Jennifer Wallace, Award-Winning Journalist

Jennifer Wallace, Award-Winning Journalist

I’m here today with Jennifer Wallace. Jenny is an award-winning journalist and TV commentator. A regular contributor to “The New York Times,” “The Wall Street Journal,” “The Washington Post,” and many women’s magazines, Jenny got her start as an editor at Doubleday books and moved on to being a journalist for CBS 60 Minutes. Jenny speaks eloquently about her pieces and hot topics in parenting, lifestyle, technology, and more on TV shows like CBS This Morning and others. Her tagline is “Reporting research-backed advice for better living.” She lives here in New York City with her husband and three kids. Welcome, Jenny.

Jennifer Wallace: Hi, Zibby.

Zibby: Hi.

Jennifer: Thanks for having me.

Zibby: Thanks for coming. I loved your article in “The Wall Street Journal” last weekend. It was published in the May 5th/6th, 2018 issue. In fact, I was reading the paper in the car with my husband and was halfway through before I realized it was actually your article, the one that we are about to talk about. I was loving it. The article is titled, “The Teenage Social-Media Trap;” subtitled, “Adolescents increasingly measure and manage social success online — and it may be taking a toll on their mental health.” Tell us how so.

Jennifer: When I first was looking into this article, I honestly was a little naive. I’d been reading a lot about the research. It’s very mixed, the research that’s out there now. It’s very mixed. There are benefits. There are also possibly some really serious negatives. I was looking into it. My kids are not really on social media yet. They’re tweens, about to turn thirteen. I thought that social media was this virtual place for kids to hang out, sort of the way I used Facebook. I assumed everybody did. Then I started looking into this and reading the new studies. There are a lot of new studies coming out. It’s actually very hard for researches to do the studies, get them published in a timely way because social media changes so much, so quickly.

I was looking at this and I was realizing that the way kids are using social media today is what one researcher calls it, it’s transforming the landscape of peer interactions. We used to be able to go home after a long day at school trying on our different selves, and trying to be somebody in the lunchroom, and someone else in the English classroom. Then we could go home and be our, for me, my dork self. I could just sit at the kitchen table. My parents didn’t judge me. I could be cerebral. I could study in my room. Now these kids — the experts I interviewed point out — they don’t have this.

Rachel Simmons, she’s a leadership expert up at Smith College. She has a great book out. What she calls it is a second shift. The kids come home, particularly adolescent girls come home after school. They are spending up to six hours on social media, managing their accounts, making their image this crystal clean, perfect image of the perfect student, the perfect girlfriend, the perfect friend. It’s exhausting. It’s anxiety-provoking. The research is coming out. It’s suggesting that overuse can be really detrimental.

Zibby: I bet. First of all, who has six hours after school? How are they getting that homework done?

Jennifer: The six hours is measured by multitasking. This is a whole nother level. Kids are doing their homework, and their phone is next to them. They are going in and out of homework, in and out of activities. There are also studies looking at that, at how divided their attention is. That’s where the six hours adds up. It’s fifteen minutes on the bus. It’s between classes.

Zibby: For me, it was 90210 on my tiny, little TV once a week. Otherwise, I had nothing to distract me back then. I like in your article, though, you offer some social media benefits. Most people gloss right over any benefit to this because reports are mostly negative. You cite some benefits as building a deeper connection with friends and having a low-stakes way to communicate with peers.

Do you see any other benefits? Do you think they’re worth the costs?

Jennifer: There are definitely benefits. Pew Research and Common Sense Media have done these great reports. What they find is that kids who are really healthy socially in real life can manage better on social media. These healthy connections that they have in real life, it can translate into social media, keeping in touch with friends, if they need social support in the moment to complain about a parent or a loss or something like that. The real risk is for the kids who are struggling socially in real life and also for kids who overuse it. There are benefits. There are benefits particularly for kids who feel like they don’t have other people they can identify with at school, if they’re gay, if they’re transgender. These online communities can offer really important support. There are definite social benefits. My twelve-year-old son said I better find them when he found out I was writing this article. He said, “Please. All of my friend’s parents will read it. They will take it away from us. Find the benefits.” So I did.

