Categories
Newsletter productivity remote working writing

✍️How to create a writing culture

How does remote work change the way companies get things done?

David Perell (Write of Passage) said, “Remote work leads to writing-centric companies instead of speaking-centric ones.” Amazon and Stripe have a heavy writing culture. Amazon is famous for its six-page narratives, and Jeff Bezos is a brilliant writer. 

We don’t do PowerPoint (or any other slide-oriented) presentations at Amazon. Instead, we write narratively structured six-page memos. When you have to write your ideas out in complete sentences and complete paragraphs, it forces a deeper clarity of thinking.

Here’s how to write like an Amazonian 🚀

The GitLab team handbook is their central repository for how they run the company. Over 2000 pages of text, and as part of their value of being transparent, it’s open-source. Darren Murph, GitLab’s Head of Remote, has talked about the importance of having a Chief Documentarian and writing everything down with remote teams. 

Bill Gates was on it in ‘99. New Rules: collaborative culture & digital information flow.

I read all the e-mail that employees send me, and I pass items on to people for action. I find unsolicited mail an incredibly good way to stay aware of the attitudes and issues affecting the many people who work at Microsoft. 

Better writing  Better thinking  Better communication  Clear leadership  Boosts productivity

Writing democratises ideas and lets teams have their say. It breaks down workplace politics—you’re not relying on verbal accounts, 1:1s or presenteeism to get stuff done. Transparency and good documentation build trust. Josh Bernoff“Clear leadership, expressed in writing, creates alignment and boosts productivity.” 

How Stripe built a writing culture ✍️

David Perell asked Brie Wolfson, who worked at Stripe for five years and set up Stripe Press to talk to his students about how companies can create a writing culture. 

Out of their conversations, she made this stellar guide 🚀

I’ve come to believe that Stripe’s culture of writing is one of the organization’s greatest superpowers. As startup whisperer patio11 puts it, Stripe is a celebration of the written word which happens to be incorporated in the state of Delaware.

Stripe has always treated documentation as a first-class product. People from every corner of the company author blog posts. The company publishes a magazine about building and operating software (Increment) and books about technological and economic progress (Stripe Press). 

But what we don’t see is the massive library of content produced in-house for employees. She says that’s where the real magic happens…

This interview digs into the company culture. Go deep and move fast.

One thing that distinguishes Stripe is that it’s an incredibly deep-thinking culture. It’s a written culture really focused on getting to the right answer. 

Another thing is a sense of urgency. The company is especially dedicated to moving very, very fast.  

Bring the Donuts

Ann Handley is also brilliant on this stuff. How to champion a content-oriented culture—the key to a customer-centric, intuitive, empathic point of view.

We don’t appreciate the work that goes into minute-taking—it’s bloody hard work!


🛠🖐5 Things 

★ Stop Asking QuestionsHow to lead high impact interviews and learn anything from anyone (Holloway). Lessons from a veteran podcast host with 2000+ episodes on the secrets of deeper conversation. It teaches you how to interview and how to learn. Excerpt here. I can’t get enough of Holloway’s brilliant books!

⟶ Stop Asking Questions

★ How to take smart notes (Forte Labs). Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says the secret of her career success is down to diligent and reliable notetaking. A simple technique to boost your writing, learning and thinking. Have a listen to Tiago’s interview and Q&A with the author, Sönke Ahren here.

⟶ How to take smart notes.

★ Field Notes: Miami (Devon Zuegel). What’s it like to live in Miami, the new tech hub? Writer and Product Director Devon Zuegel on what makes Miami special. The colours! The flowers! Immigrant spirit. These field notes are a bit different from previous cities she’s explored because Miami is her home. I’m listening to Order Without Design, her new podcast about cities.

