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
digital nomads future of work writing

The future of education is community

Hi,👋

Welcome back! I hope you’ve had a reset and some family time.

I’ve been juggling a UX project with a 30-day writing sprint, posting daily atomic essays on Twitter via #Ship30for30. I’ve done a few Cohort-based Courses and this one stands out because of the community, fast results, and learning in public. I’m on Day 21/30 – here are my thoughts so far.

Positives – shipping daily is powerful. It stops you from overthinking, over-editing and being a perfectionist. The aim is to get stuff out there and analyse your data, so you can see what’s resonating and go all-in on that. Progress over perfection.

Personal stories resonate the most, and work/travel content. I’ve had the most interaction on essays about digital nomadism, Smart Villages, and dealing with negative feedback.

300 words is tight, so it focuses your mind on short, powerful ideas. Constraints help creativity. Typeshare adds a visual element and reader experience. The curriculum is packed and fresh – internet-based courses can be updated quickly. And it’s more affordable than longer training – incredible value for what you get.

Visibility, accountability and community – you’re doing it under your own name and growing your Twitter followers, so there’s a personal benefit.

It’s a transformational experience and a rite of passage. At the kick-off, Nicolas Cole said, “See you on the other side.”

Challenges – there’s a lot of course material to digest, weekly live calls, and an accountability buddy I’ve not managed to speak to yet. It’s a large cohort: 200+ people, so a fair bit of reading and feedback. I can’t do it all, so have focused on the essays and engagement. I’ve read Nicolas’ (excellent) book, and I’ll catch up on the coursework and replays.

What’s happened organically is smaller breakout groups with people in the future of work and nomad space. We cheer each other on and will Zoom after the course.

Some people have done several cohorts, which is a testament to the power of CBC’s.

The future of education is community.

Maybe we’ll see a wedding onboard soon🚢 👰🏼

Have a great week.

Nicci

🖐5 things

🗺 How digital nations like Plumia are giving digital nomads wings. I had a chat with Leanna Lee about Plumia, an online movement advocating for and protecting remote workers. A good overview of the latest research on the growth of location-independent work and the remote work problems we need to fix to be free to roam. Check out the Plumia Speaker Series and join the community for a borderless world.

🇪🇸Digital nomads are here to save Spain’s ghost towns. 30 dying villages across Spain have joined the National Network of Welcoming Villages for Remote Work scheme. It aims to attract remote workers with a new 12-month work visa. It’s not sun, sea and sand, but tranquillity, nature – and a chance to experience the ‘real Spain.’ Brilliant. They also need to focus on the cultural heritage, history and food, glorious food!

👩‍💻Future of Work documentary (PBS) – a six-part docuseries chronicling six mid-career adults as they navigate the shifting work landscape. It covers the rise of the precariat, gig economy, remote work, working to live, digital nomads, UBI, new opportunities, and more. All the videos are on their YouTube channel. And there’s a virtual weekly event series exploring the FOW.

🎧Fadeke Adegbuyi on the On Deck podcast chatting about her recent article on Study Web and her experience joining Every, a writer collective (I’ve applied to join). The article is also mentioned in this Think With Google report on what YouTube culture can tell us about the changing future of video – the accelerated trend for ‘slow living’ and how we’re creating community through company.

📚Global Natives: The New Frontiers of Work, Travel, and Innovation by Lauren Razavi. I’ve pre-ordered a copy via Holloway (many excellent books, including a free one on using Twitter). It explores the origins of digital nomads and location-independent work, and how the internet has changed our relationship with place. Knowing Lauren, it will dig deeper than the hype and tired nomad beach photos.

🌎The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is your guide to running a small but mighty business. Start living and working on your own terms.

Your weekly(ish) dose of inspiration, ideas and solutions every Sunday.

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To offset the carbon emissions of my online work, I plant 12 trees every month via Ecologi. We’ve got 10 years to sort this out – no time to waste🌍 ✈️

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🌍

Categories
newsletters remote working The internet writing

1729: The first newsletter that pays you

Weekly curated tools for thought and ideas to share ✍️

I signed up to 1729.com this week, the first newsletter that pays you. Daily bitcoin bounties for completing paid tasks and tutorials with $1000+ in crypto prizes every day. It’s also a platform for distributing a new free book app called The Network State. 