Zibby: The most concerning part of your article to me, at least as a mom, is that the study you cite that found adolescents who are more into digital status seeking were more likely to engage in substance abuse and increased numbers of sexual partners a year later — here’s my question. Could it just be that the kids who are more into social media were already going to be those ones who were more into sex, drugs, and rock and roll later? Maybe the link isn’t causal, it’s just correlated?

Jennifer: Yes. We don’t know yet. What they have found is a strong association. The kids who are doing these status-seeking behaviors in real life like drinking or smoking pot or smoking cigarettes — I don’t even know if kids do that anymore — vaping or whatever they do now, that they are also more likely to be the kids online seeking the status. There is definitely what you’re pointing out, which is the link that if you’re a kid who really cares about status, you’re going to care in real life just as much as you do online.

Zibby: Maybe the social media isn’t that bad. Maybe it’s not causing this.

Jennifer: We don’t know that it’s causing it. Again, this study was a strong association, not necessarily a cause. The researcher I spoke with, I said to her, “Is there something about the idea with social media that kids who might not be popular can sit there and study what the popular kids are doing?” She said yes. She said the popular kids are posting on their Instagram or their Finstagram, which I didn’t get into in the article. There are fake Instagrams which is stuff that they don’t allow their parents or colleges to look at, Finstagram accounts. They’re there smoking pot. They’re there smoking cigarettes. They’re having suggestive photos. It’s a way for kids to study that bad behavior and to want to emulate it to be popular. That’s a little scary. People are looking into that now.

Zibby: This digital status seeking, what do you exactly mean by that?

Jennifer: Digital status seeking is kids who try to get more likes, who work very hard to get good comments, who are looking for these great follow-versus-followers ratios. You want to have more followers than people that you follow. All of these status indicators that we see on Facebook and Instagram, those are the kids who are actively seeking it. Some of the things that they do, according to another study, are deceptive. They buy likes. Another study found that girls will literally tell friends, “Please go on and like what I just posted.” Part of an adolescent girl’s relationship with their friends involves this nurturing their friends online as well, commenting. If you look on an adolescent girl’s photo and you see the comments, many of the comments say the same thing. “You’re gorgeous. You look amazing.” That’s now part of being a good friend is being a good friend on social media, and publicly. It’s a lot of work to keep that up.

Zibby: I’m glad I wasn’t a kid when this —

Jennifer: — Me too. It’s a lot of work.

Zibby: What do you think about this for grown-ups? I try to post and promote the podcast and whatever else. Do you think it has negative effects for us? Are we spared?

Jennifer: It depends on us. Using it for work is amazing and what you have to do today. The way you use it, just like with the kids, the researchers say the way kids use social media, the conversation we should be having with our kids is maybe the conversation we should be having with ourselves too. Are we using it to connect with people? Are we using it to socially compare ourselves? When we log on, are we feeling better? Are we feeling worse about ourselves? Why?

These are conversations that I’m having with my kids now because I know that the question’s going to be, “Can I go on social media?” My son who’s about to turn thirteen, I did get him an Instagram account. We have a lot of rules around it. He’s only posted twice. I’ve explained all the research and the downsides of it. It’s brought up these actually really interesting conversations about social comparison, and the need to feel validated, and how this is really exacerbated in adolescents and why. It’s because kids are developing their self-worth and their identity now. The way they do that is by socially comparing themselves. This is really ripe. We need to have these conversations at home too.