⟶ Field Notes: Miami

★ Exotic and sustainable, night trains are coming back to Europe. The ‘Euro Night Sprinter’ map is utopian, but Europe’s rail future could look a lot like it. It’s a proposal by the German Greens, who want a Europe-wide network of sleeper trains. By 2030, it would connect more than 200 cities and places across Europe. Slow, comfortable travel. All aboard! 🙏

⟶ Euro Night Sprinter Network

★ A Twitter thread from Dickie Bush with advanced tips for every internet tool. Starting with Twitter – 10 advanced features, how to master Google search, Google docs, YouTube rabbit holes, Mac tips and more. One to bookmark and return to when well-caffeinated – there’s a lot to digest here.

⟶ Advanced tips for every internet tool.

🤔 Major Lifehack: A New Study Has Found That A Key To Getting Stuff Done Is Not Just Sort Of Wasting The Hours Between 3 And 7 PM Every Day.

Categories
future of work mental health productivity remote working

Productive morning routines 🌅

Welcome to the Sunday Shift: a weekly-ish newsletter rethinking how we live, work and play.
★ This week: Productive morning routines; The great American road trip, CEO style from an Airstream; Europe’s largest remote work conference; Sync vs Async communication; wrkfrce’s Playbook Project; The Great Resignation; 5G: A short course.

As the saying goes, if you “win the morning, you win the day”.

Tim Ferris has talked to many successful people about their morning rituals and shared the five things he does to set himself up for a day of positive momentum and minimum distraction – including making his bed and journaling.

I love the reference in this episode to “the bookends of the day” – pay attention to the small stuff like making your bed, and the big stuff will sort itself out.

Last August, Chris Reeves set up the group #WTMWTD after hearing the phrase on a podcast about getting out of your comfort zone to help with the stress and mental health decline amidst COVID-19. They meet first thing in the morning for a walk or swim, coffee and a chat, and it’s been transformational for many. A movement with global groups springing up and a Facebook group with 3K followers.

It’s less about productivity and the to-do list and more about putting yourself first, so you’ve achieved something no matter how the rest of the day goes. He says it works because:

It’s free, I’m not selling anything, and it’s a welcoming environment for anyone who wants to step outside their comfort zone. I don’t like the sea. I don’t like cold water. But the reason I do this is that it sets me outside my comfort zone.

All good as long as you’ve had enough sleep!

And a big shoutout to Chase Warrington for this chat with the founder and CEO of wrkfrce, Jesse Chambers, about morning routines, mental health, and the future of work. Jesse and his wife left San Francisco to hit the road in a vintage Airstream while founding a company and managing a global remote team. Wrkfrce is an excellent one-stop shop for remote work, and great to see it has a dedicated Wellness section.

Chase has also written this piece on having a more productive morning routine by “paying yourself first”. Some personal finance advice on putting your “non-negotiables” before work obligations.

How you work is just as important as the work you’re doing.

Follow the plan, not the mood 😁

– Nicci


🛠🖐5 Things

★ Repeople Conference 2021 – Europe’s largest remote work conference onsite + virtual. Debating the top five topics around the future of work, managing distributed teams, digital marketing, live VR work experience. Nomad City has rebranded as ‘Repeople’ (repopulate) to reflect the growing number of remote workers. Contributing to the remote work ecosystem in the Canaries.

– Repeople Conference 2021

★ Synchronous vs Asynchronous Communication: How to find the right balance for your team. Top organisations like Doist, Gitlab and Buffer have become more productive by cutting back on meetings and learning how to embrace async comms.The pros and cons of both forms, when to use them, and how to make the most of them.

– Synchronous vs Asynchronous Communication.

★ wrkfrce’s Playbook Project – the global rise of reactive remote work in 2020 spawned a proliferation of playbooks by many leading remote-first companies, which open-sourced the knowledge they’ve gained to help other businesses. Trouble is, they’re loooooong. Here’s wrkfrce’s condensed CliffsNotes versions with the most useful, actionable insights to help make working remotely rock for you.

