Productivity & Work

Life in blocks 

Everybody gets the same amount of hours in a day. It’s your job to use that time most efficiently. Instead of planning your day as a checklist, look at it as a series of 100 10-minute blocks that amount to about 1,000 minutes.

Between all the categories such as exercise, family, personal projects, work, and chores, what are the things that deserve to go into those boxes?

Most people will squander their time and procrastinate rather than filling the blocks with what matters. But your days and blocks are numbered. Prioritizing your time works, whether it helps to visualize it in 10-minute blocks or lists.

Read: 100 Blocks a Day

Creativity Interviews Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Realistic career advice from writer/editor Bianca Bass

Bianca Bass is a London-based writer, editor and content strategist. Her popular newsletter includes interviews with entrepreneurs and interesting links related to creativity. She also blogs regularly about her own career musings. In this interview, she talks about creativity, risk-taking, her writing style, and more.

How would you explain what you do?

The short answer is that I write! I write a blog and newsletter about careers, creativity and being human, I lead TripAdvisor’s copywriting team and I consult freelance clients on their content strategies.

I’m incredibly curious about the human condition, especially around the topic of work. So I decided to explore it further through my blog and the response has been overwhelming. I share my stories while leaving enough space for other people to see themselves in my writing, too.

[clickToTweet tweet=”‘There’s so much overly-filtered and contrived career content out there. I wanted to bring freshness and brutal honesty to the subject.’ – BiancaBass” quote=”There’s so much overly-filtered and contrived career content out there. I wanted to bring freshness and brutal honesty to the subject.”]

Because work is often difficult and boring and isolating, career advice isn’t one-size-fits-all and, no matter who we are, we all need reminders that we’re doing ok.

What are you currently working on?

Honestly? Growing my audience. It’s so easy for me to just write, write, write. I have so many ideas. So many topics I want to explore. But any blog or website should have an 80:20 rule. 20% content creation, and 80% promotion. So, above everything, I’m focusing on being my own publicist right now.

How would someone recognize your work?

(Hopefully!) by the no-bullshit tone of voice. Readers have commented how simple my work is and it’s intentional. I want my writing to be accessible to anyone – whether English is your first language or your third. Plus, my friends and family have commented on how much my blog actually sounds like me, which I’ll take as a compliment.

My litmus test when publishing something is: is this exactly how I would articulate this in person, over breakfast, on the phone? In fact, that’s my number one piece of advice to anyone who writes: write how you speak. You have a voice. Use it.

How do you choose your core work and side projects?

My core work is circumstantial. I do my day job for the same reason we all do: money. However, I’m grateful to work for a forward-thinking, global company. I’ve learnt so much. I became a manager of a team when I was just 23, and it was the biggest and most positive learning curve of my life to date. I was intimidated to manage a group of people who were all older than me. I was totally out of my comfort zone.

And that’s how I’ve chosen my core work and side projects ever since. If it makes me feel uncomfortable, I know I’m doing it right.

“If it feels scary to hit publish, that’s when I know I must. If it’s a project I feel is out of my comfort zone, I always say YES.” – @BiancaBass

What is the piece of work you are most proud?

I’m continually proud of my newsletter and the audience I’ve grown in just a few months. I love the format: blog posts, design-led visuals, recommended links and a candid interview with someone I admire. It’s something I would love to receive myself. Again, I think that’s an important question to ask yourself when creating: is this something I would love myself?

Where do you get the ideas for your work?

Often from the most unexpected places! It can be an unassuming conversation with a co-worker, or catching up with a friend and hearing their latest dilemma. I listen to situations, identify the core feeling or fear and then write about it. But mostly it’s from my own experiences. In many ways, my day job is my muse.

However, on uneventful weeks or at times when I’m feeling deflated, I take myself to a book store, select a variety of things at random and browse the content pages. There’s always a topic or even a word that triggers a thought, and that eventually becomes a blog post.

How would you define creativity?

I think everyone’s definition of creativity is deeply personal. To me, it’s freedom of expression. It’s producing something without money at the forefront of my mind. It’s the thing that keeps me sane. It keeps me balanced. It brings me a little closer to myself each day. It’s not doing it because I feel I should, but because I have to.

Who inspires you or who do you look up to?

So many people! I’m constantly looking for new people to follow and discover. Seth Godin, Elizabeth Gilbert, Nora Ephron, Alexandra Franzen, Emma Gannon, Laura Jane Williams, James Altucher, Jon Westenberg, Jamie Varon. The list goes on.

Where can people find you next?

I love connecting with people via Twitter, my blog or my newsletter. Or, preferably, all three!

Favorite tune at the moment?

I’m a huge Frank Ocean fan and I adore his new album, Blond. I can’t stop playing “Ivy” right now.

You can learn more about Bianca’s work on her blog and in her newsletter. Follow Bianca on Twitter and Instagram.


How to do deep work, China’s ‘Chabauduo’ mindset, Giphy’s art exhibition, NEW beats and more

Read of the week: Cal Newport explains how to do deep work

Scroll down for ‘tracks of the week’

Arts & Culture

China’s ‘Chabuduo’ Mindset

Done is better than perfect, in some cases, as in updating a web design or app. But in China, ‘almost’ is a pervasive and dangerous mindset. Known as ‘Chabuduo’ or ‘good/close enough,’ can have disastrous effects when it comes to building everyday things, especially infrastructure.

