Hello and Happy New Year, friends! Welcome back to Productivity, Without Privilege.
I’m your ever stalwart host and master of ceremonies, Alan Henry, and with a brand new calendar year means a brand new opportunity to….honestly do nothing different, and I’ll explain why in a minute. I’m not a terribly superstitious person, but I do like the opportunity of a new calendar year to give me some kind of fresh start, an opportunity to say “okay, here’s day one of this thing I’ve been meaning to do.” But then again, I use every first of the month for that. Or every Monday. You see what I mean here.
So anyway, buy my book (you didn’t think I’d let the opener go without that, did you?) if you haven’t already. It comes out June 7 of this year, and I honestly can’t wait! More on all of that soon, but suffice to say starting in a couple of months I’ll be ramping up book promotion a bit, which means articles, events, and other fun stuff that I hope you’ll enjoy. Now then, let’s get into it.
This week I want to talk about fresh starts, and who gets to demand them.
So it’s a new year, and all of your social feeds and all of the wellness blogs (including the ones I used to write for!) are probably all talking about how it’s a new year, so it’s a chance for a new you, and that’s fine, on a personal level. Where it’s not fine, however, is on a social level. You shouldn’t feel pressured to make any changes that you don’t necessarily want to. That should go without saying, but it’s easy to forget when you get caught up in the whirlwind of “everyone’s doing it, everyone’s talking about it” vibe. Free yourself of the need to re-invent or change yourself for any reason other than your own personal growth and self-actualization.
2022 is an awkward year, and it’s only about a week old. I think this year, more than any other, most of us understand that we’ve all been through a lot and probably shouldn’t push too hard when it comes to making any meaningful changes for the sake of it. Maybe it’s just my own echo chamber, but I don’t see too many people making bold and proud resolutions, just small changes they hope they can make meaningful in their own way.
But I also work in media, and I’ve seen the avalanche of pressure to force yourself into changes that always comes this time of year, so let’s get practical.
In the last edition, I recommended you take time to sleep, but I’m going to give you another leg up for the new year: Take one thing from your list of hefty resolutions, and just delete it. Just get rid of it. Relieve yourself from the stress of having to do one more thing. And if you don’t want to? That’s fine too. Here’s what I’m really offering: freedom.
I’m not even particularly anti-resolution either. Here’s why I’m so adamant about this: Leading the charge on the “new year means big changes” front is usually those among us who don’t need to change, but benefit the most when you do. Whether it’s the massive diet industry eager to sell you books and meal plans or tech companies who would love to sell you an internet-connected stationary bike or a subscription to an exercise app. Make no mistake, they’re there to help you, and even can help you if that’s something you want, but their payment processors don’t differentiate between those of us eager to improve our health and those of us who feel like we have to because everyone else is doing it.
And there’s more: If you haven’t been already, you’re probably going back to the office (or the virtual office, at least) soon, and you’ll be surrounded by people who are eager to tell you all about how it’s a new year and how they’re totally going to SoulCycle every Wednesday after work now, or they’re absolutely going to do Whole30 or dry January or something else they’ll inevitably give up on before Valentine’s Day. And even if they don’t, none of that has anything to do with you, unless you’re tagging along.
This all goes back to the mantra I’ll repeat until I’m blue in the face (seriously, put it on my tombstone:) Productivity isn’t about getting more things done, it’s about getting the things you have to do done so you can spend more time on the things you want to do.
Don’t let yourself get so caught up in others who push you to be someone you’re not that you forget to spend your time and energy instead being the person you are, and the person you want to be. So when you’re planning for changes, either because it’s the new year or because it’s just a new day, keep in mind whether or not you’re making them because someone’s encouraging you to, and you feel like you should because it’s the “thing to do,” or because you’re going into it with both eyes open, real desire to make measured, incremental changes to improve your life, and of course, self-compassion for who you were before and anticipation for who you’re becoming.
What Do Black Journalists Want? by Dorothy Gilliam: In 1972, Dorothy Gilliam wrote this piece for the Columbia Journalism Review on why Black journalists in American newsrooms are tired, marginalized, and ultimately, driven away. And it reads as though it could have been written in 2021. Even though this is definitely targeted at journalists and other media-adjacent folks, it’s a worthwhile read for anyone outside of media who’s curious what the experience of being a person of color in media is like, and how head-scratching it can be to try to thrive in it.
The Metaverse Land Rush Is an Illusion, by Eric Ravenscraft: I’m cheating again because I edited this piece, but in my defense (or not, as it may be) I didn’t have to do too much work here. Eric is a great writer, and this is an important topic, and I think now is a good opportunity to take a strong perspective on the direction that web3 technologies are going, and distill the metaverse hype from its reality, and he does an excellent job of doing that here by taking a close look at one service eager to make waves (and money) while the hype train is still high. Just as an example of the volatility involved here: when our story published, someone who refused to explain who they were or what stake they had in the project complained about the piece several times, likely because it was tanking the project’s value. But that was okay, because days later they got an attention infusion from a big tech company that drove that same value back up. See how this works?
My first impressions of web3, by Moxie Marlinspike: You may have seen this cross your timeline by now, but if you haven’t read it, please do. It’s a very very accurate analysis of what this wave of crypto/blockchain/nft/decentralized technology fever dreams really mean, complete with some pretty obvious loopholes, both intentional and accidental, that portend a pretty Bad Time for any of us out here who might have to live with an internet that’ll be based on these tools and technologies. Considering how many companies see dollar signs here and are eager to get involved, we may be careening towards it.
In the spirit of starting the year off on a lighter foot, this week you should definitely go check out the Bird of the Week column over at Discourse Blog. Of course, you should be reading Discourse anyway, considering they’re a great group of writers, reporters, and editors, and they’re all doing a great job writing objectively true and honest things without shying away from their own perspective and position on those issues.
But this recommendation isn’t entirely intended to be praise for Discourse (which, full disclosure, I both support with a subscription and are staffed by a number of people I know personally and used to work with,) and more a direct recommendation of Jack Mirkinson’s bird selection. I mean, last week was the beautiful Hoatzin, but I think it was the Anhinga that made me determined to write about it here. Or maybe it was always meant to be, considering how much I love birds.
I can’t speak to Jack’s selection process, but I’m willing to bet you’ll enjoy his columns as much as I do.
Mix up your doomscrolling with something a little more lighthearted and fun from time to time, okay? Half of the reason I shitpost on Twitter as much as I do is because for a long time I suppressed my personality on social media, convinced that I’d face both personal and professional repercussions because of it. The only problem was that for someone like me, who’s generally pretty introverted but enjoys talking to people asynchronously, I felt stifled, like I couldn’t be myself, couldn’t use one of the tools I enjoyed to make friends or talk about my hobbies or interests. When I finally gave up on that kind of respectability and said to myself that it would make me more approachable rather than less to be a complete human who shared things that were both of my own professional interest and things that I enjoyed and friends I wanted to support, I felt much better, and I felt like my social feeds were more reflective of the balance I try to aim for in my own reading.
So keep that in mind, as you’re reading, trying to stay informed and connected, that you dont tip too far in any one direction. So this is partially a recommendation for silly birds, but also I suppose a recommendation to reconsider your relationship with the things you consume, whether it’s social media, TV, movies, music, or anything else that you wish you had more of (or wish you curated better.)
Oh, and buy my book? Please? Thank you! And thank you for subscribing.