Entertainment / Media / Professional development / Workplace culture

How I Work: TLDR’s PJ Vogt

If you want to work like WNYC associate producer PJ Vogt, you need two things: to-do lists and timers. "My work life is basically adult Me trying to manage childish, unfocused Me, and those are the two tools I've got."

PJ Vogt (left) with his partner in podcasting, Alex Goldman. (Photo courtesy of PJ Vogt)

PJ Vogt is half of the team behind TLDR, the podcast from WNYC’s On The Media where each week he and his reporting partner Alex Goldman dive deep into some corner of Internet memedom, culture or weirdness.

They’ve covered the secret origins of Olivia Taters (the fake teen of Twitter), raceswapping, deeply immoral behavior in virtual worlds, Internet time and an intense interview with OKCupid’s founder about ethics.

See the two hosts here:

Vogt is the Brooklyn half of that team. We asked him if he would be the first to partake in our soon-to-be recurring feature “How I Work,” which we’ve kindly stolen from Technical.ly Baltimore.

“How I Work” is us asking a well regarded person in our community a few questions about their day-to-day — some answers to which will apply more to industry colleagues while others will help just about anyone trying to get more done.

Here goes. (The links, we’ve added.)


What’s the first thing you do every day before doing any tech related work?

Worry about alternate side parking.

How often do you check your e-mail, and do you use any program to get to ‘Inbox Zero’?

I’ve lost the email battle. I used Mailbox for a little while, but since it didn’t support Outlook, and my work email is Outlook, it wasn’t super useful. So I’m back to the iPhone’s default email app. I’m at Inbox 356 unread emails. It’s not good.

How do you keep track of your revenues and expenses?

I really like Simple, the online bank. I get notifications whenever I’ve spent money, and they have a lot of Mint’s features without Mint’s incessant LinkedIn-style spamming. Also, when you want to save money, you can set the amount you need and the date you need it by, and Simple will quietly pilfer money from present You to save it for future You.

When you need to take a break, what are you turning to?

I go through binges of reading fiction that start and stop without any discernible pattern. But right now, paper books. Not because I’m a weird smell-of-real-paper fetishist, but because WNYC is a garden of unclaimed galleys. I just finished David Mitchell’s new book, The Bone Clocks, (great!) and I’m starting Ben Lerner’s new book, 10:04, which I’m sure will also be great.

What’s your gear?

The rare times I get to go out to record outside of a studio, I use a Marantz PMD 660 and a Audio Technica 835b shotgun mic. I don’t know if that’s the best recording gear — it’s what This American Life used to use when I was an intern there, so it’s what I bought when I bought all my radio stuff. Our friends overs at Radiolab people seem to have fancier/stranger field mic’s and kits.

We edit using ProTools, not because it’s the best audio editing software but because it’s what public radio people seem to all use for path dependence reasons. Apparently Hindenburg, which is much cheaper, is just as good.

And we do all of our scripts/blog posts/etc in Google Docs, which is great except for the one day a month where it suddenly stops working for everyone.

What’s one time saving tip you have? 

I can’t answer this question because anyone who has to work with me will laugh too hard. I am not good at time management. I have an ongoing, good-natured argument with my boss about the idea that ineffeciency is good in creative processes. I think she thinks I am being a pretentious rationalizer which — probably.

What’s one way in which you believe your day-to-day work is better now than it has been? Is there something you do now (or don’t do) that you didn’t before (or did) that has made a big difference?

These might be too simple, but the two things that help me the most with my work life are to-do lists and phone timers. My friend Rishi said once that there’s nothing in life so bad that it can’t be taken care of with a to-do list, and it’s weirdly true. The more terrible/stressful the task, the better it feels to reduce it into a bunch of itemized scribbles in a notebook.

And then the timers — if I’m having a hard time focusing, I’ll set my phone timer for 8 minutes and let myself gchat or read messageboards or whatever else I want to do. When the timer goes off, I’ll set another one for 45 minutes, and work straight through. Then repeat. My work life is basically adult Me trying to manage childish, unfocused Me, and those are the two tools I’ve got.

Companies: WNYC
Series: Brooklyn
People: PJ Vogt
Projects: TLDR

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