Andrea Petersen On Not Letting Her Phone Interfere With Being In the Moment

The author of On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety explains her email strategy and why making time for friendships is so important.

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?Andrea Petersen: My 8-year-old daughter is my alarm clock. She’s always been an early riser. It is usually a mad-dash in the morning, to get myself ready for work, her ready for school, breakfast and lunch made.

TG: What gives you energy?
AP: Most days I do at least 20 minutes of yoga. I do it online via yogaglo.com and I found a teacher with the most lovely, calming voice. That little bit of yoga, I find, really helps me manage my anxiety and gives me clarity and energy for the day. When I can, I also take long, meandering walks in Prospect Park near my apartment.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
AP: Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird.” It’s a funny, touching book of advice for writers, but the tips are applicable to any creative project. Among them: Make a commitment to write every day at the same time. Tackle projects a little bit at a time. And be prepared to write terrible first drafts. I re-read it every year or so.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?AP: I do almost always have my phone with me. It is my watch, my camera, and I, of course, use it for email and to get the news. When I’m out and about, I rely on it for directions, for tips on nearby restaurants and to listen to podcasts during my journeys on the subway (I just finished the marvelous S-Town). But I try to make sure it doesn’t interfere with being in the moment with friends and family. And I try not to pull it out at every down moment.

TG: How do you deal with email?
AP: I tend to focus on email in the late morning and then later in the evening, after my daughter goes to bed. I try to hold off on email for at least a few hours in the morning. This is my prime writing time, when I feel most alert and creative.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?AP: Call a friend. Life can get so busy, between work and family responsibilities, that friendships can get short shrift. But I get so much joy and support from my friends, and I do try to nurture those relationships as much as I can.


ANDREA PETERSEN is a contributing writer at the Wall Street Journal, where she reports on psychology, health, and neuroscience. She is the recipient of a Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism and lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and daughter. Her book, On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety, will be published by Crown on May 16th.