Earn crypto, learn new skills and join a community of tech progressives. ‘That means people who are into cryptocurrencies, startup cities, mathematics, transhumanism, space travel, reversing ageing (bring it on!), and initially-crazy-seeming-but-technologically-feasible ideas,’ says the founder, Balaji – see his past work here. You can subscribe for updates and follow @oneseventwonine on Twitter. 

Truth, health and wealth 

Here’s how it differs from a regular newsletter or website. Firstly, it has tasks – e.g. the latest is to learn how to make a Discord bot with Replit for $100-$1000 in BTC. The first challenge posted in March was to set up a newsletter for tech progressives at your own domain to incentivise the decentralisation of media. They paid $100 BTC each for the 10 best sites. See the winners here.

Secondly, it has tutorials – bitesize learning with incentives to complete. Thirdly (love this!) a focus on digital health and the body. Startup culture can lead to burnout as we sacrifice health for business. This is false economy ‘because missing daily workouts is a physical debt that’s even harder to pay than technical debt, and fitness is as good for cognition as it is for health.’ So you can submit a proof-of-workout to earn a little crypto. Stay fit today and contribute to age reversal tomorrow. 

Fourth, it’s international and Indian to show how you build a global operation from an Indian base and expand to the rest of the world. Much as Silicon Valley started as ‘American’ and is now in the Cloud. They’ve named the project 1729 after Ramanujan, India’s greatest mathematician known for his contribution to number theory which underpins crypto. So exploring how we can use technology to help talent rise in developing countries around the world as Ramanujan did. 

Bootstrapping voices

It’s a global talent search to invest in diverse, unreported voices around the world. Enabling anyone with an internet connection to improve their knowledge and bank account through paid microtasks. Learning, earning and burning.

I like the ethos – earning recordable crypto credentials for completing and creating tasks, open-source education, and bootstrapping talent around the world. Balaji says he uses Twitter to hire people as you get a sense of their values and potential from their online content.

Imagine if we applied this process to job boards – rather than stating your skills, education or interest, you could prove it by gaining badges or rewards for mini tasks completed on a site. So you could log in and start working immediately. There’s also a focus on quality content – the tasks require some thought, time and writing skill – raising the value of online content to be on par with design.

Finally, building a ☁️ 👋 Cloud Community – a network of tech progressives interested in exploring things like startup cities, online communities, organising economies around remote work, enforcing laws with smart contracts, and simulating architecture in VR. A global, mobile social network with ‘digital bylaws, crowdfunding capability, a track record of collective bargaining on behalf of its members, and a numerically quantifiable level of social capital’.

It’s a step up from the organic online communities like subreddits and Facebook groups forming for the last 20 years. More on that here.  

It’s the most exciting media project I’ve come across lately. I love the ambition and focus on giving you content that strengthens rather than depletes you (clickbait, social media where there’s no reward for your posts, likes and shares). They’ve allocated enough money to fund a full year of daily tasks, and the goal is to build a scalable business and find individuals and companies that want to post sponsored projects for the community. 

Here’s Tim Ferris’ interview with Balaji about the project. It’s by far the longest podcast I’ve listened to (almost four hours!) but worth it. A deep dive into the future of media, founding vs inheriting (‘own a media company or be owned by one), podcasting, citizen journalism vs corporate journalism, and how the media scripts human beings. ‘If code scripts machines, media scripts human beings, even in ways we don’t fully appreciate.’ His point is that once we’re equal on distribution (a decentralised media), we can speak to each other as peers. 

I agree that journalism’s greatest blind spot is it draws from a limited pool of people with a similar background and class who can’t see the perspectives of people who aren’t like them, and it drives out people who don’t fit in. Is the answer radical decentralisation of media? Citizen journalism instead of corporate journalism – the notion that ‘everybody writes’ – drawing on local expertise, e.g. nurses writing about nursing, and writing as a duty rather than for-profit. But we’ll still need editors and proofreaders.

