I’m Tom Standage, Associate Editor at the Economist, and This Is How I Work.

The Economist is today one of the leading international newspapers with carefully prepared news and commentary on its weekly pages and websites. Tom Standage is the deputy editor of the newspaper, as well as the head of their digital strategy.

Tom is the author of many history books , including Writing on the Wall , which argues that sharing information throughout history, whether written on papyrus in ancient Rome or printed by hand during the Reformation, is not really anything. something special. different from modern social networks. He was previously the editor-in-chief of Economist.com and even played in a band when time permits. We spoke with Tom to find out a little about how he works.

Location: London, England Current job: Associate Editor and Head of Digital Strategy at The Economist One word that best describes how you work: Intense Current mobile device: iPhone 6 Plus Current computer: MacBook Air 11 ”, since 2010 … It’s old, but still fast enough for me, even with a lot of apps and tabs open. I have my eyes on the new MacBook. It is said to be comparable to the 2011 MacBook. This is an upgrade for me! At work, I have a regular Dell PC with two monitors.

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

The hallmark of mature technology is that it’s invisible and you only notice when it’s not working. Cloud storage is a prime example for me. I was one of the early adopters of Dropbox and rely on it to have all my files on all my devices. I’ve often said that when you have multiple computers, what you need is always on the other. Well, no more. I love that I don’t have to email myself or carry around USB drives, which I’ve been doing for years. Or make a backup.

Another tool I can’t live without is Slack . When I hooked up the Espresso team [The Economist’s iOS and Android app] last summer, everyone did it for four hours; I have never seen anything taken so quickly. And as a result, we all have much more empty mailboxes. Espresso is built by a global team of people in London, DC and Singapore, and Slack means we can all see what everyone else is doing. It’s great.

Finally, in the offline world, I’m a huge fan of the Moleskine Reporter’s notebooks. They are just the perfect size. I’ve always said I want an iPhone the size of a Moleskine laptop, and that’s what the iPhone 6 Plus has.

How is your workplace arranged?

At work, I have what we call the “slip office,” which is the polite language of economists, “the closet.” We don’t have a newsroom at The Economist; instead, we all have offices and this whole place has an academic atmosphere. I like to keep my desk tidy. This is especially neat now, because we just redesigned the office network, so we all had to pack our things in boxes over the weekend so that they could rip the floor. We all gave up a lot. In general, I am good at avoiding or throwing away paper. But I can’t throw away the books, so there are quite a few of them on the shelves. I have a phone on my desk, but I rarely use it.

The best thing about my office is the view of St James’s Green Park. I read somewhere that ideally offices should have long lines of sight and views of greenery. I’m lucky to have both. At home I have a rather Victorian study lined with books, with a burgundy chaise longue and an antique revolving bookcase. I like to switch between sitting at a table and sitting in a lounger with a laptop. Is this considered an exercise?

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

In my experience, the best way to reduce email volume is to move as much information as possible to Slack. I get nervous if there are more than 30 messages in my inbox, so I like to stay up to date with my email and kill everything throughout the day. I’m a big fan of Gmail templates. But the main thing is not to work simultaneously with several tasks. Switching tasks is a huge waste of time, and if you’re not focused on one task, you won’t be able to get into a flow state when the real work is done, be it a writer, coder, or anyone else. So, the best life hack is to design your environment so that you can transition into a flow state if needed.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

I’m a digital person in many ways, but when it comes to to-do lists, I stick to pen and paper. I’ve tried google apps and docs but for some reason they are not the same thing. I think that crossing out or marking is what I prefer to do on paper.

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

My Nespresso machine that makes me work in the morning. I love my Kindle Paperwhite too.

What are some of the things you do best in everyday life?

Making pizza. I believe pizza should be very thin and crunchy: crisp enough so that the slice doesn’t flop when you pick it up, and thin enough so that you can fold it in half and eat it later. I have 10kg baked goods that I send to the oven to make sure it does.

