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Book Review: The Urban Monk by Pedram Shojai

The Urban Monk by Pedram Shojai book cover

By Jaye Marsh

In general, North Americans are stressed, overweight, stuck to our desks, and disconnected from the world we live in. With The Urban Monk, Pedram Shojai attempts to help us address these issues by offering tools, including online resources and email support, to “hack” a more balanced lifestyle.

I really wanted to like this book, but it was a challenge. The writing style is the culprit here, not the content. I was pulled out of the messaging, and the information to be gleaned here, too many times not to mention it.

The Urban Monk reads as if the publishers are Millennials/Generation Y or whatever generalization is currently en vogue. Our supposed readers are the ever-taxed and ever-busy 30- to 45-year-olds replete with children, mid-career angst, mortgages, housing problems, and stuff problems, and are in need of a current version of Zen to help them find a way to sanity that allows for who they are rather than completely. To that end, this book has its place, but it ignores a huge segment of depleted populace in need of help: those who don’t live an urban lifestyle. None of the case studies offered in the book take place in non-traditional settings like freelancing, consider people juggling multiple jobs, or explore those facing financial struggles.

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Book Review: The Art of Stopping Time: Practical Mindfulness for Busy People by Pedram Shojai

Art of Stopping Time

By Emma Warnken Johnson

Mindfulness is everywhere these days. There seems to be an endless supply of books, articles, and apps touting its benefits. The practices vary, but they all seek to focus the mind on the present moment, shedding distractions and helping us appreciate the little things in our lives. I’ve been meaning to try mindfulness for quite some time, but never seem to be able to fit it into my busy schedule.

This makes The Art of Stopping Time: Practical Mindfulness for Busy People a timely book for me, and I suspect it will be for a lot of other busy editors too. Taoist monk and Qi Gong master Pedram Shojai adapts the 100-day Gong—a traditional Taoist practice—to create a mindfulness routine that can fit into a busy schedule. The book is divided into 100 short chapters, and each one describes a brief daily activity that promotes mindfulness and a healthier relationship to the way we think about and spend our time.

The activities vary widely. Readers are asked to do some breathing exercises, to stretch and relax their muscles, and to eat a meal without the distraction of other activities (like watching TV). Some days include simple activities designed to give your mind a short break, like going for a walk, taking a bath, or making a cup of tea—and several of these seem tailor-made for an editor who takes regular breaks to improve productivity. Other days are more reflective, asking you to think about how you spend their time and review your priorities. Reading through the activities, I found several that I thought I would enjoy and could easily integrate into my daily schedule. (more…)

Book Review: Side Hustle by Chris Guillebeau

Side Hustle

(Crown, 2017)

By Jessica Trudel

Do you find your day job fulfilling? If you answered “no,” Side Hustle is for you. If you answered “yes,” Side Hustle is also for you.

That’s what author Chris Guillebeau gets across in the early pages of Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days. “Everyone should have a side hustle. Even if you love your job, having more than one source of income will give you more freedom and more options.”

Who doesn’t want the freedom that more money can bring? And if you could start bringing in more money in less than a month, even better.

Side Hustle outlines Guillebeau’s five-week program to launch a successful side hustle. Besides being a veteran side hustler himself, Guillebeau is also the bestselling author of The $100 Startup.

In his book, Guillebeau targets those people who want to want to make money as entrepreneurs but who aren’t prepared to fully commit to self-employment. Perhaps they like their day job and want to keep it, or perhaps they just aren’t ready to quit yet.

Side Hustle is an easy read. Guillebeau uses accessible language, not jargon, to emphasize that you don’t need an MBA to run a successful side hustle. He includes anecdotes in every chapter, telling stories of regular people who came up with an idea for a side hustle and took immediate action. None of his subjects sat down and wrote out a detailed business plan first.

Still, there isn’t much to learn in Side Hustle if you already have entrepreneurial experience. In fact, some of it may seem downright obvious. Regardless, it’s a good reminder that keeping things simple is often the fastest route to success.

Guillebeau’s writing style is entertaining and inventive. He cleverly transitions between ideas and anecdotes. For example, after sharing an anecdote about one person’s sweater-selling side hustle, Guillebeau writes, “Like sweaters, side hustles are not one size fits all.” He also commits to his metaphors, dedicating seven pages to “the recipe for hustling success” and wrapping it up with, “A recipe is only as good as the finished product you take out of the oven.”