Zibby: It’s so funny. Way back when, when I was in college, I was a psychology major. I did a whole study for my senior project on the application of social comparison theory to eating disorders. I wonder if this applies now to eating disorders as well. How could it not? The people who compared themselves more to others had a higher likelihood of then developing eating disorders and depression and all sorts of other things. Somehow looking to others, now with Instagram and all these accounts, it must be…

Jennifer: Here’s the thing though. You’re not only comparing yourself like you would in real life with somebody else, you’re comparing somebody who used a computer program to thin their body out, to give themselves a digital nose job, to clear away all the acne. Not only are adolescents comparing themselves to their peers as they always have, now they have to compare themselves to their airbrushed peers. We used to be able to say, “Just the models did that.” We could point it out in advertising. We could show our kids. A friend of mine pulled me over when I was talking about this article and said, “Look at what my daughter’s friend is doing. She looks nothing like this in real life.” Her Instagram account is filled with airbrushed, stretched out — the body doesn’t even look normal it’s so stretched out — photos. That’s what our kids are going home and looking at.

Zibby: Not only that, but then seeing their friends at parties or doing things without them too.

Jennifer: It’s hard for adults.

Zibby: I came home one night from a really fun night out with my husband and friends. Then there was a picture on Instagram of four other moms who I know, all at dinner. I was like, “Oh, my gosh. I wasn’t invited.” I couldn’t even have gone. I was all of sudden feeling so left out. This must be what kids are feeling all the time. It’s not rational. There it is anyway.

Jennifer: What’s happening is when kids go on after school and they’re seeing who went to Starbucks together or whatever it is, it’s distracting them from being able to do their homework. I didn’t have room in the article to put this in. One of the experts I spoke to said it’s really important to teach kids when is a healthy time and when is not a healthy time to log in. If you’re taking a study break, logging in and seeing your friends doing fun things that you didn’t do or a girl in a bikini that you know is going to set you off, instead go walk the dog. Take a shower. Do healthier things to reboot versus things that are going to drain you like going on social media when you’re a little bit vulnerable.

Zibby: That’s a really good tip. What other tips can we do to help kids navigate this?

Jennifer: We have to have these conversations. We also have to keep in mind that one of the studies that I looked at found that kids who are active on social media at age ten are more prone to having poorer well-being at age fifteen. We have to remember there are rules when it comes to social media. You have to be thirteen. This is a conversation I had with my kids. I broke it. I let him go on a few months before he turned thirteen. With my daughter, I’m going to have the conversations with her. I’m going to hand her this article. I’m going to say, “It’s not mommy. Here’s what the research is showing.” This is why they’re saying wait until thirteen. Actually, parents are trying to wait until the kids are a lot older. The conversations we should be having with our kids is how are you using social media? Are you using it to connect in a healthy way? Are you using it for social comparison? That’s something you really have to limit, especially on places like social media.

Zibby: In your article you had said that the girls who spend more time on social media at age ten end up having a higher likelihood of developing social and emotional issues by age fifteen. Do you think those kids were predisposed to already having those issues when they got older?

Jennifer: I asked that to the researcher. What she said was, “We don’t know,” because of the way they collected the data. She said, “Girls who are ten years old logging on between one and three hours, those are a unique group of girls.” Imagine your ten-year-old going online an hour to three hours a day on social media. That’s extreme for a ten-year-old. There are other things that ten-year-olds should be doing. What I would say to parents, and what I say to myself when I think about our social media use and our electronic use, is what else could my kids be doing right now?

In the one hour that they’re on social media, or the three, what skill are they not learning? How are they not becoming the readers that I would love them to be? How are they not developing in-real-life relationships with friends, or practicing an instrument, or whatever it is? This extra time on electronics and social media — a good friend of mine said to me when my kids were younger, “It will turn them into other people, different people than you want them to be.” I keep that in mind whenever I want to take the easy way out, and I’m tired, and I want to stick them in front of a show. I remember her words. You do that consistently, they turn into different people.

Zibby: You’re scaring me.

Jennifer: It’s scary. I know.

Zibby: Now I feel so bad for my time when I —

Jennifer: — It’s important for us as parents to periodically revisit our rules around electronics. One expert said to me, Rachel Simmons said, “If your kids are okay with your social media policy, you’re doing something wrong.” That’s another thing that I keep in my head. If they’re not resistant to my rules, then my rules aren’t tight enough. It’s a good litmus test.