– wrkfrce’s Playbook Project

★ Do we have to work? RSA replay. What does work mean in the 21st century? It allows us to pay the bills – but it’s become about more than that – finding purpose, identity, and meaningful work for many people. Digging into The Great Resignation, production vs consumption, and what needs to change in the new era of work: UBI, zero or low-cost economy, and the growth of self-employment and portfolio working.

★ 5G: A short course from Axios. 5G is cast as a technology that will revolutionise cities, transportation, education and more, but it faces hurdles. A five-part video intro into how it might apply to your life and work and the debates surrounding it. “What we’re facing is the possibility of a global surveillance machine.”

– Get smart by Axios: 5G


💌 Enjoy this newsletter?

Forward to a friend and invite them to subscribe.

Buy me a coffee to support what I do.

Leave me a voice note: email nicci@niccitalbot.io.

Help me build an Ecologi forest! To offset the carbon emissions of my online work, I plant 12 trees every month via Ecologi 🌿 🌎

Categories
Portfolio careers productivity Small business writing

How to be a thought leader

Thought leadership is a bit of a marketing buzzword – vague and cringey, and unlike lead generation, hard to measure.

There’s no recipe for success. 

What does it mean on a day-to-day level for your business – and how do you do it well?  

The Portfolio Collective have invited me to speak at an event on ‘Raising your flag and becoming a thought leader’ and share my experiences on how I’ve done it with the future of work community and wider audience.

Thought leadership is about how people in your industry (and your customers) perceive you. 

  • James Clear (the habits guy) 
  • David Perell (the writing guy)
  • Pieter Levels (the nomad guy)
  • Amy Porterfield (the digital marketing gal)
  • Rosie Sherry (the community gal)
  • Bret Contrevis (the glute guy)
  • Ben Legg (the portfolio career guy) 

A niche focus makes you memorable.

One of my clients, a property agent, wanted to be the No #1 international agent in Berlin. So we positioned him as the ‘Berlin champion’, and put his face on the side of their black cabs so he was visible across the city. He wasn’t afraid to criticise government policy and say why it was harming the housing market so had a reputation as honest and trustworthy. Many of their leads were long-term clients.

How to be a thought leader

Think about your overall strategy and take a high-level overview before you decide on the content mix. What problem are you solving with your product/service? How are you going to get people from A to B? 

Some food for thought on the three types of thought leadership:

  1. Industry (a point of view on news, trends + the future)
  2. Organisational (company culture, talent development) 
  3. Product (how-to, best practices, strategy)

Do all three if you can, and if relevant: develop your point of view and then create content. If you’re overstretched (companies have teams working on this stuff), focus on one area and do it well. It can feel overwhelming for solopreneurs, so start small and be a thought leader for your clients and customers first, to build trust. 

Look at engagement over metrics – time on pages of your website and how many articles people read is more important than views and impressions. 

Thought leadership takes time, energy, consistency and authenticity, but it’s hugely rewarding and can transform your business. It’s not about self-promotion. As Alexandra Galviz (Authentic Alex), #LinkedInLocal co-founder, says: 

It’s not just about sharing your ideas; it’s also about inspiring others into action. 

Thought – give yourself time to think, observe, and horizon scan. Don’t fill every nook and cranny of your day. 

Leadership – have a point of view and don’t say the same as everyone else. 

I disagree with David Soloman, Goldman Sachs CEO, on remote work being an ‘aberration’, but I respect his opinion, and he’s been quoted everywhere. 

Some good advice from Tammy Ammon, Director of Thought Leadership at Acxiom, after a year on the job. 

She spent the first few weeks defining the role and mapping existing pieces of content. Content creation is a huge part of it – a passion for storytelling and strategy. Move through the organisation at all levels to have a broad view and perspective to share with your audience. 

Listen in on meetings, network on LinkedIn, and have monthly chats with your team about issues, no agenda. Manage your time – know what topics need your input and what you can delegate. You can’t do it all. 

Good books: Dorie Clark’s Entrepreneurial You – insights from building a high six-figure solo consulting business, and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: the story of success

What’s working for you? Come and share your experiences at the Fireside Chat on 12 November.

