify, but usually I just wear my headphones as a signal to leave me alone (as everyone on radio does) or because I’m listening to a raw interview and trying to figure out how to edit it down. If I’m going to replace the WNYC daily live hosts Brian Lehrer or Leonard Lopate , I’ll definitely listen to the show the night before, just to remind myself of their rhythm and tempo. I don’t want to scare the audience with excessive violence (which I usually have). Also, if something funny happens, I need to be able to refer to it. Like the day Joy Behar was there and she totally misrepresented my name.

What are you reading now?

Still looking at the New Yorker article about Jony Ive . I mentally allowed myself NOT to finish the article (after all, it’s 17 thousand words), but I just continue to want to return to the calm world that journalist Ian Parker captured so beautifully. I also re-read “Shoal ” Nick Carr and ” smarter than you think ,” Clive Thompson. I think I also have a women’s fitness magazine that I got at the airport and have never read. I’m trying to eat more protein, so I thought it might inspire me, but it just reminded me that I’m twenty-five and spent way too much time in the gym.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

On any given day, I will host an intimate four-person dinner instead of a party. I’d rather participate in the discussion than go to the network booze later. My husband is my secret weapon. He likes to communicate more than me, and he is much better at making small talk. Between two very talkative kids and conversations to make a living, my inner introvert feels very deprived these days. I have to be careful to feed her quiet time. Otherwise, the extroverted side begins to become caustic.

How do you replenish?

Last summer, after a seven-year hiatus, I started training again. I love my new guns, but I also love the way they change the mood. Before I had children, I spent all weekends on the couch, napping and reading the newspaper. This is now my recurring fantasy. Instead, I was vacuuming. It is very gratifying to be able to assess your achievements so quickly. There is nothing better than a good Miele .

What is your sleep pattern?

I’m not an owl or a morning person. Sucks, right? I am a human at 4 pm, so I have absolutely no advantage.

I try to fall asleep around 10:00 pm and get up at 6:00 am; I would say it works four days out of seven. Regardless, I have to read something ON PAPER before bed. I also try not to use the screen an hour before bed — it’s difficult because that might be the only time my husband and I can watch House of Cards or High Care . The first thing in the morning (I hate to admit it) I look at my phone; it’s like a visual espresso. This blue light wakes me up immediately. I’m too lazy to make real coffee.

This is what I was thinking: we all experience moments when we suddenly wake up in the middle of the night thinking about something, be it work or life – so what will wake you up at 3 AM?

Oh my God. Existentialism. Death. These terrible things can happen to everyone. That’s what wakes me up at 3 am. If I were in my thirties about family, and over forty – about self-identification, I would like to think that my fifty years means reconciliation with the cycle of life and impermanence. It’s a big joke in my family that I’m so ridiculously dark. This, and I always spill trash on my shirt when I eat.

Fill in the blank: I would like _________ to answer these same questions.

David Bowie.

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

The BBC’s foreign news chief once told me, “Never give management problems, give them a solution.” If you are self-employed, this advice is doubly applicable.

What else would you like to add that might be of interest to readers and fans?

When I feel overwhelmed and overwhelmed, like I’m doing half the job and not impressing anyone (including my kids and my team), I listen to one song that I have on my phone (apart from the U2 album that Apple has forced on me): “Why do you only call me when you’re high? “From Arctic Monkeys. It reminds me of the times when I was cool, I had free time and I lived a little more dangerous. It’s like traveling back in time for 2 minutes 41 seconds. The exact amount of time it takes me to walk from the subway to my house, just in time to cook dinner.

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