The newspaper has obviously changed a lot since you first started your career, but what has been the biggest change in your daily work in recent years?

Switching from a weekly cycle to a daily cycle. When I started at The Economist in 1998, everyone had a weekly cycle: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were very busy, we went to print on Thursday and then started again on Friday. In retrospect, every week we experience what I call “publication catharsis.” Now we publish every day on the internet, we have the daily Espresso, podcasts and videos. I like it, but it is a completely different form compared to the work week, with less deviations from one day to the next. I stick to the daily cycle, but not all, so the challenge now is to integrate the daily and weekly cycles as efficiently as possible.

I just watchedyour talk on TedX where you discussed how social media has historical antecedents. I wonder what you think about the extent to which we now rely on platforms (such as Twitter and Facebook) that are potentially outside the control of users? That is, Twitter could fail as a business, Facebook could change its algorithms, and so on. Could other coffee shops just spring up in their place?

What is striking in today’s social media environment is that we have all of these platforms that allow us to share information, but there are some that are really big, which means a high degree of concentration of control and ownership. When the Romans exchanged papyrus scrolls or brochures between coffee shops, there was no such level of centralization. But I wonder if this state of affairs will last for a long time. If you look at the 1990s, it seemed like Compuserve and AOL had a relentless control over consumer Internet access. It turned out not, and those private, walled gardens gave way to open spider webs. Both email and web publishing operate on open, distributed standards that allow you to configure and connect your own servers if you want, so it seems anomalous that social media and social media don’t work that way. So far, attempts to create open, distributed social platforms have not advanced very far, but I think they deserve attention.

What do you listen to while you work?

I cannot listen to music with lyrics while writing or editing. My favorite music to write music is any ofthe Keith Jarrett trio .

What are you reading now?

I’m currently reading Poseidon’s Wake by Alastair Reynolds, one of my favorite science fiction authors. He is very good at transhumanism and augmented reality. For non-fiction, I am reading Ian Morris Why Western Rules Are (Now) . Science fiction and megahistories are two tools that I use to try to see the future: an imaginary future of science fiction on the one hand, and a historical vision of the future in the past, on the other. Basically, this is what I do in my own books. The third place where you need to look into the future, by the way, is in the present: as William Gibson says, the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. This means looking for edge cases – new technologies that are not currently being used but may become ubiquitous in the future, such as self-driving cars. This is what I do at work. You could say that I spend my entire life trying to figure out what the future will look like.

Speaking of reading, do you read e-books or do you prefer paper?

I’m happy anyway, but I prefer e-books because they are more compact when I travel and I can read in the dark without disturbing my wife.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? Both are possible.

Yes, both. I am terrible at small talk, but very happy to talk to a large crowd.

How do you replenish?

We go to the coast and walk along the beach. I play video games with children. I drank wine with my wife. To play on drums. Here is my group on Spotify .

What is your sleep routine? Are you a night owl or get up early?

I am an owl and always have been. I rely on coffee to wake up.

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

Elon Musk or Neil Stevenson.

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

I have had a fairly long association with life hacking and have internalized some of its earliest and most effective nostrils. I have known Danny O’Brien who coined the term since the 1990s, when we both covered the rise of the Internet. Then, in 2006, Corey Doctorow told me about how Danny and Merlin Mann were asked to write a book on productivity hacks, but, oddly enough, they didn’t get there. So I asked Corey to write an article for the Economist on life hacks, and we made a box of some of the best hacks. My favorites: downhill parking; announcement of vertical days dedicated to one project; use a dash to make the task more accessible. Since then I have been using all these hacks. My nine year old son loves to watch YouTube life hacks, but they are all useless, like how to open Doritos packages more efficiently as far as I can tell. I think the life hacking movement identified easy wins early on. It’s now an industry that helps people put off real work, but convinces them that they’ll be much more productive when they get back to real work, which is kind of ironic. It would seem that the old life hacks are the best .


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