Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Secret Life Hack

The journalist and author on dealing with email, burnout and failure.

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?
Andrew Ross Sorkin: My phone is my alarm — I know that’s terrible! — so the first thing I inevitably do is look at email and scan Twitter.

TG: What gives you energy?
ARS: More sleep! Or a Cross Fit workout. Or better yet, ping pong!

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
ARS: Saying “no” quickly — but hopefully nicely. I try not to use the actual word “no.”

TG: Name a book that changed your life. 
ARS: “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you? 
ARS: It is my frenemy. I wish I could avoid it, but I can’t. A doctor would probably describe my relationship with my phone as an addiction. And yes, it sleeps next to my bed though I’m planning to try Arianna’s new phone bed and see how that goes.

TG: How do you deal with email?
ARS: I’m an “inbox zero” guy. I don’t let stuff linger more than 24 hours — if it requires a lengthy reply or memo, I’ll put it on my calendar and block out time to deal with it. That way I can manage my time a bit better.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it
ARS: Surf around, check social media. Or, if I’m being good, meditate. I do TM. Or sometimes I use the app Headspace.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
ARS: Anytime I don’t have a new project — work or family related — to look forward to working on. It is the lack of something to do — rather than the other way around — that gets me down.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
ARS: Oh my. I feel like I fail all the time. But, luckily, I haven’t had a giant failure — yet. It’ll happen.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
ARS: “Aren’t you worried? Would it help?” It is from Bridge of Spies. Anytime I find myself obsessing about something, I ask myself that fundamental question. Sometimes obsessing about something actually does help because you need to think through something important. But most of the time it is just a bad time suck.

Andrew Ross Sorkin is a columnist for The New York Times, co-anchor of CNBC’s Squawk Box, author of Too Big to Fail and co-creator of Showtime’s Billions.