I’m Nick Douglas, Lifehacker Staff Writer and This Is How I Work
Every week, we share shortcuts, workspaces, and productivity tips from our favorite experts. This week we take a look behind the scenes at Lifehacker. And “we” is “me,” the current editor of this series. I’m Nick Douglas and that’s how I work.
Location: Brooklyn and Manhattan Current job: Lifehacker staff writer Current mobile device: iPhone 8 Current computer: Used MacBook Pro at home, new MacBook Pro (with annoying touchpad and great fingerprint reader) at work One word that best describes, how do you work: Furious
First of all, tell us a little about your past and how you got where you are now.
When I was in college, I was oddly obsessed with bloggers – my dream was to attend meetings with Corey Doctorow and Anil Dash. I’ve written about bloggers, including the entire Gawker team. At the time, Gawker publisher Nick Denton loved hiring students and Gawker obsessions, so he made me the first editor of Valleywag, Gawker Media’s gossip site about Silicon Valley. I lasted less than a year.
I became a freelancer, mainly covering internet culture on sites like Gawker and Valleywag. I posted a book of anecdotes on Twitter and wrote and edited for Urlesque, an internet culture site that was stupidly shut down by AOL when founder Kelly Reeves’ work was paying off. I ran the comedy / YouTube site Slacktory for My Damn Channel for three years and then did a bit of work creating character social media accounts for the TV show.
I was surprised when I took a job at Lifehacker. I’m productive, but I’m confused! But it turns out writing for Lifehacker is not about knowing all the answers yourself, but about being curious, willing to learn, and interested in helping others do the same.
Tell us about a recent work day.
I wake up at 7:15 am and put off my day for ten minutes of checking my phone in bed. I’ve been so messy all morning. I am going to leave at 8:15, so I usually leave at 8: 30–8: 45. My arrival time depends entirely on whether the metro will operate on that day.
The first hour of my workday is chatting with the Slack team, sharing historical ideas, checking my inbox, delaying replies (I said “sorry for the delay” in 71 work emails), and figuring out what I’m writing today. About half of my stories are scheduled on the Trello board in advance; the other half is what we just thought of that day. At 10 years old, the bot pings all authors to list what they are working on. If it weren’t for Trello and this bot, I would be much less focused on the rest of the day. I need constant deadlines, even if I miss them all the time. “How I Work” was due out Wednesday morning.
The rest of the day I do research and writing. This week I have mainly edited the How I Work articles from the rest of the Lifehacker team. That means eavesdropping on everyone for their responses and pictures, joking with small threats, and understanding how hard the Lifehacker editors are working to get us to spread our damn stories.
I am very bad at getting out of the process, so lunch sometimes happens at 3 o’clock, and I often end up leaving last, around 6:30. Great for optics.
What apps, gadgets or tools can’t you live without?
I love music in the shower, which is why I love my durable Ecoxgear waterproof speaker . It’s too loud, but my shower sprinkles this thing twice every morning, so I’m happy. I hate every pair of headphones, but my wireless BeatsX (hey, Beats are good sometimes now) are the least annoying pair I’ve had so far. I put my keys on a Swiss Army Manager knife with a ballpoint pen, which can really save the day.
For all the extra buttons, I use gaming mice , usually from Logitech. My current mouse, the G502 Proteus Spectrum , requires a driver to function properly , and I have to load that driver every time I reconnect the mouse to my laptop, which is silly. But I need my 11 buttons.
Programs! I really love 1Password . I use Yoink to drag and drop files, Vanilla to hide less used menu items in one click. It’s fantastic , as if Google Calendar worked well. Instapaper saves me from Twitter. Overcast is the most feature-rich podcast player. Amazon is evil, but the Kindle app is best in class. I always try new apps – I really want the Social Podcast Breaker app to love me – but I actually only take what I’ve liked for a long time only once or twice a year.
I’m stuffing Chrome with extensions. Must-haves include uBlock Origin , 1Password again, Instapaper again, a blank new tab page (I’m VERY DISTRACTED) and my new favorite, Workona , which manages multiple tabbed Chrome windows.
How is your workplace arranged?
I hook up my laptop to a screen and keyboard to get some rest. My back started to ache whenever I was sitting at an “ergonomic” desktop computer than when I bend over my laptop. Probably because I get too comfortable and I forget to move. In fact, I am now unplugging and walking into another room where I will be awkwardly standing at the counter and my back will feel better. Yes, I have a standing desk; no, it’s not as comfortable as leaning on a laptop. The nature is amazing.
We have an open office and that sucks. Lack of privacy, which ironically makes us talk less and close our eyes in headphones. But we try to get around this as best we can. And since a third of our team works remotely, it’s actually good that we communicate more on Slack.