I want to build up those citizen journalists, those content creators. Second, I want to invest in a cumulative form of education, open-source education, where these folks are doing tutorials. So that people get paid for creating educational tasks others can do. Bootstrapping talent all over the world. Anywhere there’s a phone, there’s a job. 

It’s the digital native solution to education

Other ideas – if you want financial independence, you need to radically reduce your expenses. ‘Check Nomadlist or Teleport, do a spreadsheet and optimise your personal runway.’ (not easy for families to do this, but not impossible) – check out Reddit groups like r/leanfire and r/FIREUK (financial independence, retire early). Find a remote job that pays well and move to a cheaper location to stop the burn and save money over time, i.e. so you can work for a year and then take time out to pursue other things. 

How we’re going back to a hunter/gatherer way of life, but with technology. Relocation and digital nomadism will be huge – taking over from traditional tourism for long-term economic migration.

The best quality of life will actually be available to the digital nomad who has a minimum number of possessions, can pick up and move stakes at any point because mobility is leveraged against a state. 

New politics will form, and ways of self-governance that are network-based rather than state-based. How the virtual world dominates our lives, and the physical world comes second – something we’ve had a glimpse of over the last year with Covid, though not for everyone. Lots of emphasis on our virtual lives here, but we can’t underestimate the physical world. I understand the appeal of Miami as a startup city. We’re social beings and want to be around and work with like-minded peers.

If you’re constantly on the move as a nomad, you’ll struggle to maintain relationships and build community. And what about people getting left behind with technology?

Super interesting chat with lots of positive takeaways about building and shaping the future with a global vision, which he’s also exploring in his book. By changing the media narrative around big tech as evil and seeing technology as a force for good, we can work together across borders to solve problems. And all this work means A LOT of content creation – writing, podcasts, video so opportunities for creators everywhere to learn, earn and burn 💪

I’m excited to see where this goes – here’s to our decentralised and interconnected future.

It’s time we started funding community founders as well as company founders.

Interested? Sign up here.

– Nicci 


Goings-On(line) 

Projects + pieces from around the web.

🏙 The Network State – the Start of Startup Cities. Miami demonstrates that the era of startup cities is now underway. It was the first city to buy Bitcoin and put a BTC whitepaper on Miami.gov. What mayor Suarez has done is being studied by cities around the world. 

👨🏽‍💻 Remote work and the tech-enabled exit – where to live? And why? Doug Antin on the rise of the sovereign individual class and how freedom of movement will become a luxury good.

📬 Newsletter OS by Janel – a cross between an ebook, a project manager, a dashboard and a wiki. 130 resources to help you write, grow and learn with your writing.

🏝Work Travel Summit, 9-12 June. How to thrive in remote work and the new normal. Free 4-day virtual event for networking and learning.

✍️Open notes from this week’s Freelance Business for Writers event.

🎙Plumia’s Speaker Series, an ongoing series of public conversations with academics, policy-makers, and founders who are reimagining democracy and policy in the internet world.


Playlist of the week →


The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is a newsletter exploring remote work, internet culture, technology, creativity, and writing. If you enjoy the content, please share it with friends or on social media.

Work Better. Live Smarter. Be Happier 🙂

Question or comment? Email nicci@niccitalbot.io
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Categories
digital health technology The internet writing

Eat well: how to go on a content diet 🍕

Weekly curated tools + resources for writers – thinkers, makers and builders ✍️

I set myself a goal at the beginning of the first lockdown to do 100 days of fitness and get out every day for a walk or run. I paid for the Peloton app, bought new running shoes and set my goals on Twitter. I’ve been on a gluten-free diet for a couple of years to help reduce inflammation in my body. I’ve prioritised my physical health and made exercise a daily habit, and I feel much better for it. 

But I can’t say the same about my content diet. I’m not addicted to working, but I have an information addiction – a thirst for knowledge and curiosity about what I don’t know. I like learning new skills, going down internet rabbit holes, discovering online communities and parallel universes. I spend most of the day on my laptop and justify it as necessary as I run an online business and do social media and content for clients. It’s my job to keep up-to-date with what’s going on in the world.