Zibby: Interesting. I hate to admit this. I tried letting my kids go on Instagram and getting accounts. After maybe two weeks, I shut it down. This is not good. This was a mistake. Forget it. They responded very differently. That’s the other thing with this whole debate over screen time, which I don’t want to really get into, it really depends on the kid. Some kids are so susceptible to getting sucked into this vortex of screens whereas other kids can look at a screen and then go off and go back to reading. Other kids, it’s really hard for them. You don’t necessarily know what kind of kid you have until they get exposed to it.

Jennifer: That’s right. One of the experts said to me about social media specifically that adults have a hard time regulating themselves with their smart phones. Kids don’t know how to regulate. It’s not like your kid should be doing a better job. It’s your job as a parent at this age, at ten, eleven, twelve, to regulate for them. They can’t do it. Adults sometimes can’t do it. Just remember that.

Zibby: Modeling too, us not being on your devices is another way to help.

Jennifer: Absolutely.

Zibby: Let’s talk a little more about you and your career. I’m so interested to how you went from college to here basically, from your bio. You started after a college as an editorial assistant at Doubleday. Now, you’re an award-winning journalist and write for some of the best publications in the country. How did this happen?

Jennifer: I loved my time at Doubleday. I love books. I’d always had this love of news. I really like something that’s fast paced. I love adrenaline. I love a little bit of stress in my life. I switched over from books to 60 Minutes, started at the bottom as an assistant to the story editor there. It was through her that I learned what a story was. I was lucky enough to be at 60 Minutes when all of the greats were there, not that they aren’t all great today. They still are. When Bradley was there, I worked as one of Morley Safer’s producers; Mike Wallace was there; Don Hewitt who was the founder — I think you might know him — of 60 Minutes and the news magazine format.

I worked my way from the bottom. I used to go in at seven AM. I was the only one. 60 Minutes producers work late into the night but don’t show up at seven AM. I would read thirty to forty local newspapers from around the country and look for stories. Reading for hours every day for years helped me develop into a journalist. I didn’t go to journalism school. Actually, most people at 60 Minutes don’t go to journalism school. I was able to learn at the foot of Morley Safer. He was giant. I fell at his feet. He taught me how to write for TV. As a journalist, he was incredible writer. Oh, my gosh. I would go in there. He would work with one of those old typewriters. He would sit there, smoke a cigarette, look out the window — illegally smoke a cigarette because you weren’t allowed to smoke in the building — and would hammer out the most vivid prose. He was a risk taker when it came to writing. He taught me how to be a risk taker too that way.

Zibby: You had mentioned earlier the importance of knowing your audience when you’re writing. Did you learn that there as well?

Jennifer: I learned that there. Don Hewitt used to walk down the hall. When somebody would pitch a story or write a script, he would have a name of someone, like in Kansas. “Dorothy in Kansas is saying ‘What the heck are they saying on 60 Minutes?’” He said you need to know what your audience knows, who they are. What 60 Minutes does so beautifully is that they know that their audience might not know about the subject before they are introduced to it on Sunday nights, but they never dumb it down. They make it truly accessible, but in a way that assumes you’re smart. That is a really delicate balance that I learned from them. I think it’s the exact way to write. Assume that people don’t know it, but assume they’re smarter.

Zibby: Everything that goes on air there is prewritten?

Jennifer: The process of 60 Minutes is incredible. They allow for weeks and several months of investigation. The questions are written. The correspondent gets involved and rewrites them into their voice. The scripts are written. The correspondent again digs in and makes the script even better. Then they’re screened by a fresh set of eyes, the executive producer and other senior producers. You get feedback there from someone who didn’t do any of the interviews and didn’t know anything. What makes 60 Minutes unique — maybe not, it was the only news magazine show I worked for — is that there’s also someone fact-checking everything that’s in the script, and reading every interview, and making sure that what you’re putting on air is exactly what that person intended. I also learned, as a journalist, how to fact-check and assume nothing. You know what it also does? It makes me assume nothing about what I know. I fact-check myself. Really? Is that assumption true? How did I come to it? It taught me how to be a journalist. It was incredible. Almost ten years I was there.