I was impressed with the formatting and organization of the book. It expands on the typical table of contents by including a summary of the 27-day plan with short one-to-two-sentence teasers. These teasers reappear at the beginning of the corresponding chapter, to reinforce the importance of sticking to the plan.

Guillebeau admits that he’s a bit indecisive. “If you’re like me, you may sometimes have trouble choosing among all your different side hustle ideas,” he writes. It feels as though Guillebeau couldn’t decide if he wanted Side Hustle to be a workbook or a textbook. Side Hustle includes a few workbook features: he leaves some room to make notes or answer questions in five places within the book. Since Guillebeau touts that most of the planning in his system can be done “on the back of a napkin,” it seems that he could have made room for planning in every chapter. It would have also been okay for him to leave no room for planning at all. Just make a decision, Chris!

Many editors with day jobs think they have a successful side hustle, but Guillebeau wants readers to understand that a truly successful side hustle brings in “passive income.” Editing is labour-intensive; typically an editor is only paid per hour or per word. Passive income is earned if, for example, you write a book about editing that continues to sell without your ever having to write another word. Guillebeau would encourage a side-hustling editor to find a way to make their hustle more self-sufficient.

Ultimately, Guillebeau’s message is this: “A good side hustle…can help support your life, but it doesn’t have to be your whole life.” I think all of us who dedicate almost every waking minute to writing and editing can all take a little wisdom from that.

Jessica Trudel has been a freelance writer and editor since 2006 and is an outspoken advocate for the arts in Northern Ontario. A mother of four girls, she is also on the board of directors of her local writers’ guild. She recently began hosting LitBulbs on YouTube.

This article was copy edited by Ellen Fleischer.

Book Review: What Next? by Dr. Barbara Moses

What Next?

by Karen Kemlo

Dr. Barbara Moses, known as “Canada’s career guru,” is a leading expert in work satisfaction and career success. This updated third edition of her best-selling book What Next? has something for anyone who is at a crossroads in their career or work life.

From millennials starting out in their job searches to more mature workers changing careers, this is a great step-by-step guide to making the next move. But be warned—it’s a big read with lots of homework in the form of self-assessment questions. Although likely meant to instill greater self-reflection, the detailed questions often bring the book and the reader to a full stop.

The early chapters discuss the notion of identifying one’s “core motivators” for seeking certain types of work. Based on her research, Moses has identified eight motivational types: sociability seekers, career builders, authenticity seekers, personal developers, novelty seekers, entrepreneurs, lifestylers, and stability seekers. The challenge, according to Moses, is “to find a work environment that provides the best possible match.”

It’s a unique approach to career guidance, something I wish I’d known about when starting out in the work world. Perhaps it would’ve focused my early job and education goals sooner. It might have also saved me the horror of dead-end and minimum-wage jobs. But I also know that my 20-year-old self would never have taken the time to fill out all of the questionnaires in this book.

Given the current job market, and the rise of part-time and precarious work, it seems unrealistic to assume that all workers will always have the ability to choose. Sometimes you have to take jobs and work with difficult people, simply in order to pay the bills. Life challenges, such as downsizing, divorce or illness get in the way of career goals.

What Next? is still a great resource for people at different stages in their careers and touches on some of the issues that everyone has to deal with at some point: how to overcome job burnout, how to deal with difficult bosses, what to do if you’re fired, how to write a resumé, and the benefits of networking. These chapters are shorter and less detailed than the ones on self-assessment and motivational types. As a consequence, the author—and the reader—spend more time inside the world of ideas and ideal jobs than in the real world of work.

Karen Kemlo is a freelance editor and writer in Toronto. 

This article was copy edited by Ellen Fleischer

Being a digital nomad: Or how to edit from the beach

Beach editing

Photo by Rachel Stuckey

By Rachel Stuckey

I’m a digital nomad. For years I’ve told anyone who asked that I was a writer and editor (even though editing pays most of my bills). But lately, the way I work has been more interesting than the work I actually do.

But I’m still getting used to saying “I’m a digital nomad” (and sometimes, I confess, I often use air quotes when I do say it). I know what “digital nomad” conjures up: visions of twenty-somethings with no job prospects and an unnatural attachment to their smartphones.

Air quotes aside, such visions are really just the surface of this cultural phenomenon. (And thanks to Insta-influencers and click-bait web content, that surface seems both beautiful and vacuous). But there are plenty of Gen Xers, Xennials, and even grown-up millennials doing marvellous and fascinating things on the road.

