How I Work | Life Hacker

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The Huffington Post is, of course, one of the landmark blogs of the internet, and has grown into a diverse outlet that covers everything from politics to entertainment to local news. Overseeing the editorial operation is Jimmy Soni, whose own work has been featured in The Atlantic, Politico, and more. We caught up with Jimmy to learn how he manages his workload and the HuffPo empire.

Location: New York, NY
Current Gig: Managing Editor, The Huffington Post; Author of Rome’s Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato
One word that best describes how you work: Intensely
Current mobile device: iPhone 5s; iPad
Current computer: MacBook Air at work; MacBook Pro at home

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

For reading, I swear by Pocket. Truth told, I don’t know how I managed without it. I work on the web and I consume more media than I care to admit, but the internet can be quicksand for the curious. Pocket lets me avoid all that and binge-read, and it saves more time than arguably any other app I use. Otherwise, I’m a low-tech reader. It’s hardcovers and paperbacks by the armful. These days, my apartment is just a glorified storage unit for my books.

For work, G-Chat is the lifeblood of our newsroom, but I use Adium to confine chats to a holding pen away from email. I’m a fan of Dropbox for writing projects, and Google Calendar and Gmail for, well, everything. Backblaze hums in the background, quietly saving everything to the cloud for that inevitable day when my laptop and my coffee become better acquainted. I’ve started playing around with Boomerang, the email app, and I’ve found it useful. Also, for anyone who is subscribed to too many newsletters and email lists, Unroll.me is a lifesaver. Finally, I love Jumpcut, a souped-up copy-and-paste app that seems almost needless until you start using it, at which point you can’t imagine life without it.

What’s your workspace setup like?

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I have a standing desk (pictured above), and I evangelize about it every chance I get. By all accounts, sitting is a modern plague; some have gone so far as to call it “the new smoking.” So I stand, and while it was an adjustment at first, now I feel out of sorts when I sit for too long. Were it socially acceptable to get a treadmill desk, I’d get one in a heartbeat. One quick recommendation: The book that sealed it for me on the whole sitting-versus-standing debate was Eat Move Sleep, by Tom Rath. It’s a fast read, and it’s that rare book that encourages reflection on familiar things like food and sleep.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?

There’s decent research on “decision fatigue,” the notion that you only have so deep a well from which to make choices throughout the day. The same is true of willpower. If you accept that both your ability to choose and your ability to act are limited, you discover the virtue of routines. I try to “pre-program” as many of the mundane decisions (what to have for lunch, what to wear, etc) as I can. A rough regularity on the insignificant things helps preserve energy for the significant ones. For me, each day’s rhythm tends to resemble the next, and while this might seem ridiculously simple, it’s actually a hard thing to manufacture. Even thinking in these terms can increase what you can get done.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

A single Google doc. Keep it simple.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?

How I Work: Jimmy Soni, Managing Editor of the Huffington Post

I’m a big fan of kettlebells. The kettlebell is the ultimate “hack”: it’s a small piece of equipment, but you can do an astonishing array of things with it, even in a small space. Keeping a kettlebell around also quiets the well-there-simply-isn’t-enough-time-for-the-gym voice in my head.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?

Deploying obscure historical references. I’ve got an endless supply.

What do you listen to while you work?

An omnivorous—and slightly embarrassing!—Spotify list that contains everything from rap to bhangra to EDM to pop to classical. I listen to music when I’m writing but not when I’m reading. I like to lose myself in books, and I can’t do that with a soundtrack.

What are you currently reading?

On weekends, I alternate from books to articles for a few hours until I’ve had my fill. With books, I like to read two to three at a time. At the moment, I’m making my way through The Most Powerful Idea In The World by William Rosen and What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer. I also try to read one book I’ve read before for every three or so new books I read; I find that most are better the second time around.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

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Extroversion is essential in this job, one in which you are dealing with all manner of creative and organizational challenges that are best tackled through teamwork and discussion. But when I’m off the clock, I spend heaps of time alone. There is a side of my personality that treasures long stretches of uninterrupted time for reading and writing and thinking.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I work for one of the world’s great sleep evangelists, Arianna Huffington, so this question gets more than the usual attention in our newsroom. To be honest, I’ve transformed in recent years. In my pre-HuffPost life, I wore my sleeplessness as a badge of pride. But the science on sleep is overwhelming, and it has made me a convert. I now try to get quality sleep every night, and I try to make sure the quantity is there, too. One app that’s helped is F.lux. It adjusts the light on your computer to the time of day, so the lighting from your screen isn’t as harsh at night. It’s a subtle change, but I do feel a difference.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.

Among the living: Louis C.K., Reed Hastings, Dean Karnazes, Sheryl Sandberg, Tobias Wolff.

Among the departed: Michel de Montaigne, George Marshall, Henry Thoreau, James Baldwin.

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

An old one from Marcus Aurelius: “Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers/fans?

