Categories
childcare Creator economy remote working

The Shift: It’s (not) business as usual🤹🏻‍♀️

School’s out – but not for summer. Over 375,000 kids in the UK were sent home this week. 96% aren’t confirmed cases but only isolating as a precaution. We have a two-week shutdown here, so it’s back to homeschooling until 12 July.

My reality is at odds with what I’m seeing online about ‘business as usual’ and getting back to the office – it makes a mockery of it all. This is big stuff – exams cancelled, sports day and end of year events off – all a rite of passage for kids. There’s been a massive disruption to their education this year, and it’s time to call an end to the self-isolation madness.

Kids are struggling too – their lives have been turned upside down. There’s been a 40% increase in anti-depressants prescribed to under 17-year-olds. One of Julieta’s classmates jumped onto the train tracks on the way home and said he didn’t want to live anymore. They had to stop the train and call the police, and the school is organising therapy for the kids there. A friend’s 21-year-old son killed himself last month, and I’ve heard similar stories from others. 

The summer holidays are coming up, and many working parents rely on grandparents to help out with childcare. If the current vaccines are less able to protect against the Delta variant, that puts older people at risk. Grandparents aren’t a stress-free, low-cost solution for expensive childcare. 

Grazia has launched a campaign with the charity Pregnant Then Screwed, calling for an independent review of childcare in the UK. UK childcare is the 2nd most expensive in the world, over 35% of the average family income. 

The lack of accessible, affordable, well-funded childcare is perhaps the single biggest barrier to women’s career progress – and the Covid-19 pandemic, when women have had to shoulder the bulk of the extra care, has accelerated the problem into a mounting crisis. 

We have a massive brain drain – 50% of the working population. We’re not reinventing the wheel here – Scandinavian countries have good models we can work from.  

Childcare isn’t just a women’s issue.  

You can sign their petition, calling for an independent review of childcare funding and affordability, here. And tweet your MP using the link in this post.

Let’s keep the pressure on.


The five-hour workday 

I’m fortunate to work remotely and don’t need childcare anymore (a butler, yes), but I had years of it and support my sisters who do. I’m doing a double shift again – cooking, cleaning, making lunch. There’s a lot of context switching during the day, making it harder to focus and do deep work. I have a full-time project for the next two weeks, so I need to get my head down and minimise distractions. I have a plan!

Notifications Off! The Distraction-free Benefits of Five-Hour Work Days. Digital Enabler is the first company in Germany to implement a five-hour workday and say it’s been a resounding success. Taking this approach has led to a new company mission and revenue – they now do workplace strategy. ‘I still believe motivated employees will do the best job. Instead of counting work hours, we now count good work.’ This could be a good solution for working parents over the summer.

Let me know how you’re managing the juggle and if you’re working from anywhere interesting. My friend Rebecca is converting her shed into a ceramic studio for her side hustle. 

Big shoutout to all the winners, shortlisted, highly commended and nominated at the UK Freelance Writing Awards. Nicola Slawson judged two categories and said the breadth of talent was phenomenal. Many said they’d never been shortlisted before – just goes to show there’s something wrong with the industry, not the talent – we need opportunities and to celebrate good work more often. Check out the winners and their fab projects here 👏 🎉

Nicci 


Tools for thought 

👨🏽‍💻Anywhere Jobs: Reshaping the Geography of Work. A new report finds roughly one in five jobs in the UK, or 6 million jobs, can now be classified as ‘Anywhere Jobs’, with characteristics that mean they can be done remotely as efficiently or more efficiently than in normal office working. A big change that requires the government to develop a strategy. On average, companies took just 11 days to implement digital technology for remote work and collaboration (43x faster than predicted). Post-pandemic, larger firms are more likely to make labour a variable cost using additional freelancers and contractors. 

🤹🏻‍♂️Mental health for creators. There are 50 million content creators across social media platforms. The creator economy is changing how people earn and creating financial independence, but the rough side of the experience is burnout. It’s a unique job – you have to be authentic, open and posting regularly, and for most, it’s solo work. LinkedIn spoke to two creators to find out how they make it work. I told Julieta I’m going to try TikTok, and she gave me a withering look. ‘Just no. I’ll delete your account. It’s for teenagers, not middle-aged women.’ Cheeky bint. You know me. I like a challenge 🤗 

🏠The Work-from-Anywhere Index. A new study highlights the most attractive destinations for digital nomads in search of a new home, according to legislation and livability factors such as the weather, cost of living, and equality. Digital nomad and freelancer visas. I’m surprised to see London at number five – it’s great for work and socialising but too expensive to rent a property. Nomadlist has similar criteria and networking on the road. 