I’m happy to put the hours in as I love working for myself and building digital products that scale – working towards my end goal of financial freedom. I also love the internet and enjoy working with cool people 🙂 

‘I’m just pottering in the garden’ has become ‘I’m just pottering online’. I actually said that to my sister last night 😳

The downside of knowledge work and all this scrolling is the feeling that I’m never done. The treadmill never stops. It leaves me with low-level anxiety – have I done enough research on this topic to publish it? Could I have tackled that situation in a different way? It can leave you feeling drained even though you might not have much work to show for it (internet browser history aside!) There’s also homeworkers’ bum🔻 and mouse arm syndrome – I asked Siri to scroll a website for me this morning, but she didn’t understand. And with smartphones, work is in your pocket.

The information superhighway – we’ve never been so connected, but the irony is there’s not that much information out there on how to manage all this information.

Grow a bigger brain and have better thinking 

Polina Palinova wrote a brilliant piece last year on how to improve your content diet and says, ‘what you eat is who you are, what you read is who you become’. We spend a lot of time talking about food and celebrity chefs but far less about our information diet. She quotes NYT columnist David Brooks and his ‘theory of the maximum taste’ – the idea that your mind is defined by its upper limit – the best content it consumes and that exposure to genius has the power to expand your consciousness. You’ll grow a better brain and sharpen your thinking.

You’re not the average of the FIVE people you surround with. It’s way bigger than that. You’re the average of all the people who surround you. So take a look around and make sure you’re in the right surroundings – David Burkus.

So, the first step…

1/ A content audit – where and how am I consuming content?

Some digital gardening required.

  • Gmail inbox – I’ve spent hours pruning it, but it’s now back up to almost 3k emails
  • Social media feeds – Twitter, Clubhouse, LinkedIn, and YouTube are my main channels. Also: Reddit, Indie Hackers, Product Hunt 
  • Newsletters – direct to my inbox and via Substack Reader
  • News websites
  • Podcasts/music/film – Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Netflix, iPlayer 
  • Slack/Discord communities – many! Bookmarked on my laptop 
  • iPhone – notifications are off, but I’m usually connected 

2/ Setting goals

It’s not about doing a digital detox but having a better balance and a higher quality information diet. I want to read more long-form content, books, newsletters, podcasts and spend less time scrolling news feeds and Twitter – not a relaxing user experience. 

3/ Paying attention to my habits and how I’m feeling

I walked to work in a cafe this week, had a massage at lunchtime, and bought a magazine, which gave me a lift. What I miss about newspapers is the feeling that you’re done – there’s nothing more to read until the next issue. I’ve printed out all my UX coursework to relax and read offline (all course material needs a print button). I’m also craving podcasts which I listen to when I’m walking. This tells me my information diet needs some work.

4/ Using Mailbrew

build your own digital newspaper

I’ve been experimenting with Mailbrew this week. Tagline: Like RSS but better. I’ve been looking for something like this for a while – Feedly is great for RSS; Substack Reader and Stoop for newsletter curation, but the UX is a bit fiddly. Mailbrew is a pleasure to use – a simple interface and easily customisable. It’s like building your own digital newspaper. I can put all my feeds in one place – calendar, RSS, newsletters, tweets from people I follow or Twitter lists – and read it as a daily digest in my inbox at 9 am. I also like how the emails are numbered, Digest #2.

I’m not the only one who’s excited about this product. David Heinemeier Hansson, the founder of Basecamp says he’s leaving Twitter to use Mailbrew. But then he’s using Twitter as a content feed more than for social interaction.

Of course, it’s an artificial construct – I can jump online at any time if I want to be social which is what ‘social’ media is for after all, but let’s see if it recreates the sense of finishing and gives me back more time and control.

Thinking about UX, I’m trying to design my day and curate my environment for better ideas and creative thinking. To be more intentional with my time and habits, and use the internet as a tool more than entertainment – hard when you’re using the same devices for both. Roll on the tiny inbox – from 🍕 to 🍉  and a sharper 🧠

A friend ditched her iPhone for a Doro flip phone – she loves the simplicity and accessibility of the design, and the satisfying snap – DONE. She said she feels more relaxed during the day. In his book Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport talks about an underground movement of executives that use dumbphones like the Doro. For the most part, in finance, i.e. hedge fund managers are moving millions of dollars in high trades every day. Hence, it helps to shield yourself from distractions of market information that could bias decisions and cost money. 

