What I read this week – 34th week 2020

Did you know that ending an email with “Thanks in advance” gets you the best response rate of any closing phrase? It has a 38% high response rate than the average email in a study done by Boomerang on 350,000 emails.

This week I skimmed a bunch of productivity articles to find anything new, and amazingly I stumbled across the idea of Interstitial Journalling. I have also been reading about the idea that journalists are writing for newsletters instead of standard newspapers, giving themselves more independence and stability. Finally, I recalled an article I read a while back on laziness, reminded by another article on why fear is the cause of laziness, lack of motivation, and boredom. Again, like last week, there are three longer reads that I recommend reading yourself, because they are a pleasure to read.

What I read

Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebook

This week I read about, and have started trying, Interstitial Journalling. We all know that mindfulness meditation can help with stress and anxiety. Interstitial Journalling (IJ) attempts to bring mindfulness to the workplace by replacing the to-do list. The essence of IJ is that when you finish a task, you write in your journal that you have finished it, and what the first step of the next task is. IJ is supposed to help us switch track from one project or task to another, something that people are well known to be bad at. The example from the article is below:

Finished email to Nik about writing another article for us. I probably don’t need to follow up. Also, part of my mind is still wondering if I should have suggested a topic to him. Now, switching over to writing an article. What’s my next action? Oh. Just open Medium. The article is going to flow easily once I get the intro down. I should steel myself for having to rewrite that intro a few dozen times.

The more advanced version is to keep track of every distraction, and spend 30 seconds trying to find out why you got distracted then. I am planning on experimenting with this method in the coming weeks and maybe writing an article on it. If you have any thoughts about it, have a look at the original article, or message me with any ideas.

The second topic of the week is newsletters. This article in the Washington Post discusses how some journalists are leaving the news-room to build paid mailing lists on Substack. This allows them to have more freedom to write the stories they want to write, gives them the freedom to work when and where they want to, and allows them direct access to readers, rather than relying on social media feeds to promote their writing based on some black-box algorithm. Substack allows people to create mailing list content that is available for free or for paid subscribers, and they take 10% of what you are paid. My favorite Substack newsletter is from Nicolas Colin, a French tech invester, who explains the complexities in the European tech scene in comprehensible detail. The Morning Brew, created by Alex Lieberman, is a $13 million newsletter that is sent every morning, targeted at young business types, making news interesting and accessible. This article discusses how the newsletter grew, and some of the growing pains that it had. Sign up here. In sum, newsletters allow direct access for writers, and they are becoming more popular by the day.

Success! You're on the list.

Finally, there is no such thing as laziness. I was first sent this article by my mother a year and a bit ago, because I studied psychology at university. I was initally very opposed to the idea, but after reading it, I came round to the point of view that people are either scared of failure, or have other priorities, instead of being lazy. This article, though not as good, expands the idea that fear is what limits us to include boredom (fear of the existential dread you’ll find if you get bored) and motivation.

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

Blaise Pascal

What I listened to

This week I listened to two episodes of Dear HBR: a podcast where two Harvard Business Review editors and their guest answer listeners’ questions about work and work-life. In the past I have enjoyed articles about start-ups and self-promoting. This week the podcast answered questions about whether managers are born or made (they are made), and about dealing with a work-life balance during Covid. I’m a big fan of the podcast, not just because they talk about the leading edge of business writing, but because they come across as very human, and occasionally call each-other out if a response might be biased by the listeners age or gender.


First, Secret Gyms And The Economics Of Prohibition, NPR descirbes what happens to demand and supply when something becomes illeagal. What Dungeons and Dragons taught me about politics – UnHerd explains DND and how Westminster is full of games nerds. I’m a big fan of DND and have been playing every week for the past year and a half, and this piece is wonderfully written, to the point where I enjoyed reading it out loud. Finally, Three Rules for Making a Company Truly Great from HBR. In sum, the rules are 1. Better before cheaper; 2. Revenue before cost; 3. No other rules. the article is data driven and divides businesses into Miracle Workers, Long Runners, and Average Joes.

Was there something here which really interested you? Anything that reminded you of something you’ve read? Send me a message on LinkedIn or at contact@callumacdonald.com.

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