Marc Jenkins

on freelancing, productivity, tech and more

Recommended podcasts on Covid-19

In late February, I began to wake up to the fact that Covid-19 was going to dramatically impact all of our lives. I started checking the news for hours a day, following with trepidation as the pandemic was unfolding and markets began crashing around the globe.

Here’s the thing with the news: a small amount of high-quality information keeps you informed, but any more than that adds unnecessary stress and anxiety.

I’ve always struggled to get this balance right. I want to be informed and understand what’s going on, but I don’t want to be bombarded with information that doesn’t have any benefit.

I’ve since reigned in my impulses and got my news diet back on track. My current news source of choice is The Economist. I use the app on my iPhone to read the “Espresso” every morning, which contains 6-8 paragraphs of world news that is updated daily. It takes a few minutes and I’m done and it’s wonderful.

While I’ve cut back on my news consumption, I am still listening to podcasts to learn more about what’s going on. Podcasts are great because they allow for a deeper and more nuanced discussion.

Here are a few podcasts I’ve listened to about Covid-19 that were helpful or interesting in some way:

If you’ve listened to a podcast that you found useful (or an article, for that matter), I’d love to hear about it:

Staying focused while working from home

I’ve been working from home for over 5 years. Over that time, I’ve improved my home office and tweaked my work-day routines. Being productive while working from home takes practice and experience. I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

That was until the past few weeks. My anxiety and productivity are on opposite tracks: while my anxiety has shot up, my productivity has fallen off a cliff.

I know many of you are now working from home for the first time. If you’re finding it difficult, know it’s not just you. We’re living in a time of unprecedented uncertainty. It’s difficult for everyone, even those of us who have been working from home for years.

Everything is pointing towards things getting worse over the next few weeks. For the short term at least, this is the new normal. And so, I’m hitting reset. I’m using all the tips and tricks I’ve learnt over the past few years to stay as focused as I can be.

Here’s how I’m trying to stay focused this week:

  • As much as I can, I’m resisting the urge to read news during the day. I have plenty of time to catch up on things in the evening.
  • I keep my phone in a different room while I work.
  • I’m using the Focus app to block Twitter, Slack and news sites.
  • I’m using the Streaks app to track 40 minute blocks of uninterrupted work (aka the pomodoro technique).
  • I’m being as realistic as I can about what I can accomplish on any given day. My task list is 4-5 things, max.
  • I’m having lots of conversations with family and friends. I have a few lunch-time video calls lined up. Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation.
  • I’ve given myself permission to take regular extended breaks whenever I feel like it.
  • I’m meditating every morning for 10 minutes. Sam Harris just released a good podcast on why meditation matters in an emergency.
  • Music is helping. I have it playing all day in the office.
  • I’m trying to be as helpful and generous as I can to my clients. We’re all in this together.
  • I’m trying not to be too hard on myself.

How are you getting on working from home? What things that are helping you? Let me know – my email inbox is open:

One positive outcome

Jeremy Keith:

I’m quite certain that one positive outcome of The Situation will be a new-found appreciation for activities we don’t have to do. I’m looking forward to sitting in a pub with a friend or two, or going to see a band, or a play or a film, and just thinking “this is nice.”

May you live in uninteresting times

To quote Wikipedia:

May you live in interesting times is an English expression which purports to be a translation of a traditional Chinesecurse. While seemingly a blessing, the expression is normally used ironically; life is better in “uninteresting times” of peace and tranquility than in “interesting” ones, which are usually times of trouble.

Trying out a new tool: Roam Research

This morning I was introduced to Roam Research by Blair Wadman who kindly spent an hour talking through his setup. I’ve since spent some time playing with it and I’m impressed.

Roam is hard to explain. It’s a note-taking tool that uses an outline structure (think Workflowy), with powerful cross-linking capabilities making it easy to organise and find information. It’s setup like a journal, with today’s date at the top, which makes the concept even more appealing.

Nat Eliason has an excellent article on how he’s using Roam that would make a great starting point if you’re interested in learning more.

Happiness is shipping

Came across this quote from It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work today and it resonated with me:

Happiness is shipping: finishing good work, sending it off, and then moving on to the next idea.

I’ve not shipped as much as I’d have liked over the past few years, so this feels like a good mantra.

Newsletter reboot

I’m relaunching my newsletter this week. If you want to get a monthly email from me that includes links to the latest articles I’ve written, as well as recommendations for interesting articles, books or tools I’ve come across, then sign up today.