Zibby: Now, you’re this TV commentator. You go onto all these shows. You’re the resident expert. Did starting at 60 Minutes whet your appetite for that on-air role?

Jennifer: I never thought about it. Honestly, I love writing. That’s my passion. I went on The Today Show for an article I wrote on “Real Simple.” Some of the senior producers at 60 Minutes who knew me called me in and said, “You’re really CBS. Come on here next time.” I’m lucky enough to go on around some of articles. I love going on TV. It exercises a totally different part of the brain than writing does. It is thrilling and exciting. It’s one of the only times I don’t think where my kids are and what they’re doing. You’re in the arena. You could be eaten by the lions. You’re really on your game. It’s exciting and fun.

Zibby: You always seem so calm, cool, and collected, no different than just sitting here chatting with me. You seem like you nail it all the time. How do you do that?

Jennifer: How do I do it? Because I prepare a lot. I prepare and I prepare. I know for myself what I need, my level of comfort. Actually when I go on air, I’m at a level where I feel comfortable talking about it. I prepare a lot in advance. I am an over-prep person.

Zibby: Do you memorize your answers?

Jennifer: No. My father-in-law, who is Chris Wallace on FOX, said to me because he knows my propensity to over-prepare, his advice to me was, “Prepare enough. Don’t over-prepare because then you’re not authentic.” I know exactly how much I have to prep. Then I step away from it. You don’t want to seem prepared. At CBS, you can never be prepared because Gayle King always asks you a question you don’t know she’s going to ask you.

Zibby: How often do you think you’re on air now? Not “do you think,” but how often do you go on?

Jennifer: It’s not as often lately. I’ve been really focused on a lot more of my writing. It goes in fits and starts. A year ago I was on a lot more. What happens is you’re focused on that, so it takes away from the writing. For me, it’s been a hard balance to figure out. I also have three young kids at home. I work from home. I realize how precious time is. For the last several months I’ve really focused on the writing. I’ve given myself almost a deadline a week. That’s been taking up a lot of my time.

Zibby: Wow. One article a week?

Jennifer: I’ve been working that way. They don’t always come out one a week.

Zibby: But you write them. You have a stockpile?

Jennifer: Yeah. It’s up to the editors when they — most of my things are not pegged to something timely. I’m more an evergreen. When they need the space, they come to me.

Zibby: How did you break into writing for these amazing newspapers?

Jennifer: My 60 Minutes training gave me the credentials. I will say that it’s the women in my life who brought me up. I took time off. I took seven years when my kids were young. We were living in London. Then we moved back. I really missed it. I knew I couldn’t go back to 60 Minutes with the way my husband works and his travel. I wanted to be a journalist. I was talking with a friend of mine who’s a senior producer at 60 Minutes. She said, “The next time we meet for dinner,” which is once a month we go out, “I want you to come up with three story ideas.” I did that. A month later she said, “Now I want you to outline one and bring a pitch the next time we meet.” She made me accountable. She’s one of my best friends. She made me accountable to it.

Then when I was ready, when I had this treasure chest of ideas, I reached out to the women in my life who didn’t stop working and were now editors in chiefs of magazines, senior editors at newspapers. I said, “I just want to go for coffee. You tell me if these are dumb ideas.” One of the editors I met with was my editor at “The Wall Street Journal.” I said, “Be honest, please. I have to run these by you.” She liked them. They were crazy ideas. One of my first ideas for her was about how my husband and I give each other year-end reviews. She was like, “Oh, my god. I love it.”

Zibby: Do you really still do that?

