Whether it’s touring all states in Nigeria or taking a road trip across 14 West African countries, Fu’ad Lawal has done it all. But even better, he has found a way to turn those experiences into valuable content, inspiring and engaging thousands of young Africans on the Internet.
Starting out as a content creator at Pulse.ng and now editor-in-chief at Zikoko, Fu’ad Lawal’s career has been nothing short of remarkable. He shares with us how he does it all, on today’s edition of How I Work.
Current role: Head of Content, Big Cabal Media
Current computer: A terrible MacBook Pro 2017
Describe how you work in one word: Intensely
Tell us briefly how you started out and how you got where you are today
I think it’s mostly been about seeing opportunities and taking them. I was lucky enough to find a company at the beginning that was willing to pay me to write. That was a big deal for me. Since then, it’s mostly been about me grabbing the next opportunity that looked secure.
My current job is the only one that probably put a glitch in the “grab the next secure opportunity” matrix. I’ve stayed put for quite a while.
What’s it about your current job that made you decide to settle?
I’m about to sound like a philosopher, but it’s one of those things where you have fundamental questions about your industry, and your current gig happens to be invested in finding answers to them. So the stars align and rain is falling and the sun is shining and an elephant starts giving birth in the bush.
Walk us through a typical workday
When I get to the office, if I’m lucky, I can quickly get something done – could be a document, a script, or some reviews. I’m the office spanner, so that means I spend most of my time being useful to other people; that means I have a lot of meetings. A lot of sitting with people to help them develop stories. A lot of watching a video over and over again and fighting the fatigue, because the quality is important.
One month last year, my most used app was Google Analytics. So, a lot of that.
What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you do without?
Todoist, Google Keep, and my computer. With Keep, I just pop it open and write, while I’m more productive on my computer than on anything else. So these days, when I need to breeze through a task, I start a stopwatch.
Besides these, what other apps and tools do you regularly use to get work done?
Google X, where X is something Google has made for the workplace. My final productivity hack will be Google issuing passports. So think of anything for productivity that Google has made, I probably use it.
What’s your favourite shortcut or hack?
I do it myself. It reduces the time spent on feedback loops. But because you really can’t get so much done, you quickly realise that taking shortcuts is unproductive.
What task do you dislike but still do?
I realise I really like writing. But you don’t get to write a lot when you’re busy managing people. So yes, I don’t like managing people a lot, but it’s all I do.
I don’t hate it, I’m not just going to be shouting hmmmmmm management, hook it in my veins.
How do you keep track of what you have to do?
Oh, I use Todoist. It’s this really amazing technology with a checking system, a clock, and a calendar. Incredible!
Google Keep is where I take quick notes. Still on keeping track, the occasional death threats from my colleagues get me going.
How do you recharge or take a break?
I leave Lagos. That means I don’t recharge a lot. That’s a problem I intend to fix this year.
Besides work, what do you spend time doing? What do you enjoy?
Omo, na food. It’s my only drug. I hate that I don’t have the genes to match my enthusiasm for food.
I have a horrible habit I’ve been trying to fix — I’m either working or feeling guilty for not working. And how am I distracting myself from my main work? By taking on volunteer work.
What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to? What do you recommend?
Man, I’m reading essays, watching YouTube videos, and listening to podcasts. But it’s mostly boring things. Not boring for me though.
Do you mind mentioning a few? I believe there are a couple of people who might also find them interesting.
Oh, I read a lot of obituaries of everyday people. I’m particularly obsessed with ordinary everyday life; it’s why I enjoyed Mokalik. On YouTube, I watch a lot of video essays. But podcasts? I listen to a lot of those. History podcasts. Design podcasts. Media podcasts. Almost everything at NPR.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“We go dey alright.”
We’re all broken and won’t be alright, but okay.
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
I’m trying to fix generational poverty. I don’t have poor ancestors that I’m aware of but I realise that the ultimate productivity hack is to have money.
Who would you like to see answer these questions?
Eromo Egbejule and Aliko Dangote.
I write about media, technology and internet culture. Reach me on Twitter @okikesam