What I’m working on:
The amount and type of work I’ve taken on has changed a lot in the past year, ever since my wife and I had a daughter. My wife’s hours are long and relatively inflexible, so I’ve cut down on my workload so that I can handle the majority of the housework and childcare. I’ve also had to choose my projects judiciously; long lead times are in, and news stories and short turnaround times are out. I recently finished an article on overcoming CRISPR off-target effects for The Scientist, and I’m currently working on several scientist profiles and Q&As for the journal PNAS. Those are a lot of fun because of the variety of researchers I get to write about—I’m currently writing about a mathematician, a biochemist, a crystallographer, and a microbiologist. I also just wrote for another journal’s research-highlights section and for an institutional newsletter focused on dairy research. I’m trying to collect string for future features, with the intention of pitching them whenever my schedule frees up a little more. One of my last features was for Science News for Students, and I’d particularly love to do more writing aimed at kids.
Where I work:
I live in New York City, in a high-rise apartment building by the East River in midtown Manhattan. I mostly work in our office room / guest room, with the occasional foray into the living room (or even more rarely, to a café) if I feel like a change of scene. I’m surrounded by a concrete jungle, but my office window does offer some nice views of sunrise on the East River and sunset over downtown Manhattan.
My one-year-old daughter serves as my daily alarm, and she usually wakes up somewhere between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m. Aided by multiple cups of coffee, I spend the next few hours taking care of her until her nanny arrives at 9:00 a.m. I usually catch up on emails and world news while having some breakfast and more coffee, and then work until my lunch break, usually around noon.
I often face a mid-afternoon slump in concentration, during which time I try to take care of some household work like the laundry or dishes, or take a walk to run errands and pick up groceries. At 5:00 p.m. I leave the house to go meet the nanny and my daughter at a nearby playground or indoor play space. I take my daughter for a long-ish evening walk in the stroller before bringing her back home for some more playtime followed by her bedtime.
Once my daughter’s asleep, I like to decompress by cooking dinner while listening to music or podcasts. After dinner, I might try to squeeze in a little more work if I have urgent deadlines. Otherwise I’ll read or watch some TV/Netflix before going to sleep. My work used to bleed into nights and weekends all the time, but with my daughter around I’ve had to become more disciplined about getting my work done mainly from nine to five, Monday through Friday.
Most productive part of my day:
Mid-morning to early afternoon, after my daughter usually goes out with the nanny and before she gets back for her afternoon nap.
Most essential ritual or habit:
Slowly savoring several cups of coffee in the morning; it’s the only way I can keep up with my daughter’s morning activity levels. I also enjoy my evening walks with my daughter, and cooking dinner once she’s asleep, both help me unwind after the workday.
iPhone 8 Plus. It was a birthday gift from my parents so I could send them better photos of their granddaughter.
15-inch MacBook Pro. When I’m working at my desk the laptop is connected to a 27-inch external monitor and an ergonomic mouse and keyboard.
Essential software/apps/productivity tools:
I keep all my work and important files on Dropbox and Google Drive so that it’s all constantly saved to the cloud. The last time my laptop died unexpectedly while I was finishing up a feature, I was able to download an up-to-date version of the feature from Dropbox and continue working on another computer without skipping a beat.
I use Google Calendar and a Planner Pad notebook to keep track of my schedule, including deadlines, interviews, etc. I also have Google Calendar set up to send me email reminders for any important events.
I use Scrivener to write all my features, it helps me keep my research material and drafts organized and allows me to easily play around with the article’s structure.
I also use an app called oTranscribe to quickly and efficiently transcribe interviews.
Favorite time waster/procrastination habit:
I’m addicted to checking the news, especially on Twitter. I also take a lot of photos with my phone, and post them on Instagram or Facebook semi-regularly. For a quick break, I like to play a game of Really Bad Chess.
My reading habits:
I usually like to read before I sleep, which has gotten harder to do after my daughter was born. I’m often tired / sleep-deprived enough by the end of the day that I barely get through a few pages before falling asleep. When I can, I read a mix of fiction and nonfiction books, and also like to read longform features I’ve saved to my iPad’s Instapaper app. I’m currently reading a book called Tennis and Philosophy, which my wife gifted me because it combined two of my interests, and I really enjoyed the last fiction book I finished, called Netherland. I’ve also read my fair share of baby-related books in the past year.
Having a baby completely changed my sleep schedule. I used to be an inveterate night owl, but these days I try to sleep earlier—by 10:00 p.m. or so—since my daughter gets up before dawn (and occasionally wakes up in the middle of the night as well.) Every once in a while, my night owl tendencies come creeping back, and I’ll end up staying up late to read a book or watch Netflix, even if it means being extra tired the next day.