What’s your best shortcut or life hack?
I have a bad habit of Twitter; my wife was upset by how often I just disappeared on the phone from nowhere. So I uninstalled the app and only switched to the desktop. I sometimes load Twitter into mobile Safari to tweet or check private messages, but their mobile web interface is so flabby it can’t pull me in like an app.
The general principle is this: if you have a metaphorical“sometimes food” that threatens to take over and you cannot or do not want to ban it entirely, take one step down . The step is annoying but bearable. Feel the healthy pain of learning to get a little more disciplined. I think this is the exercise, but I don’t know, I have never exercised.
Tell us about an interesting, unusual, or challenging process you have at work.
The backend of Kinja, the platform that Lifehacker and its related blogs run on, is not entirely reliable. The current development team is making huge improvements, but for now, many writers are avoiding drafting their work on it. But if I write in Notes or (ugh) Google Docs, I worry about errors when I copy everything inside. So I write in Kinja anyway. Until now, I have never lost my post, oh god, god, I am retaining now.
Who are the people who help you achieve results, and how do you rely on them?
My editors are very kind to my bad habits, but they also help me understand the boundaries of the error and find out what is really the problem and what is just my neurosis.
As we got to know each other better, the entire Lifehacker team learned to share story ideas. Some of my best works are from someone else who wrote in Slack: “This is like Nick’s story …”. And I love that when I’m busy to do any additional posts, I can still toss a well-timed idea in Slack and someone else will grab it. This is probably the most important thing that makes us feel like a team and not just a few writers who end up on the same site.
Almost every time I consider a new job or run into the first obstacle in a specified job, I start to panic and my wife has to explain to me why this is a great opportunity. She and I are career counselors.
How do you keep track of what you need to do?
I cannot bring myself to pay attention to my affairs. I went through Todoist , Habitica , Notepad, back to Todoist. Even when I set reminder notifications, I postpone non-urgent tasks for several weeks. If I can’t turn this into a real-time commitment to someone, then it’s not being met on time. All my affairs are filled with unfulfilled aspirations.
I do a lot, I’m actually a super productive person! I just have too many ideas — creative, practical, even tedious assignment ideas — and I love them too much to admit that I can only complete a small number of them. Sometimes it means I’m wasting my time.
How to recharge or relax?
Books, TV, walks in the park, long conversations with my wife and SIDE PROJECTS ABOUT BOY
What’s your favorite side project?
I am currently the co-founder of Roommate From Hell , a scripted comedy podcast about a demon and a human living in Brooklyn. We have an amazing team: the demon is played by the famous on the Internet Natalie Walker , the person is Serena Berman , in the voice acting of which Lucy van Pelt participated. Every moment of writing, recording and editing (well, sitting over the shoulder of engineer / editor Levi Sharp) is energizing and energizing.
We’re comparing the show to Good Place , Rick and Morty , Broad City , The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Welcome to Night Vale , and it can be difficult to take some of the same premises and concepts and find your own direction. … We also still find the voice of the show – I’m used to writing more detached, sketch-like things, and we’re just starting to explore the true depth of these characters. This is partly a recognition of what the actors breathed into the characters, and the writing for it.
In audio fiction, if your actors and your editor are good, you can create fantasy worlds and mythical beasts for the price of a Soundsnap subscription and some Audition plugins. My co-writer Tim and I originally set out to make a web series, but we fell in love with these crazy ideas that don’t work on camera, especially without a budget. It’s still a huge job, but now we don’t have to give up on a good idea because it is too difficult to shoot.
What are you reading now or what do you recommend?
My current book on the metro is Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead, and my book for the night is Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco. I only read two books at a time, because I was sure that I would leave Eco after ten pages, but that was not the case; it’s smart but turns pages quickly.
Before that, we liked Little Works , a short literary memoir about the birth of a child, reminiscent of the Department of Speculation . I keep reading people the Kafkaesque story about trying to get a passport for a baby.
And I always recommend the stories by Jorge Luis Borges . Start by hitting, then try deep cuts. He talks a lot about why Judas Iscariot made a greater sacrifice than Jesus. But he writes it as a response to a religious essay that doesn’t really exist. Crazy and, for a former Christian, irresistible.
Who else would you like to see to answer these questions?
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Anyone have a contact?
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Your poor planning is not my extreme.” Working with me can seem like a nightmare, and sometimes I feel like working with her is a nightmare, but reports show that it is not! [Editor’s note: No.] I think it’s because I always try not to be a pain in someone else’s ass. When my poor planning becomes my emergency, I can live with it. When it gets foreign, then I know I screwed up.
What problem are you still trying to solve?
Well, that’s all … that . Also, when my wife and I have our first child, I will have to find a new joke for my biography.