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
future of work remote working work culture

The Shift: Why you need a work wife 🤷‍♀️

A birthday card arrived yesterday from my second work wife – it’s 20 years since our first shift together at Wine Rack in Dulwich. She taught me the ropes, and we bonded over ‘cups of tea’ (you can’t recommend a wine to a customer unless you’ve tried it, a few times.) Eight-hour shifts, so we had plenty of time for deep conversations about everything. I thought she was super glam: tall and blonde in her sharp grey suits (she worked 9-5 in a Japanese bank), and she’d bring in baked fish for supper. 

She was my north star and confidante and made me feel at home in London. I enjoyed those shifts more than my ‘proper jobs’ because we had fun and I had a tribe and community. Whenever I drink wine, I think about our ‘cups of tea’, and when we chat, we pick up from where we let off, no dramas. I’m happy she’s still in my life. 

Are work wives or husbands a good idea? Academic research finds risks and benefits. Katie Heaney has written a history of the work spouse and says we need to lay the term to rest. ‘That we’ve adopted this language for co-workers reflects an overidentification with our workplaces, the result of a culture that recast workaholism as ambition and asked us to lean in and work smarter and stay hungry.’ 

But I’ve found them invaluable. My work wives have kept me sane, made me happier and mentally healthier. After the basics are covered, food and shelter, we need to belong. And they’re not confined to the workplace either. I have a coffee shop wife – the owner of a vegan cafe I’ve been going to since it opened in 2007. I’ve watched her build her business, mother her kids, survive a health crisis, split up with men, and keep going, always a smile on her face. She’s a huge inspiration.

I’m curious to know how you find meaningful friendships when working remotely and doing project work? And in a culture that’s focused on busyness and burnout, leaving even less time for socialising. How do you do it and avoid being a work widow? Elizabeth Uviebinené has some great ideas in her new book The Reset‘we need to ‘invest time in growing our local, work and digital communities.’ 

My current work wife is virtual – we met while freelancing for a client. She’s a graphic designer, photographer and digital marketer, so we’ve teamed up to offer a package for clients looking for digital comms. We’ve hired each other for little jobs and passed work on. She’s a brilliant friend and advisor and challenges me to get out of my comfort zone, i.e. charge more! It’s a friendship I treasure and mostly digital now as we’re no longer in the office. She’s a mum of three and living in a different town, so I go over there to co-work.

Working remotely with friends has its challenges – you have to be super clear on communication, deadlines, feedback, and money when you’re both bosses and mates. It’s new territory to explore, a different way of working, but no less exciting. Good team energy leads to great products and services.

I’m also starting from scratch in a new field of work, building connections and starting small with virtual coffees and Slack chats to try and find common ground. Sereena Abbassi, former Head of Diversity and Inclusion at M&C Saatchi, has some great ideas👇 on networking and mentoring – giving and adding value, so it’s a two-way street. 

I admire Sian Meades-Williams and Anna Codrea-Rado’s working relationship – they’re good mates who have set up the Freelance Writing Awards to celebrate and champion UK talent. They seem to have a lot of fun working together and have each other’s back—lots of banter and silliness on Twitter. The awards ceremony is on 30 June – you can see the shortlist and book your free ticket here.

Have a fabulous weekend. It’s my birthday so I’ll be having drinks later with another work wife – my old boss. Ten years on, and we’re still mates. I’ve even forgiven her for introducing me to my ex 😉 

Nicci


Tools for thought 

👨🏽‍💻 Freelance and microwork platforms not fair to workers (Irish Tech News) Oxford researchers have been looking into labour practices like ‘cloud work’ and found these platforms don’t provide minimum fairness standards for their workforce. A good benchmark if you’re using platforms to find work. The report is a call for better standards as poor practices aren’t visible online, and many lower-income countries won’t push back. You can join the Fair Work Pledge here

📵 Reddit/NoSurf: ‘A community of people focused on becoming more productive and wasting less time mindlessly surfing the internet.’ I love the no-surf activity list: a comprehensive list of awesome hobbies and activities to explore instead of mindlessly🏄🏻‍♀️ like cooking, writing, reading and dancing. What did we all do before smartphones? I’m delighted to find this little corner of the internet dedicated to digital wellness – please share! 

🎧 Sereena Abbassi on how building inclusion starts with empathy (Hive Learning) and using the arts to create a sense of togetherness through feeling. Tips on how you can build inclusion by interacting with people you wouldn’t normally. Know everybody’s name. Do someone else’s job for a day. On networking and how using co-working spaces helped her to avoid becoming ‘institutionalised’ at M&C Saatchi (same applies if you WFH home full time!)

🏢 The problem isn’t remote working; it’s clinging to office-based practices (The Guardian). Alexia Cambon on how maintaining this way of working in a remote environment is causing damage to employees. ‘We need to stop designing work around location and start designing work around human behaviour. Employees will work better, stay at their organisation longer and keep healthier if they are placed at the centre of work design – trust me; we have the data that proves it.’

🦅 The rise of ‘third workplaces (Axios). People aren’t working from the office, but they’re not working from home either. We’re seeing the rise of ‘third workplaces’ — teleworking spots in cafes, hotels, or co-working spaces where you can rent space by the hour. I’ve signed up with Flown, the Airbnb for teleworkers. Book yourself into a remote-work-ready property in the UK, Spain or Portugal. Plus virtual co-working and a library of deep work resources.

Just don’t curate your day too much 🤔 


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. 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 🇮🇹
My bookshop → recommended reads
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 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 🌍