There’s a scene from Homer’s The Odyssey that is arguably the original “life hack”: the story of Odysseus lashing himself to his ship’s mast to avoid the temptation of the Sirens’ song. A whole body of research exists now that validates the story’s underlying lesson, which is that our willpower is substantially more limited than we think it is—but that we can engineer circumstances that determine our behavior. I try to apply that concept—”lashing yourself to the mast”—whenever I can. Think about the binding structures you can build to force yourself to do the things you avoid.

Originally Posted at Life Hacker.com

Crain’s 40 Under 40: Jimmy Soni

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On a recent afternoon, Jimmy Soni was focused on the sort of topic that is central to the managing editor’s job at one of the world’s largest news sites, and it had nothing to do with gridlock in Congress or drone strikes. It was the launch of new, “floating” share buttons that would follow the user’s eye down the page.

“If you keep [the buttons] locked in people’s view, they’re more likely to comment,” Mr. Soni said. More comments and more social-media “shares” bring more of the reader engagement that has helped The Huffington Post grow its U.S. audience 15% over the past year, to 46 million unique visitors in January, according to comScore.

“In 21st-century journalism, editors have to think like technologists,” Mr. Soni said. “One of the key roles I play is [figuring out] how to develop products that help all the editors on the site, not just a few.”

Born in Toulouse, France, of Indian expatriate parents and raised in suburban Chicago, Mr. Soni grew up a news junkie and a computer nerd. That was pretty much his professional training, not counting stints with McKinsey and the Washington, D.C., mayor’s office; time spent co-writing a recently published biography of Cato the Younger, and a year as chief of staff for Arianna Huffington.

Mr. Soni impressed the AOL division’s editor in chief with his enthusiasm for digital media, and in January 2012 she made him managing editor.

“He has a deep interest in journalism and technology, which makes him uniquely suited to The Huffington Post,” Ms. Huffington said. “He’s been able to increase the collaboration between edit and tech, which has always been at the heart of the Huff Post’s success.”

Originally posted at Crain’s; “40 Under 40”

Spotlight: Jimmy Soni | Vogue India

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Man of Letters

American journalism’s youngest poster boy, JIMMY SONI talks to AARTI VIRANI about reading, writing and running one of the biggest news sites on the planet.

On a Monday morning at the Huffington Post headquarters in downtown Manhattan, backpack slung boyishly across one shoulder, managing editor Jimmy Soni leads me on a tour of the labyrinthine office. He offers a lively weekend recap: three blissful days at a friend’s beach house in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. “I’ve never done that before,” he admits. “But if you don’t carve out time for yourself, this job can get allc onsuming.” He pauses when we arrive at a cosy, book-strewn space with sweeping views of the 380-person newsroom. “Arianna’s [Huffington’s] office,” Soni explains, adding that his editor-in-chief is out for the day.

At 28, Soni is steering one of the world’s largest news websites. Born to Rajasthani immigrant parents in Toulouse, France (where his father, a biochemical engineer, got started), and raised in suburban Illinois, Soni remembers tearing through the Chicago Tribune as a child. “I get stressed out when I don’t read,” he says. After a year-long stint as a speechwriter for the mayor of Washington, DC, Soni joined the Huffington Post in 2011. He was hired for his ability to fuse journalism and technology. “I had lunch with a college friend who passed [up] the opportunity and sent it my way,” confesses Soni. “I was always a planner, but I’ve learnt to accept the role that luck and chance can play in life—I should add that my friend showed up 45 minutes late and I had almost left.”

RENAISSANCE MAN

When Huffington announced Soni’s role to her team in January 2012, she described the Duke University graduate as “a man of many talents” (he’s trilingual and enjoys swing dancing, for starters), and singled him out for being an exceptionally good listener. “You have two ears and one mouth and you ought to use them in that proportion,” he says. When he’s not juggling the staggering array of duties that come with his job description— fostering partnerships with social media platforms, editing a chunk of the 1,600 articles churned out on a daily basis and expanding the brand’s international reach—Soni turns to karate and marathon training for a few hours every week. He’s convinced that repetitive physical activity forces his brain, typically stretched in an assortment of directions, to think differently. “One of my favourite writers, TJ Stiles, has a black belt in karate, and Ernest Hemingway was a boxer,” he adds. Then there’s his social life. “That’s a trickier one,” Soni says, self-consciously. “I’m single and it’s tough to date when you have the kind of job I do… the person you’re seeing needs to be endlessly forgiving,” he continues. “I may need to put that on hiatus for a little while.”

PASSAGE TO INDIA

For the moment, Soni’s razor-sharp focus is devoted to the Huffington Post’s upcoming India edition, poised for an early 2014 launch. “I’ll be hands-on with it, partly because I’m involved in pretty much everything we do and because India’s especially close to my heart,” he reveals. “Even though I’ve strayed from my roots a bit, the lens through which I think about the world tends to blend the ancient with the modern,” he asserts. “And there are few places where that is done more successfully than India.”