Categories
productivity Solopreneurs Systems Thinking

Systems can set you free 🤓

I’m struggling to get my tax return done. It’s been in the diary for ages, but I’ve let (more interesting) things take priority this week.

I want it done so I can take a break in August. I’m normally on it as soon as the new tax year starts — like to do it early, so I know how much I have to pay.

I realise I need to do it before school’s out on July 21st. I’m not as focused with a teenager in the house. The energy is different, and my attention is split between work and domestics.

Also, the heat is making me restless. I want to be outside. Long walks. Runs. Hanging out. Living in Hastings is like being on permanent holiday 🤩 🌊

Time to revisit my systems and processes. Look at what I do every day — personally and professionally, and work out how I can maximise my output with minimal effort.

I want to work on my business and myself in August — reading, travelling, studying, and the bigger picture. Set some goals for September — the new year.

Designing better systems will give me more headspace and freedom to be present in the moment — whether I’m writing an email, talking to a friend or shopping with Julieta. It will also help me see what I can outsource.

It’s a mix of digital and physical:

• Notebook and pen (handwriting activates the brain and boosts creativity)

• Trello boards (to plan, move things around, inspirational backgrounds — a visual reminder of where I want to go next)

• Templates for newsletters, emails, and reports I do regularly

• Calendly — set times for calls with an automated Zoom link

• Batching tasks, e.g., Marketing Monday, Fridays for creative writing and personal projects, checking emails at set times

• Hootsuite for social media scheduling (5 x daily posts on the free version)

Groove app for 50-minute focus sprints — just 4 of us; I love how intimate this feels. One task at a time. Writing an email, making dinner, sorting the garage — it’s all work

• GrowthDay — the first all-in-one personal development app. Underpins it all. Brendon’s energy is infectious! ( here’s my link)

Here’s Mark McGuinness | Creative Coach on how to create systems that serve you.

Listen to an audio version of the article on this episode of The 21st Century Creative podcast, starting at 7’’18.

Learn to Thrive as a Creative Proget the FREE 26-week course. It will help you look at your creative career’s bigger picture. Do something new every week to develop your skills.

Happy holidays! See you in September 😎

As always, get in touch if you have something to share, a link suggestion, or just want to say hi 👋

Originally published at https://nikatalbot.substack.com on July 31, 2022.

Categories
productivity remote working work culture

Your async arsenal 💪

Welcome to Issue 84!

I joined the async movement this week.

Member 6,128 of a growing community who believe in the power of asynchronous communication to transform how we live and work.

Asynchronous – the new business buzzword, which OED defines as ‘not existing or occurring at the same time’. Meetings are the exception, not the rule.

Companies like GitLab, Doist, Zapier, Trello, Gumroad, and Automattic have worked this way for decades, so we can learn a lot from them.

Research shows that async brainstorming results in more novel ideas than real-time approaches.

Join the async movement here.

Scrolling through the member forum, I see we’re struggling with the same stuff: deep work and flexibility, slower productivity, working seasonally, and being free from the meeting monster.

#WorkAsyncNotASAP and “Life becomes fun again.” 💯

Great initiative and ideas from Doist to help you rethink your relationship with work and educate yourself on new ways of working.

Convince your boss and sell it to your teams

It’s challenging to ask your clients to adapt their routines and work differently, especially in big companies. They expect you to adjust to them, which causes friction.

I’m taking baby steps towards a (mostly) async way of working – show not tell. Documenting everything, sending links to Google Docs or Dropbox, asking for the goal/agenda of a meeting before agreeing to it, and sending Loom videos for visual work.

Clients love a weekly round-up email: “I really like this way of working.” They can see what you’re up to, and if you have too much on your plate, work can be reallocated.

Daily bookends – do the thing in the morning when I have the highest energy. Writers’ Hour (4 pm GMT) to wrap up and reflect in good company.

