As author and founder of the popular blog Stratechery, Taiwan-based Ben Thompson is extraordinarily prolific. In an interview on The Knowledge Project, he talks about what his typical daily routine looks like.
I wake up, and I deal with this super-annoying puppy, and then make breakfast for my daughter, walk her to school, come back. My son grabs the bus, and then I sit down and I have a meeting. I now have someone that assists me with a lot of the administrative stuff. That’s usually the first thing because he’s based in the US. Given the time zone alignment, that’s the first hour or two of my days, is just dealing with administrative stuff, which isn’t great. It’s some days a pain to dive right into it. It’s just a matter of time zone that it has to be first, but that’s usually what happens.
Then after that, once we’re done, theoretically I dive into research and planning for my daily update and work diligently. Usually, it’s a much more winding road where I’m reading stuff, and I’m on Twitter, and I’m flitting around. I’m usually thinking about…one thing I do very early, right when I wake up, is I do look at all the headlines and everything that happened the day before. Ongoing through my head is an outline of what I’m probably going to write about that day. This is where, also, the other distinction is. Weekly updates, I usually have an idea of what I’m going to write about for weekly update quite a while in advance. I knew this week I was probably going to write about Zuckerberg in Congress a while ago. I wrote about Microsoft last week and the reorganization. The reorganization happened on a Thursday, and so I knew I would write about it the following week.
Usually, I’m thinking about those for several days ahead of time, and I usually already know which day I’m going to write them. Those days are different. The daily update is usually more responsive to what happened the day before. Again, not always. I always have a list of stuff that’s going on such that what if nothing happened? I can go back to it. Two, if a bunch happened in one day and there’s multiple things I want to cover, I’ll take a few days to get over everything. Again, the days vary a little bit, but usually I want to have an idea of what I’m writing about, and then it’s kind of percolating. It’s in the back of my mind. I’m thinking about it. What are the points I’m going to make? That middle part of the day is spent fleshing it out, making sure I have the angle, what I’m going to write about generally, and then some time in the early- to mid-afternoon, I receive the necessary dose of sheer panic and terror that I have a deadline coming up in three or four hours, and I better buckle down and start writing.
Then I spend the afternoon and early evening writing, and my goal is to publish by 7:00. My goal is 6:00. It usually ends up being closer to 7:00, and then go have dinner, hang out with the kids, play with the dog, and then go to bed and do it again the next day.
He firmly believes in a piece of advice from Bob Johansen of the Palo Alto Institute for the Future.
…One, if you want to be right, admit you’re wrong. Number two, I write with a fairly authoritative tone and voice just because that’s better writing in general. Also, I’m saying what I think, but the cliché, “Strong opinions, weakly held,” is exactly what I abide by. I’m going to pursue what I believe to be true, and I’m going to always be testing the assumptions underlying it. Again, this is where having a systematic view of the world is very beneficial, because it’s my innate nature to always be challenging the assumptions that are underlying something, as opposed to just looking at the outcomes.