“When you’re surrounded by the cheaply done, the half-assed and the ugly, when failure is unpunished and dedication unrewarded all around, it’s hard not to think that close enough is good enough. Chabuduo.”

A GIF art exhibition

Giphy is the new home of the GIFs, dethroning Tumblr and taking them to the next level, even to real life. Giphy recently hosted an exhibition in New York called ‘Loop Dreams,’ showcasing the GIF works of 25 artists “brought to life through holographic posters, projections, VR, and interactive installations.”

Philosophy & Productivity

Fran Lebowitz on Facebook, TV, and Trump

Author and acclaimed New Yorker Fran Lebowitz can’t sleep, can’t write, can’t stand watching television, nor does she like social media, yet she’s still on top of them all or at least, well-informed in her sardonic complaints about them.

“..years ago, I decided reading in bed is too stimulating. Watch TV. It’s boring. You’ll fall asleep.”

Obsessed with productivity

Skip breakfast. Shorten your work week to four hours. Strengthen your focus. The obsession with productivity is getting out of hand. Why do humans want to maximize their output so they can become more like computers? What are we going to do with the extra time, do even more work? Perhaps, but only if the work is purposeful.

“The most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work.” – Ira Glass

Social Media & Technology

Your digital eulogy

Artist Gabriel Barcia-Colombo is giving people a chance to visit their own digital funeral at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to review the type of social media posts people would see after they pass away. According to BuzzFeed’s senior writer Doree Shafrir who experienced her own ceremony:

“All of my tweets started scrolling on a screen in front of me as though to say, you know, here are some words of Doree’s to remember her by – tweeting about wearing a dress to a wedding with pockets or Justin Bieber. And I thought, oh, my God, if I did die – God forbid – right now this is what people would see.”

New Music

  1. Youandewan – Waiting For L
  2. Hiatus Kaiyote – The Lung (Paul White Unofficial Remix)
  3. Abi Ocia – Running
  4. Arbes – Sun On My Back
  5. Danny Brown – Really Doe


Productivity & Work Psychology

Obsessed with productivity

Skip breakfast. Shorten your work week to four hours. Strengthen your focus. The obsession with productivity is getting out of hand. Why do humans want to maximize their output so they can become more like computers? What are we going to do with the extra time, do even more work? Perhaps, but only if the work is purposeful.

“The most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work.” – Ira Glass

What people are actually requesting when they pursue life hacks are shortcuts. But if you seriously want to achieve something, you can’t skip the fundamentals. At some point, the flaws are going to reveal themselves.

Humans are fallible. We need sleep. We need proper exercise and nutrition. The same applies to our digital diet, avoiding the taxation of a high-attention economy. No wonder Arianna Huffington is focusing one hundred percent on health-themed projects. Distraction is the obesity for the mind. And stress kills brain cells.

The frenzied culture of Silicon Valley is a hell of a drug. Maybe it’s time to slow down and re-evaluate, keeping the patience in working on something important instead of running off to the next thing.

Productivity & Work

The 100% Rule

An ‘A,’ for lack of effort

Half-ass efforts produce half-ass results. The same goes for 99 percent effort. If you don’t commit 100 percent to whatever it is–quitting smoking, writing a book, taking photography seriously–it’s going to fall to the wayside.

“99 per cent is a b*tch. 100 per cent is a breeze.” Jack Canfield, The Success Principles

What do you tend to? What is your one non-negotiable that you do every day regardless of the circumstances. I publish a blog post each day, even if it’s trash. But who cares; I shipped! When I was a kid, the daily habit was basketball. Rain or shine or below freezing temperatures I was outside shooting hoops or at least dribbling in the garage. The dedication paid off in games.

Worrying about getting something done is far worse than than the actual doing. So make a promise to yourself to win at one thing every day. Once you get started, anticipation fades into the background; now, you’ve got no choice but to do it. When you do the work, the rest follows. Action first. Deduce later.

Give it 100 percent. Don’t overthink it. Go all in. And start before you’re ready.

The 100 per cent rule: The simple advice that changed my life

Productivity & Work Psychology

Why life hacks are a more efficient way of cheating

Creatures of habit

Hacking diets, hacking sleep, hacking homework, hacking workouts, hacking language learning. Despite being a shortcut, life hacks work because they still require effort—they are the perfect placebo.

Fortunately, we live in a digital age where apps help us develop strong habits. We can learn French more efficiently in 5-minutes on Duolingo a day than paying for a 45-minute class. The 7-minute daily workout is scientifically proven to strengthen our core muscles. Simplifying learning and exercise not only save time, but they also produce real results.

As imperfect humans, we seek guides to life that sustain encouragement and don’t take a full-time commitment– we strive for good enough. Yes, we can just as easily avoid effort by medicating our problems away–taking an Adderall to get to work, drinking a Coffiest instead of eating breakfast and drinking coffee or skipping the gym to get weight loss surgery. But those are shortcuts that force an unnatural behavior. What we long for is a system of practices that lead to natural results.

The reason we yield to bad habits is that we either can’t control our resistance or don’t care enough to find an alternative. The trick, therefore, is performing small successful actions like doing one push-up until we can do five.

Once we get started, according to the Zeigarnik effect, we’re less likely to give up. Life hacks not only kickstart positive habits; they help them stick around. The only way to reap the rewards is to do the work.