How Tech Founder Jim Morrison Gets Things Done

The Founder of OneSub, a platform that targets news bias, has used Todoist for 6+ years

productivity profile jim morrison
Illustration by Sonny Ross

Jim Morrison is the Founder of OneSub 💛 , a news platform that uses artificial intelligence to help readers understand the bias in the news they read and give them a balanced diet of alternative perspectives. He also started Deep Blue Sky, which focuses on bringing transparency and accountability to international aid through its grant management SaaS platform. Jim and his staff of 10 are based in Bath, England, where he also lives with his wife and three kids. Jim heads the Bath Digital Festival, an annual festival of around 85 talks, workshops and meetups to encourage diversity and bring together the digital community in the region, known locally as “Silicon Gorge”.

Jim has used Todoist since 2014 for work and personal projects. “It’s like a toothbrush,” he says. “It’s a little thing, it’s incidental, but you just can’t live without it.”

Jim Morrison headshot

This is the latest installment of our Productivity Profile series, where interesting people give us a behind-the-scenes look at what their day-to-day routines and productivity habits actually look like, including the tips, tricks, habits, and workflows they use to get things done. Sign up for our newsletter to get the next profile delivered to your inbox.

An espresso for breakfast and a quick commute

Siri turns the lights on at 6:30 a.m., but I have young kids, so I’m lucky if I sleep past 5 a.m. I don’t tend to eat breakfast, though they all do. I tend to just do an espresso.

I take a little time each morning to catch up on the news. Because we’re frenetically building OneSub, that’s what I use to learn what’s happening in the world. It gives me a broad outline of what’s going on from lots of different sources, keeps track of what I’ve read, and what I’ve missed. Actively using our platform helps me get a sense of how user-friendly we are.

I want to try to build a news platform that allows people to read the news, be informed, and to build a society where people aren’t afraid to have a conversation.

I started an app addressing news bias because I have kids and was concerned about explaining what’s going on in the world to them. I want my kids to grow up in a world where they can have a rational debate. My wife is a psychiatric nurse, and I’ve always taken an interest in psychology and particularly the psychology of branding. The idea that we can be manipulated into thinking one thing or the other has always kind of fascinated me.

I want to try to build a news platform that allows people to read the news, be informed, and to build a society where people aren’t afraid to have a conversation. Given everything that’s going on right now, we’ve in recent weeks built a live dashboard with the latest coronavirus updates.

OneSub

We homeschool our kids, and we normally do arts and crafty kinds of stuff in the morning.

Bath is quite small, and we live out in the country, but it’s only about 3 miles from the centre of the city. I’m on a 125cc motorbike to work, which is only a 10 minute commute. I use the time to relax and listen to a bit of a podcast. (Hello to Jason Isaacs).

podcast Kermode & Mayo
During his commute, Jim likes to listen to podcasts.

We’re super flexible at work. We don’t really have fixed hours. Most of us are in by 9 or 9:30 a.m. I’m usually at my desk by 8:00 a.m.

Like most countries, the UK is in lockdown at the moment. Before the lockdown, Tuesdays and Fridays tended to be work-from-home days already — so we’re lucky that it was easy for us to move the company fully-remote a few weeks before the lockdown became official. In that regard, our working practices haven’t really changed — we just wear pyjamas to work a little more than normal.

A weekly routine of work, with variations each day

I’m in quite a weekly cycle routine. I’ll deal with different projects on different days of the week. We’ve always used Friday as an R&D day. For a long time, our clients expected not to email us on Friday.

Using Todoist is a way of keeping track of your good intentions.

Every morning in Todoist, I’ll go through and move the stuff that’s overdue and re-settle it. I try to make my mornings predictable. I’ve given up on trying to predict my afternoons.

Todoist next 7 days Jim Morrison
Jim’s Todoist view over the next 7 days

When I’m doing something practical, I tend to do that in the mornings because I feel fresher. I will often get up, arrive at the office early, and get it out of the way.

As the day goes on, we tend to do a lot of pair-coding, so we’re quite often working on exactly the same thing at the same time. As an agency, we use all sorts of planning tools like Kanban boards, GitLab, and Codebase for tickets.

I have three particular Pink Floyd albums that I listen to on repeat, which I have done for 30 years, I suppose. Or, I opt for cheesy House music that’s got no real vocals. I find if I put on an old playlist, I can figure out what I was thinking back then when working on old bits of code.

Balancing work and family time

I’ve got work-life balance pretty nailed. My wife might not give you the same answer. I try very hard to leave work quite early and fail a bit now and again. I like to get home in time to make supper and spend some time with my kids.

I do activities with our kids in the evenings like kung fu and making brownies. I recently taught a yoga session at my son’s woodcraft group which was utter carnage. I don’t know how to teach yoga, and they don’t know how to listen. I also make sure to read each of the kids a bit of a story at night. I think that quiet time, spent one-to-one, is really important. They’ve each got a book that they’re working through.

We take holiday breaks maybe one week every two months or so. Holidays might just be a week off and being together as a family. I go to a place called the Wave — it’s like a snow dome but for surfing. Or I get out on a bike with the kids. It’s a luxury that we can do that. The counterpoint to that is when I’m at work, I work quite hard.

I’m kind of a split personality. I don’t have any notifications on my phone at all except for texts and WhatsApp. On the other hand, I do always have my phone with me. For example, if I’ve been snowboarding, I can be on a lift and have a conversation with work. It means I don’t have to stress when I’m away.

Using Todoist to keep it all together

I use Todoist for things that don’t have a fixed date, but I probably need to do within a week.

I mostly use it for work. Though, I had a 40th birthday last year, so I had a project for that. I’ve pruned my to-do list a lot. I probably only have 20 things on there, and I use color-coding.

I have three shared projects in total. Two with team members at work and one with my wife for her part of the shopping.

Todoist April 2020 Jim Morrison

I also use Todoist’s Google Calendar integration. It’s specifically for things like following up on contacts or tasks that I’ve got to do.

If I’m not going to deal right away with a task I don’t want to forget about — that kind of incidental little spark of the idea I don’t want to lose — I can tell Siri to record a task. If I see a tweet or I’m having a conversation with someone on Twitter whose work I want to share, I create little tasks with the Todoist for Google Chrome extension. Then, I’ll get in touch with the author and say, “do you mind if I re-share this?”

The reason I’ve stuck with Todoist is because its feature set is so focused, and it’s quick and easy. I’m quite a keyboard shortcut junkie, and I like to be able to write something like “next thursday and P2.”

I like that it’s integrated into my life enough that it’s one of the few things I have on my home screen, as well as a world clock, and my Google Calendar — I use Momentum as a Google Chrome homepage — so it shows up there.

Momentum Jim Morrison
Jim uses Momentum as his Google Chrome homepage.

Using Todoist is a way of keeping track of your good intentions.