✍️Notes on Quentin Tarantino’s writing routine. Joe Rogan asked QT about his writing habits. Pre-2009 (his best work?), he described himself as ‘an amateur mad little writer’ who would work late at night in restaurants: ‘order some shit, drink a lot of coffee, and be there for four hours with all my shit laid out.’ He decided he wanted a more professional routine, so he now writes during the day – writes then floats – and says it’s become a really nice, enjoyable way to work. I agree – I write then run.

QT is the ultimate digital minimalist – he writes scripts by hand, hates smartphones and bans them on set, and he doesn’t use email – you have to call him on the landline and leave a message on the answerphone. 

🎧Susan David: The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage. On the tyranny of positivity and wellness, and how emotional suppression doesn’t work. How we deal with emotions shapes everything – our career, relationships, happiness, health. Brilliant talk and podcast. I did an exercise on letting go of stuff that’s not working and had a little cry. I broke up with my therapist this week, not easy to do but very empowering. 

We’ll be chatting about Susan’s book, Emotional Agility, at the Collective Shelf Club this month – check it out here.


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
Enjoy the read? Share it on Twitter. Tip me: I run on caffeine and Amaretti biscuits 🇮🇹
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. There’s no time to waste 🌍

Categories
digital health Neuroscience technology Wellness

The Shift: How to build a life 😍

How to build a life 

In my 20s, I left a journalism job in Peterborough to freelance in London. I wanted to work on women’s magazines and thought I’d be happy once I got my dream job in the big city. The reality was quite different. Precarious work on low pay was stressful. When I landed shifts on glossy titles, I didn’t enjoy working in an all-female environment that felt competitive. I wasn’t very happy but I stuck at it – living the dream, right? I’d be happy once I was sorted with a proper job and a home. Then I could relax and enjoy London for all it has to offer.

I now prioritise my happiness and realise it’s a skill we can work on. I can’t control my thoughts or the outcome of my pitches and projects, but I can control how I spend my time. Rituals and habits are the building blocks of my day. I do the Writers’ Hour with London Writer’s Salon and a walk/run. I thought having a routine and doing the same things every day would stifle my creativity but I think you can boost creativity through constraints – as long as they are the right ones that make you happy (for me, that’s working remotely and being around for Julieta, and having a studio space I love).

The challenge is to stop thinking I can be happy by being busy. Trying to do too much leads to time poverty, which means I don’t get joy from anything. So, being mindful about how I’m working and creating little moments of joy to boost my energy and bringing that to others. Yesterday, I told a friend I love her to bits and I’m happy she’s in my life. It made me feel great (and her too). I need to do this more often, as well as writing down the things I’m grateful for.

What’s the secret to happiness? After looking at thousands of studies Arthur C Brooks, author of How to Build A Life concludes enduring happiness comes from human relationships, productive work, and the transcendental elements of life.

Make a list of the attachments in your life you need to discard. Then make a plan to do just that. The fewer wants there are searching inside your brain and dividing your attention, the more peace and satisfaction will be left for what you already have.

I’m getting rid of stuff that doesn’t bring me joy.

Enjoy this issue 🙂


Tools for thought 

😍Wellcome Collection’s On Happiness, a season of free events, activities and two exhibitions: Joy and Tranquility – bringing together voices from across cultural, scientific and spiritual fields to reflect on happiness. All very timely – how do we rebuild happiness for our current times?

🎞Short of the Week: Steve Cutt’s Happiness. The story of a rodent’s quest for happiness and fulfilment through the tropes and traps of modern society. The dehumanising effects of capitalism and consumer culture. Surely his best film to date 🙂 Soooo much juicy detail in the background.

🧠Ness Labs – Build a lab for your mind with neuroscience-based content and conversations. How to practice unbounded learning, self-education, a library of content, a weekly book club – expand your antilibrary. Co-working sessions and meetups with a brilliant community.

👀 How to help your kids be responsible digital citizens, from a tech exec (and mom). When you give a child their first smartphone, don’t send them into the digital world unprepared. Practical tips (and a template) from Jennifer Zhu Scott on how to be a digitally responsive citizen and make smart choices – whatever your age.

📕Sarah Hawley’s biggest project to date is Growmotely, an all-in-one global platform for remote hiring. Brilliant podcast: Conscious Culture – The Evolving Future of Work. ‘We’re just warming up so I imagine it’s going to get juicier and juicier!’ I’m also enjoying her new book: Conscious Leadership – A Journey From Ego to Heart.

Have a great weekend 🌈

Nicci 


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 and play. Weekly curated tools for thought and ideas to share ✍️

Question or comment? nicci@niccitalbot.io
Enjoy the read? Share it on TwitterI run on caffeine and Amaretti biscuits.
Want to be featured? Book a Classified ad. I’d rather promote your products and services first.

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 🌍

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.
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