As the head of a prominent podcasting company with a small staff and three high-profile shows, Gimlet Media CEO Alex Blumberg is absurdly busy, and it’s essential for him to find ways to be productive. But not too productive. “The process of trying to launch something is fraught with inefficiency,” he says. “We want to be able to kill stories that don’t work. We want to be able to produce a pilot that won’t air because it’s not as good as we thought it was going to be. We’re trying to become cautious friends with inefficiency.” Still, with hot podcasts Reply All, Mystery Show, and StartUp in various stages of production and a host of other shows in development, Blumberg works as adeptly as he can without compromising the creative process.
“We should probably hire an administrative assistant. An assistant seems like a luxury, but it’s actually a huge productivity enhancement. We’ve realized that now.”
“I just try to talk it out. I’ll feel anxious, and for some reason my instinct is to wrestle with it internally. I have to remember to talk to somebody. Every once in a while, I’ll talk to my kids about it. It doesn’t really work: ‘We’re trying to make a decision at work and Daddy’s very confused and it involves money.’ They’re like, ‘What’s money?’ ”
“I learned a lot working at This American Life. My tendency was, ‘Okay, let me think about it.’ [This American Life host Ira Glass] would kick things off his list in the moment. If it could happen right then, he would do it. It wasn’t like he ever sat me down and said, ‘Listen, young Alex, this is my secret to productivity.’ But it seeped into me.”
[Laughs]“People are so mad about email. I’m old enough that I still compare it to regular mail. I’m like, ‘This is a miracle!’ My main problem is I get too much of it.”
“I’m just excited to be building these shows. I don’t need motivation. We have exciting shows coming down the pike, and I think they’re going to be really good and creatively interesting and new. That is very exciting.”