Not ready to give up my iPhone, but I can see the benefits of switching between the two or using separate devices for work.

I’m also going to buy a wall planner and stick work and personal goals on it so they’re visible – something Steph Smith talked about last week which made me think. We’re great at creating to-do lists for work, but how often do we track our personal goals?

How are you going to improve your content diet this year? 

Goings-On(line)  

Projects + pieces from around the web.

🗞 Your personal daily newsletter(Mailbrew – my affiliate code) – free to use with premium features.

🍉 How to go on an information diet(Ness Labs). This is the first time in history that humans have been exposed to such a constant flow of information and our brains can’t cope with it. Simple ways to deal with overconsumption based on the Michael Pollan Diet: ‘Eat food, not too much. Mostly plants’. For information: ‘Seek. Not too much. Mostly facts.’ 

📬 How to improve your content diet in 2021(The Profile). One of the biggest discoveries I’ve made in the last few years is simple but overlooked: What you eat is who you are, and what you read is who you become.

📚 The Information Diet(Clay Johnson) on the role information has played throughout history. How to stay smart, productive, and sane. He managed the online part of President Barack Obama’s first campaign for the White House.

📹 The challenge that fixed how I consume online content(My Student Voices) – Diogo Lança’s extreme experiment to tackle his YouTube binging.


Playlist of the week 


The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is a newsletter celebrating writing, good design, creative independents, remote working, growth, and technology. If you enjoy the content, please share it with friends or on social media.

Work Better. Live Smarter. Be Happier.

Question or comment? Email nicci@niccitalbot.io.
Was this helpful? I run on caffeine and Amaretti biscuits.
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Categories
Creator economy future of work remote working writing

Geriatric Millennials + your digital body language 🤔

Ever heard of geriatric millennials? This Medium article explaining the term went viral last week and hit the headlines. It says kids born between 1980-85 are ‘best positioned to lead teams that will thrive in the hybrid workplace’. They spent their formative years on both sides of the analogue and digital divide, and have a crucial role in helping bridge the gap between ‘digital adaptors’ and ‘digital natives’. 

There was internet outrage – we like to fight about labels. Some people had fun with it, adding #geratricmillennial to their handle and asking about discounts. Others were offended by the term and suggested a name change. Can we have a sexier name? How about Elder Millennials or Xennials? I find that a bit sad. If we don’t like the term geriatric, we need to rethink how we view older people.  

Of course, labels are silly – a marketing ploy to put us in boxes and sell us stuff, but the argument she’s making is right. ‘The speed of technological adoption makes it wrong to see an entire generation (spanning almost a 20-year difference) as being the same.’ Geriatric Millennials straddle the digital-adapter-native divide and are often able to live in two worlds – they are comfortable with both communication styles. 

Age plays a partial role. We’re individuals – there are ‘Millennials’ who hate Zoom and love their phones and ‘Gen Xers’ like me who don’t answer calls and prefer texting and Slack. It shows the benefits of having a diverse team – we can all learn from each other. 

Anyway, great PR by Erica Dhawan, who wrote the article to promote her new book, Digital Body Language. She used a provocative term to spark conversation, identifies as a geriatric millennial and explains why they’re great. 

Erica spent over 10 years investigating, researching and finding new ways to encourage collaboration and communication at work. She grew up as an immigrant in America – caught between two cultures, and says we’re all digital immigrants now. She wanted to write ‘a nuts and bolts rulebook for clear communication in the digital age. Our shiny new tools are causing issues, and most of us speak badly in this world.’ 