Offset Earth

A small win last week: I signed up for Offset Earth. For a small monthly fee, you can offset your carbon footprint by planting trees.

Upping my reading habit

I’ve been using Goodreads to track the books I’ve read since 2014. Since then, I’ve read on average 18.3 books per year.

I don’t have a reliable way to track how much time I spend reading, but anecdotally it’s around 20 minutes per day. I read in dribs and drabs. On one day I’ll read for hour and then I won’t read a thing for days on end.

Assuming I live to the age of 80 and that I’ll be reading until the day I die, that gives me 47 book-reading-years left.

At my current rate of reading, I have 860 books left to read in my life time.

If I was to increase my reading time to 30 minutes per day, that’ll mean I’ll be getting through 27.5 books per year. That now means I could get through an additional 432 books, a total of 1292 books in my remaining years.

Now, let’s push this further and say I read for an hour a day. It may sound like a lot, but most of us watch far more TV than that in any given day. A few small habit changes and it’s possible to read more.

Reading for an hour daily means I’ll be getting through 55 books in a year. At this rate I could get through 2858 books before the age of 80, 1725 more just from increasing the time I read from 20 to 60 minutes per day.

That’s why I’m going to push myself to read for at least an hour every day.

Habit tracking with The Theme System Journal

After a few weeks off over the holiday period, I’ve been using The Theme System Journal to help get my habits back on track.

These are the daily habits I’m currently tracking:

  1. Reading (20 mins+)
  2. Writing (20 mins+)
  3. Complete highlight
  4. Deep work (3 hours+)
  5. Meditate
  6. Close activity rings
  7. Go for a walk
  8. No alcohol
  9. Finish work at 5:30pm

2019: year in review

A summary of what went well and what went badly in 2019, plus the things I’m thinking about for 2020.

Redesign notes: #2

When I started redesigning this website a few weeks ago, I started from a blank slate (an empty WordPress theme directory and a couple of Sass files that I use to start new projects). Since then, I’ve built out most of the core components to get the site looking reasonable.

On the surface, a blog design is simple. You have posts and pages and that’s usually about it. But when you dig deeper, you realise there’s lots of little design decisions that need to be made.

One such design decision is how blog posts are displayed. The previous version of my blog listed posts chronologically, like this:

The previous version of my blog listed blog posts by title

No dates, no content, just a list of blog posts. This approach is fine if each post is a self-contained topic, but it doesn’t feel particularly well suited to a ‘weblog’ where each post can vary in size. Clicking through to a post with two or three lines of text doesn’t feel right.

Now take Manton Reece’s blog as example:

Manton Reece’s blog

Manton’s blog has two types of posts: full articles and microposts. This is the approach I decided I wanted to take. Sometimes I just want to a share a thought or a link and several lines of text is all that is required. This smaller bite-size approach to blogging is called microblogging (incidentally, Manton runs

The design as it stands currently

This is the design I’ve ended up with. Very much inspired by Manton, I now have two types of post: a standard post and a note. I’m still experimenting with the format, but I hope that now that a post can be tweet-sized, it’ll make it easier to get back into the habit of publishing.

Redesign notes: # 1

One of my goals for next year is to write and publish more often (as it has been for the past few years and I’ve horrifically failed at). But, as everyone knows, before you can start writing you have to redesign your website.

This week I’ve booked out a chunk of time to redesign and rebuild my site from the ground up. The hope is that a fresh new site will provide the perfect platform to start writing and publishing again in the new year.

Here are a few of my thoughts as I start the project:

  • I’m sticking with WordPress and plan to fully embrace Gutenberg. I know there are lots of great platforms out there to choose from, but it makes sense to stick with what I know given that my business specialises in WordPress development.
  • I want the site to load as fast as possible. It will be minimalist in style and I’ll only include what is absolutely necessary.
  • I plan to use as little Javascript as possible and where I do, I’ll be using vanilla Javascript.
  • I’m going to stick with Sass. While I’ve enjoyed writing vanilla CSS again lately, there’s still a few things that I find useful: mixins, imports, etc.

The tools I’ll be using to build the website look something like this:

I’ll be “live designing” as I go, so the plan is to launch updates throughout the week. I’ll be sharing the process as I go.

2018: year in review

One of the wonderful benefits of these annual reviews is that it encourages you to look back at the year as a whole. I was reminded that 2018 was actually a really good year.

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