Nicci 


🖐5 things

✍️How to create a Wiki in 9 simple steps – a guide and template. Every company needs a Wiki! It helps keep communication open with remote teams. I’m building one for myself – mission, vision, values, culture, tools and processes, passwords, resources for personal development. Great for onboarding, speeds up the day-to-day and focuses your mind.

💸Mirror.xyz – a new tool for writers working on crypto and blockchain. I’ve seen a few posts about this, but not many reviews, so I got on Reddit and Medium – good articles by Tim Denning and Casey Botticello on how it differs from traditional publishing platforms, and how you can make money on it. Exciting! I’ve been trying to sign up but having issues with the website.

💌Newsletters could be the next (and only) hope to save the media. As the journalism industry collapses, writers are turning to newsletters to make money and launch publications. Premium subs are still a tiny part of the market, and writers make money in other ways. I can’t see people paying $10/mo for several newsletters – these little things add up. I subscribe to Every – a bundle of newsletters on work and productivity – like a magazine.

✈️Africa is calling! Cabo Verde has launched a nomad visa to attract 4000 remote workers over the next three years for its DN programme. Ten sunny islands to explore – they’ve had virtually no tourism since 2020. See the best of Cabo Verde on Insta here. The national drink is Grogue, a rum at 60%, which will blow your socks off.

🎧Ways to make working remotely less lonely. It’s not talked about enough, and it’s among the biggest challenges faced by remote workers. Switching off is my biggest challenge, but this is a close second. My clients are global, so there are no team events. My networking is online so I’m going to start a local remote worker group. The team at Flexiple share some creative ways to deal with it – personally, at a company level, and in your community.


Categories
newsletters productivity writing

The Shift: Build your writing habit🧠

‘Bye honey, have a great day. Love you.’ 

Then I sit down and write for two hours. Half an hour of free writing to get me going, then on to Google Docs. I’ve made it a ritual – Moka pot, scented candle, flight mode, and trained my brain to associate the time and place with writing. It’s a daily habit that requires no thinking, and it’s helped me publish 12 books and a newsletter every week for the last year.

I try to approach it as a time for me to learn and reflect rather than stressing about it. And focus on what I can control: my daily habits and routines. 

Fascinating article on Barack Obama’s habits and how the daily routines saved him from going mad when he was president. It’s all about removing day to day problems. ‘You’ll see I wear only grey or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down my decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.’ The act of making decisions degrades your ability to make further decisions. ‘You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.’ 

Reading that has made me feel more relaxed about eating granola for breakfast every day and my ‘work wardrobe’ (is it lazy to wear loungewear 24/7? I rotate cardigans for Zooms). No. I’m embracing minimalism, and it’s strategic – I’m habit stacking! Training me to get OUT at lunchtime and there’s less friction. All I need to do is pull my trainers on, and off I go. I’m shopping online at Tesco, buying clothes from Whistles and hair products from Kerastase (fuck it, they work). Making things routine frees up mental energy for the important stuff. 

In 1887 William James wrote a short book on the psychology and philosophy of habit (Internet Archive). He argued that the ‘great thing’ in education is to ‘make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy. The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work.’ 

He shares his three maxims to successfully form new habits – the first one: launching a solid initiative and making a public pledge. Simple, powerful ideas that live on in bestselling business books like Richard Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and James Clear’s Atomic Habits. And the #Ship30for30 Atomic Essays (build a writing habit in 30 days) have taken Twitter by storm.

Research shows habits can help your productivity. Dr Robert Boice studied productive vs non-productive faculty writers and found productive ones had shared habits, which ‘included working patiently and regularly; writing with stable and calm emotions; feeling less uncertainty and pain, a greater sense of fun and discovery, and welcoming criticism. Successful writers were more likely to write regularly for short periods than “bingeing” with long, infrequent sessions.