I’ve been listening to the audiobook – lots of funny stories, anecdotes and practical advice, and it’s made me think about my digital behaviour. I think I’m doing my colleagues a favour with my short and snappy emails, but maybe they’re perceived as cold and distant. I still have an urge to multitask while on Zoom. Does it look like I’ve checked out when I look down at my phone during meetings or when I turn the camera off? ‘You’re a black square in the corner…’ 

I had a boss who told me off via email for not responding to my colleagues’ emails. I thought about it for a bit and wrote back in my defence i.e. of course, I’ll reply, there are lots of emails flying back and forth, I can’t work out of my inbox, I wouldn’t get any work done etc. I signed off with NNR – no need to reply (one of Erica’s recommendations) which went down like a lead balloon. I got an email back saying ‘I’m not going to respond to that.’ Cultural differences 😉

Great tips on how to model digital body language for your teams, inclusive language, digital empathy, how to enhance customer experience through words, gender differences in language, and emoji as the universal language. Her top tips? We need to slow down, assume the best intentions from people, think about how we make them feel, and put ourselves in their shoes. 

And a great lesson in resilience. Publishers told her the book was too niche, but its time has come – it was #3 on the WSJ Bestseller list 👏

As Seth Godin says, it’s a salve for exhausted Zoomers. 


We write the talk, not talk the talk in 2021 

Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture says the way you write your emails can make or break your career. The best investment you can make is to develop one overlooked skill: written communication.

What’s the greatest advice I give? Develop excellent communication skills. Both in-person and in writing, such as when using email.

An employee, even a very junior person, if they can articulately summarize a meeting, if they can put together a presentation and even emails that are really salient and to the point, they are so valued.

Even more relevant given face to face communication is on the decline, remote work on the rise, and we’re spending more time alone, staring at our screens.

Mildly terrifying to think about how traditional body language is being shaped by our digital body language. What digital behaviours will we carry over in this new hybrid world? Will we be speaking in bullet points? Avoiding eye contact and sitting two metres apart in meetings? It’s a new frontier! 

A bit sad to read that unscheduled calls are perceived as intrusive and ‘as far as booking sales meetings were concerned, it seemed that the strategy with the least human interaction [setting up meetings via Calendly] delivered the most success.’ Where does this leave us? Loneliness is an epidemic and we have an empathy crisis. A YouGov poll found 30% of millennials said they always or often feel lonely, compared to 20% of Generation X and just 15% of baby boomers. It doesn’t ask why – but previous studies show social media and internet addiction play a part. 

A phone call is worth a thousand emails – and it’s becoming an obsolete art! We need a new ad campaign. As Bob Hoskins said, it’s good to talk. 


Photo by Alain Pham on Unsplash

👋 The Zoom wave

I can’t resist the urge to wave at the end of Zoom calls – glad to see I’m not alone. ‘I have never felt the need to wave in person,’ Kennedy, 36, the chief communications and marketing officer for the city of Olathe, Kansas, said. ‘What am I doing?’ Apparently, it’s a good thing. I’m not socially inept. 


Tools + resources →

📹 Erica’s Podcast interview with Rohit Bhargava: How to communicate with digital body language

🙇🏻‍♀️ Digital Body Language course

Hilarious thread from Danielle Rene on your favourite phrases to use in a professional clap back – those passive-aggressive emails. 

  • Just a gentle reminder
  • As we discussed previously (See attached email)…
  • lmao nothing is more passive-aggressive than “PLEASE ADVISE…”
  • If I’m feeling Big Petty I’ll hit them with… I’m not sure where your confusion comes from, but allow me to clarify..
  • Thank You in advance for your prompt response. I look forward to hearing from you.
  • Subject line: ‘Friendly reminder’

Vyv Evans on why emoji is the universal language. And it’s making us better communicators 😍

James Clear on writing as leadership at scale

A new WHO study finds working over 55 hours per week is considered a ‘serious health hazard’ 


Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Playlist of the week →

9 essential podcasts for remote workers, managers + teams


The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is a weekly newsletter celebrating writing, good design, creativity, flexible working, growth, travel, and online communities. If you enjoy the content, please share it with friends.

Work Better. Live Smarter. Be Happier.

Question or comment? Email nicci@niccitalbot.io.
Was this helpful? I’m powered by caffeine and Amaretti biscuits.
You can listen to this post here.