Jennifer: We do it. We do it on New Year’s Eve if we’re together. It’s fun and casual and light-hearted. Anyway, it was the women in my life. They lifted me up. They said, “Let’s go. You’re ready to come back.”

Zibby: That’s so nice.

Jennifer: It is nice. It’s a story that’s not told enough, that women are not as competitive as other people want us to believe. I think that’s more of a social construct than it is reality.

Zibby: I sometimes look around. I can’t believe how much people I started out with have achieved when they don’t stop. It’s amazing.

Jennifer: It is amazing. It is thrilling to see. I’m so happy for my daughter to see it. We have a friend in common, Evette. I always make sure there’s a doctor in front of her name because she is an MD. I want my kids to see women in these various roles.

Zibby: I just saw her. She was like, “I can’t believe you’re doing all this writing stuff.” I was like, “Are you kidding? You’re a doctor. I’m doing nothing. You are saving lives and helping adolescents and all this stuff. Come on.” It is great to have great role models, especially in the face of these superficial traps on social media. That’s really nothing. There’s no substance behind that. Giving kids people to actually look up to is way more powerful.

You had mentioned your original story idea. How do you come up with your other story ideas? Are they from life?

Jennifer: They’re from life. They’re from friends. I’m a big listener. A friend of mine was struggling with that she felt like she had a favorite child. She was feeling guilty about it. I started looking into it for her. I was like, “Oh, wow. Something like seventy or eighty percent of parents have a favorite child.” What’s that about? What does that mean? What’s the research on it? What happens to the other children? What happens to that favorite child? These ideas start with a spark. Another idea I had was about small talk. Because I write at home all day, I was missing small talk in my life even though I don’t really love small talk. I was talking a lot to the guy who was serving my coffee. Why am I being so needy? I looked into what are the benefits, what are we missing when we don’t engage in small talk? These are things that I struggle with, my friends struggle with. A lot of them are notes to myself.

Zibby: Do you have other ones coming out soon in your repertoire that haven’t been scheduled yet? Can you give any previews?

Jennifer: When I leave here I’m going back to research for “The Washington Post,” the surprising benefits of weak ties. A lot of research focuses on the importance of our family and close friends in helping us to be psychologically healthy. There’s also a benefit to keeping a diverse friendship portfolio and maintaining weak ties. That’s what I’m looking into now.

Zibby: I love when people put friendships into business terms. Diversifying your portfolio of friends, great.

Jennifer: Diversifying your portfolio.

Zibby: Is there a publication you’ve always wanted to write for but haven’t?

Jennifer: “The Atlantic Monthly.” I haven’t written for them. I love their work. It overlaps a lot with my “Wall Street Journal” work, and I love writing for them. I always pitch to them first. “Atlantic Monthly” is definitely one on my list.

Zibby: Going forward, are you looking to do more writing as you had mentioned, or more TV reporting, or writing a book? What do you have in the future?

Jennifer: I have an agent at CAA. We’re exploring TV stuff and radio stuff. I have a book agent even though I don’t have a book. I’m always looking into these things. I realize how precious time is. I really want to be careful in what I sign up for. I’m taking my time before I dive into anything.

Zibby: How do you go about getting all these agents? What does that look like?

Jennifer: I wrote an article for “The Wall Street Journal” a couple years ago on game theory and parenting using game theory. An agent approached me. She happens to be at CAA as well. CAA came about through a mutual connection. I met with them. They said they’d love to represent me. That’s how it came about. It’s nice when you figure out what it is that you love.

The way I got into the writing, specifically these kinds of articles, is that I really am a self-help junkie. This is the kind of stuff I want to know about. I’ve always loved self-help books and psychology even though I was an English major. If you figure out and can tap into something that you want to be doing anyway and find a way to get paid to do it — I know everybody gives that advice. If you dig down and you figure out what are the things that would actually benefit me today — all the stuff I write about parenting is helping my three kids, or totally damaging them in a social experiment in my home. Whatever. I’m doing my best. If you could find that little spark that gets your energy flowing and you don’t mind stealing that time away from your family to do it — I don’t. I don’t have guilt about that — then that’s something that’s sustainable.