He emphasises the importance of lack of self-consciousness and that you should write without feeling ready. ‘Keep a nonjudgmental attitude about your writing, and approach writing not as a painful necessity but as a time to relax, reflect, and be calm.’ And form or join a peer writing group. 

So I’ve signed up for the next #Ship30for30 cohort in August. Let’s see if it helps with the things I’m struggling with: over-research and over-editing. I’ll be setting sail on 9 August if you want to join me (my code here). Massimo Curatella has written some brilliant essays on what he’s learned – One Year Writing: 30 lessons in 30 days.

I’m challenging myself to write one Quora answer daily for a year. Taking whatever I’ve learned that day at work as inspiration. It’s not about being an ‘expert’ in a niche but sharing stories and life lessons that are relatable, universal and entertaining – as so many Quora answers are. I get a lot from it, so it’s good to give back.

What’s your writing process? Any helpful habits, tools or resources? 

No newsletter next week as I’m full time on the app project, but I’ll be on Twitter. If you’ve published something, send me the link, and I’ll share it.

I’m going to write something on community polyamory as I’m struggling with that. I’m in so many incredible communities and not enough time in the day so I need to choose three to focus my energies on. I’d love to know how you manage and make the most of your online networks.


More rituals… I have my lucky shirt on for tonight to go with Gareth’s lucky spotted tie. Doesn’t he look sharp in those summer knits (Percival – young English company, made in Tottenham). Great management style – checking in on every player before a match, and seeking advice outside of the field.

‘It’s God, family and calcio’ – here’s to all the Italian mothers who have sacrificed so much to allow their sons to pursue their careers🥂 ⚽️


5 things🖐

✍️Anne-Laure has published 300 articles on Ness Labs. Enjoyed this one on how to build a better writing habit. Great advice on seeing it as a conversation starter rather than something that needs to be polished and perfect. Approaching writing as a startup: write, publish, iterate, feedback. Content, courses, coaching, community to help you put your mind to work – it’s well worth the small fee to join (increasing soon).

🧘🏻‍♀️Buster Benson, the founder of 750words.com, on the benefits of meditation and why he thinks free writing is better. The value of shutting down your neocortex and its relationship to creativity and flow, and how to do it. 750words is an online journaling tool and community. If you’re frustrated with meditation and haven’t tried free writing in this way, give it a go. Get to know yourself better.

💻Finally, an upgrade to Google Workspace. Pageless view, emojis, and dynamic documents. You can create polls, assign tasks via @mentions, and present docs directly to a meeting. I used it this week with a client and it saved us time. The big pop-up box on my screen requesting a call made me jump. I’m using Google Keep for notes, Scholar for research, Writing Habit + SEO Assistant. The all-in-one workspace.

📚Timeless Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers. Maria Popova (Brain Pickings) periodically updates this reading list of famous writing advice, featuring words of wisdom from masters of the craft such as Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Henry Miller, Stephen King, F Scott Fitzgerald, George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway, Joan Didion, and more. Enjoy!

📝Paul Graham on How To Work Hard. I love how people drop everything to read his essays. ‘There are three ingredients in great work: Natural ability, practice, and effort.’ Learn not to lie to yourself, procrastinate, get distracted, or give up when things go wrong. ‘I can’t be sure I’m getting anywhere when I’m working hard, but I can be sure I’m getting nowhere when I’m not, and it feels awful.’ Printing it out for Julieta to read. Love the basic HTML. At its heart, web design should be all about words.


The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is a newsletter about humans, technology and wellness. Rethinking how we live, work + play. Weeklyish curated tools for thought and ideas to share✍️

Question or comment? nicci@niccitalbot.io
Tip me ☕️ – this is a one-woman labour of love, all donations gratefully received
Discover something new in my bookshop

To offset the carbon emissions of this newsletter and my online work, I plant 12 trees every month via Ecologi. I encourage you to do the same in your country – here’s a list of climate action groups. We’ve got 10 years to sort this out – no time to waste🌍