Slowly chisel away at it…let’s break the 9-5 apart.

Send them the async toolkit 🛠

It feels like a more intentional, focused way of working. But I’m mindful of not letting it overspill into my life – micro-actions and community are important and help me feel connected.

It’s convenient to drive to the supermarket, listen to a podcast and self-serve at the checkout, speaking to no one. Or I can walk there, help someone do their shopping and chat with the cashier. I have a choice and I know which one will make me feel better.

– Nika

PS. Here’s one tiny action you can take to help spread the async movement – steal this email signature.


Designing an async-first workday (The Async Review), Almanac’s excellent magazine.

What happened when we stopped having meetings and sending emails (GDS) – great to see Government is reevaluating ways of working.

Onboarding at GitLab is self-driven, self-learning while remaining as async as possible to help people settle in.

Cal Newport on slow productivity as an antidote to burnout and chronic overload. These ideas boil down to: Do fewer things. Work at a natural pace. Obsess over the quality.


Written by Nika Talbot, founder of award-winning Firebird Studio. Content designer and tech storyteller. Based near Brighton, heart in Italy 🇮🇹

Contact me if you have a project to share, a link suggestion, or just want to say hi.

Enjoy reading this? Why not buy me a glass of Prosecco? 🥂

Categories
future of work personal development productivity

Why you get more done when you work less 🤓

Thousands of UK workers started a 4-day week on Monday with no loss of pay, in the world’s biggest trial of the new working style.

The pilot is running for 6 months and is being organised by 4 Day Week Global.

It’s based on the 100:80:100 model – 100% pay for 80% of the time, with a commitment to 100% productivity.

I can’t wait to see the results. It’s exciting to see the variety of companies on board – local chippies, software firms, recruitment agencies, tax specialists, Charity Bank.

Researchers will be measuring the impact on business and productivity, stress and burnout, life satisfaction, gender equality, and the environment.

As we emerge from the pandemic, more and more companies are recognising that the new frontier for competition is quality of life.

Joe O’Connor, 4 Day Week Global

As with output-focused working, this will give companies a competitive edge.

Wacky office perks don’t cut it. Life is for living, and we want our time back. As you get older, you don’t want to waste your time on things or people that don’t make you feel good.


👀Juliet Schor | Ted: The Case For a 4-Day Workweek.

📚The Practical Magic of the 5-hour Workday, by Trevor G. Blake. Read the free pdf and pass it on. Trev has built and sold three startups for $600 million in a decade. All while never working more than 5 hours daily from a casita at home.

He shares his personal work schedule for enhanced creativity and revenue generation, and the history and science behind the rationale for never working more than 5 hours a day (via Do Lectures).

The Medieval workday was no more than 6 hours, nature-driven, and in the hamlet. We now have the tools and tech to get back to that with remote working and less commuting, but we’ve gone too far the other way, working even longer hours.

We have a steady stream of information. Drip, drip, drip. It’s hard to switch off when your phone is an extension of your hand.

If you run a company of one and work remotely, you already have a competitive edge. You’re agile, committed to your cause, and you run your own schedule.

Getting more done in less time is down to discipline, deep work, mono-tasking – and delegating what you can!

📚 Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. How active rest and deep play – walking, hobbies, sports, good conversation – are the keys to happiness and success. That’s when we come up with those crazy, creative ideas.

Alex points out that a four-day week creates an entire year of extra free time every five years 👀

What would you do with that extra year? Imagine the problems we could fix!

Bikini on and soak up the summer 🏖 😎 🙏 We had Ziggy Marley on Hastings Pier tonight – doing a live tribute to his papa!

Written by Nika Talbot, founder of award-winning Firebird Studio. Content designer and UX writer. Based near Brighton, heart in Italy 🇮🇹

Something to share, or just want to say hello? Send me a note: nika@nikatalbot.io.

Enjoy reading this? Why not buy me a glass of Prosecco? 🥂

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.