I’d like to think I’m one of the grown-up digital nomads. For the last several years, I’ve been seeking out new temporary homes for me and my editorial services business, sometimes spending months in one place and sometimes changing it up every few weeks.

In 2012, I was a burned-out freelancer looking for adventure. After months of preparation, I headed out on a trip around the world, with stops in Thailand, China, Cambodia, India, the UAE, Spain, France, Italy, and the UK before coming home nine months later. Everyone thought that might be it, adventure had.

But I wasn’t ready to settle back into the same old same old. And I’ve been on the move ever since, spending some months each year in Toronto and the rest of my time in Europe, South and Central America, Thailand, and Vietnam. In 2018, I’m returning to Thailand, and then on to Southern Africa.

This wanderlust may have begun as therapy for my tertiary life crisis. But over the last five years of living and working abroad and living and working in Toronto, I’ve realized that there is a strong economic argument for tackling our gig economy as a nomad. After several months living at home in TO again, my pocketbook is itching to get the heck out of Dodge! (Also, winter is coming, and I hate wearing socks and shoes.) (more…)

Taming time

Lion tamer

A lion tamer at Bertram Mills Touring Circus, Ascot/Edward G Malindine/
Collection of National Media Museum/ CREATIVE COMMONS ATTRIBUTION-NONCOMMERCIAL-SHAREALIKE (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

By Jaye Marsh

Time management was a popular topic to start off the year for Editors Toronto branch meetings.

A full house of approximately 40 people greeted the guest panellists at our new venue. Thanks to Greg Ioannou, lifetime member of Editors Canada, the Toronto branch now meets at the Centre for Social Innovation, a lovely multimedia-capable space on Spadina Avenue near Queen Street West.

The evening’s program, held on September 26, was about “Time-management for busy editors.” Program chair Lee Parpart invited four panellists: Jennifer D. Foster, Jeanne McKane, Dr. Nicole Lyon Roccas, and Jayne S. Huhtanen.

Jennifer gave us a list of practical tips and guiding principles that work for her: knowing your needs, discipline, attitude, and creating the right space in which to work. She reviewed her unsuccessful experience with the Pomodoro technique (setting tasks and using timers); making lists; using a hard-copy calendar; the importance of checklists to relieve the memory banks; taking regular breaks; exercising; setting rewards; and learning to say no. At the end, Jennifer stressed the importance of surrounding herself with positive, kind people who are supportive and respectful of her and her work. The end result? A favourable effect on productivity, motivation, and efficiency. (more…)

Toronto summers are made for freelancing

Toronto Summers Are for Freelancers
by Emma Warnken Johnson

When I first started full-time freelancing a little over a year ago, I worried about working from home. Would I feel cooped up in my little apartment? Would I end up editing from my couch? Would I ever remember to leave the house again?

Luckily, I started freelancing just as the weather got warmer. After years of life as a nine-to-fiver, it shocked me to discover that Toronto is a busy, bustling place—all day, every day. This is even truer in the summer: businesses bust down their doors and windows and spill out onto the sidewalks, and people take advantage of every inch of outdoor space. Once I figured out how to do the same, Toronto summers quickly became one of my favourite things about going freelance. (more…)

Book Review: Life without Envy by Camille DeAngelis

 

(St. Martin’s Press, 2016)

Life without Envy by Camille DeAngelis

By Michelle Waitzman

Camille DeAngelis is a novelist whose career has had its ups and downs. Like many writers, she often found herself battling self-doubt, jealousy, bitterness, and frustration. She decided that it was time to re-examine her beliefs about herself and her career and, most importantly, to examine her ego and how it was affecting her professional life.

Life without Envy: Ego Management for Creative People will resonate mainly with readers who consider themselves “creators” (authors, poets, visual artists, musicians, etc.). Although it is written from the point of view of a writer, and most of the examples in the book revolve around writing, it addresses common problems with working in any profession where success and failure are often subjective and where both praise and criticism are taken very personally.

Editors may find that this book is not really targeted to them unless they also have a writing career or aspire to have one. Nonetheless, some of the examples are likely to ring true. As an editor, it’s easy to feel envy or frustration after working for months to shape and improve a book, only to see all of the praise and credit for its success go to the author (whose work may not have succeeded without you). Also, many editors suffer from “imposter syndrome,” which is a feeling that you are only pretending to know how to do your job (despite the fact that you are actually well-qualified) and believe that you will be caught out and exposed. (more…)