Zibby: Do you have any other tips for aspiring writers?

Jennifer: To read, to read as much as you can. Consider that part of your job as a writer. Part of your job is to read X number of minutes or hours a day. There are definitely writers that I admire and I follow. I try to read everything they write. I look at how they structure an article, how they approach a study. Now after writing for five years, I also am looking at the pieces that are missing from their articles. That’s the biggest struggle for me as a writer. For this article on teenage social media, it was a thousand-word article. I wrote three or four thousand words. For me, the big struggle is what do I have to leave out? As you mature as a writer, that becomes of bigger importance. What am I not putting in here for my audience? I like to help my audience. The feedback is so good that it’s helpful to them. That’s what inspires me to get up at four AM, which I often do to write.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. That’s when you do it?

Jennifer: That’s when I do it.

Zibby: Not when they’re in school?

Jennifer: I do it when they’re in school. I often find that there are a lot of commitments. My time that I know is just my own is four AM, four to about seven fifteen.

Zibby: How often do you do that?

Jennifer: A lot. The last three weeks I’ve been up almost every morning, definitely before five. When I have a pressing deadline, it’s four AM. I am my freshest. I am my least critical about my writing at that hour. I am open to new ideas. The other reason that I find this is that I’ve been watching myself — this is a social experiment — on what drains me. Phones calls and the little things in my life that I hate doing like finding shoes on Zappos for my kids and not knowing their size and all of these things, it drains me a little bit of my productivity. It takes away the space in my brain. At four AM, none of those things matter. It’s just me for three hours on the page. I love it. It’s my gift to myself.

Zibby: That’s a nice image. What time do you go to bed?

Jennifer: Those weeks I go to bed really early.

Zibby: How early?

Jennifer: Nine, with my twelve-year-old. Lights out at eight thirty. I read for a half hour and then I go to bed, nine, nine thirty. I have to when I get up at four.

Zibby: That’s some serious discipline there.

Jennifer: I am also a morning person.

Zibby: Obviously.

Jennifer: A lot of my friends write at night. By then, I am so drained by the day. I’m not as productive. Three hours at that early is like six hours in the day.

Zibby: That’s great to have that self-awareness and then to implement it like that.

Jennifer: I wrote an article on “Glamour” about it.

Zibby: I’m sorry. I should’ve —

Jennifer — No, years ago. Ever since then I’ve been figuring — because you need to know for yourself, what is your productive time and what drains you from it?

Zibby: That’s literally this book I was just telling you about.

Jennifer: I know. I need to listen to that podcast.

Zibby: This Charles Duhigg podcast that I just posted, Smarter Faster Better is all about productivity. Charles was saying, even, that he picks twenty emails to respond to and that’s about it. Otherwise, that would be the whole —

Jennifer: — That’s a very male thing. As a woman, I feel like I have to respond to everybody. How many friends does he have? I’m kidding.

Zibby: I know. I was like, “That’s not an option.” Thinking about your productivity in such an analytical way, now you’re the second person in a week who’s said this. Maybe this is the key to success here.

Jennifer: For me, it is. For me, it’s made me extremely productive. I’m really careful. I carve it out. I’m protective of it. I don’t make excuses for when I need to really disconnect. I do respond to everybody’s email at night when I’m tired. If the emails aren’t coherent it’s because I’m really tired. I was up at four.

Zibby: I have the same image of all of these women all over, not just women, all over the city in their apartments emailing each other, the big moon up in the sky, none of us making any sense.

Thank you so much. This has really been eye-opening for me, and motivating, and exciting. I can’t wait to see where your career takes you next.

Jennifer: Me too. Thanks, Zibby.

Zibby: Thanks, Jenny.

Jennifer: You too. Take care.

Zibby: Bye.

Jennifer: Bye.

Jennifer Wallace, award-winning journalist