A Day in the Life of Annalee Newitz


Annalee Newitz Courtesy of Annalee Newitz

What I’m working on:

I’m the tech culture editor at Ars Technica, and my first novel, Autonomous, came out today. I’m currently working on lots of science and culture articles for Ars, another novel, and a nonfiction book about archaeology and abandoned cities.

Where I work: 

I live in San Francisco, and work a lot in my study at home. It’s lined with bookshelves, has a closet crammed with hard drives, and looks out into a backyard inhabited by squirrels, corvids, ants, and the occasional hawk or raccoon. I also like to work in cafés.

Daily routine:

My daily routine is relatively variable, as I’m often bouncing between several different projects. But on an ideal day, I get up and do some email and look over the day’s schedule and then spend a couple hours on research and writing. I do phone interviews in the morning if I can, because that way I’m hitting everyone’s time zones in the U.S. I take a midday break, and spend the afternoon reading, researching, and writing, not necessarily in that order. I try to juggle a couple of different writing projects so that if I start to run out of steam on one I can turn to the next. Sometimes that means I’ll write 500 words on one thing and 500 words on another—or I’ll just pound out a whole article in one long chunk.

A standing desk with a large computer screen on it, a bookshelf wall to the right.
Courtesy of Annalee Newitz

One of the hard things about having a self-directed job is knowing when you’re getting nowhere with a piece and being willing to set it aside to do something else. On a bad day, I will try to push myself to finish an article that I’m stuck on, and I’ll end up reading Twitter for an hour instead. An hour I could have been reading or researching another story! So when I find myself staring at Twitter, I know it’s time to switch gears and work on something else.

Most productive part of my day:

Mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

Most essential ritual or habit:

Changing locations in the middle of the day. Sometimes that means going out to lunch or taking a walk during lunchtime. Sometimes it means walking to a café and spending the afternoon working there. Other times it might just mean switching from a sitting to a standing position at my desk (I can lower and raise my desk, which is truly essential). No matter what form it takes, I need to move around at midday or I just can’t concentrate on my afternoon work.

An open laptop on a table at a coffee shop. A Scientific Reports article is open on the screen.
Courtesy of Annalee Newitz

Mobile device:

Google Pixel, iPhone 6, iPad mini (I just can’t get rid of it because I like it so much), Fitbit


MacBook Air (everyday laptop), 27” iMac (desktop), Samsung Chromebook (for travel)

Essential software/apps/productivity tools:

Chrome, Notepad, Evernote, Dragon Naturally Speaking, MS Word, Google Scholar, Slack, Signal, Dropbox

Favorite time waster/procrastination habit:

Twitter and Instagram

My reading habits:

As much as possible. Literally any time I have a free moment, I will start reading—whether it’s on the bus, waiting for a friend on a street corner, or lazing on the couch for several hours on the weekend. I read books on paper and on my iPad using the Kindle app. I read news on my phone usually, but sometimes on my computer. For the most part, I divide my time between scientific papers/books, and science fiction novels.

 Sleep schedule:

I’m pretty much always on a midnight–8:00 a.m. sleep schedule, with occasional deviations for early morning flights or late-night stargazing parties.

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