Rachel Botsman is a world renowned expert on technology and trust, and the author of bestselling books “Who Can You Trust?” and “What’s Mine Is Yours”.
Rachel is a lecturer at Oxford University and has been recognised as one of the “Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company and as one of the 50 most influential management thinkers in the world.
We cover a lot of ground in this conversation, including:
And a whole lot more.
You can find Rachel on Twitter and Linkedin at @Rachelbotsman and via her website.
For a full transcript of the episode, see below:
Rachel Botsman: How you start is really key to the rest of the day. And a really easy trick I learned is if you’re in flow the day before, don’t finish the paragraph. So like, get halfway through the paragraph, and then write the next sentence and it’s really easy to pick up. Days where you’ve completed something, and you’re starting again, they’re harder because you’re kind of starting the engine from scratch.
Amantha Imber: Welcome to How I Work, a show about the tactics used by leading innovators to get so much out of their day. I’m your host, Dr. Amantha Imber, I’m an organizational psychologist, the CEO of Inventium and I’m obsessed with finding ways to optimize my work day.
On today’s show, I speak to a world renowned expert on technology and trust, Rachel Botsman. I’ve been a fan of Rachel’s work for a while first through her book, What’s Mine is Yours, about collaborative consumption and now through a second book, Who Can You Trust which explores how technology is transforming trust and what this means for life’s work and how we do business. Rachel is a lecturer at Oxford University and has been recognized as one of the most creative people in business by Fast Company and is one of the 50 most influential management thinkers in the world. You can find Rachel on Twitter and LinkedIn at @Rachelbotsman R-A-C-H-E-L B-O-T-S-M-A-N.
In this interview, we cover a heap of ground ranging from how the weather affects our productivity through to a very unusual but incredibly awesome way of crafting presentations. Over to Rachel to find out about how she works. Welcome to the show, Rachel.
Rachel Botsman: It’s pleasure to be here.
Amantha Imber: Now, I’ve heard you’re referred to as the digital philosopher.
Rachel Botsman: Not a title I gave myself, other people gave me. I think in the absence of titles, for some reason people, they don’t want to call me an author or a teacher or whatever it is but it’s actually a very beautiful title because I think I’ve researched deeply the role of philosophers in society, not just what philosophy is. And, a lot of it is giving people frameworks and lenses to view the world a little bit differently or to simplify very complex things. And I guess that’s what I do is I study structural shifts enabled by technologies that are having a huge impact on our lives. So, it’s a big compliment even if it sounds very poncy.
Amantha Imber: I think it’s very appropriate. And your most recent book, Who Can You Trust came out I think, late last year, is that right?
Rachel Botsman: Yeah. So, it came out … Who Can You Trust? It came out in October and then I had the bright idea that I would simultaneously launch it across three continents thinking this will be very good in terms of focus and momentum under estimating that that is physically quite grueling.
Amantha Imber: I’m really keen to delve into the writing of the book. So, I want to go back in time back to when the publishers said, “Yes, let’s do this book,” and talk me through the writing, the creation of a book like this.
Rachel Botsman: I might be slightly different from authors but by the time I go to a publisher, the book is pretty fully formed in my head, like the argument, the stories. So I wrote my first book, What’s Mine is Yours in 2009. This was a pretty big gap. I was thinking about it for about five years. I hate the proposal process, just to be honest with you, proposals are very strange, like a mixture of a marketing document and trying to show your voice. But then once they said, the publishers Penguin, once they said go, I think I finished in seven months, start to finish. And then with everything that started to go on with Brexit and the US elections, they actually chopped … I was meant to deliver in April and then they said, “No, you are going to deliver end of January.” So they chopped, so I had to write really fast. And at first when they said that I was like, there’s no way this is going to happen and it was good in a way. I mean, I think it was a little too much pressure but it’s always interesting what those time constraints can do.
Amantha Imber: Wow. And so what did a typical day look like, during what is a very time constrained few months to write a full book in? What does a typical day of writing look like for you when you’re in that phase?
Rachel Botsman: I mean, as I said, I don’t know if this is different from some authors in that a lot of the interviews were done and one of the things I find is absolutely key is when people say to me, “I just can’t finish the book.” I’m like, “We’ll have you cleared your schedule?” And by clearing the schedule, I mean nothing. I mean, it’s got to be like your kid’s death, your health, like a board meeting, you have to absolutely legally attend because even when you have like a one hour meeting or an interview, you change your state. And so I found that focus, absolutely critical to find that momentum and to get frustrated and bored with the material, but to keep forcing yourself to come back to it because you hit these walls. And if you’ve got other things going on there, the excuse or distraction to actually not deal with the tough parts that you’re trying to push through in the material.
Amantha Imber: So, would you write for eight hours a day? What would that look like?
Rachel Botsman: No, I mean, I think you have what I call for lack of better term, big strides days. So, you have days where, and you don’t know when they’re going to come. So it’s not like you can say, “Well I researched after four days it’s going to be a big stride day.” You just sit down and it’s like a powerhouse, it’s just, you forget going to the toilet, it’s like you can do four or 5000 words. So, I’ve never been one of these people who’s like, “I’m going to do 1500 words a day,” because sometimes some days you write 200 words but it’s the key section of the book. So, I find those goals quite artificial. You’ll know if you’re moving at the right pace. One of the things that I will say is like chapter goals, right? I will wake up, I now have children so this privilege of the six to nine slot which is absolutely precious for me when it comes to writing, has gone.
Amantha Imber: So the six to 9:00 AM slot.
Rachel Botsman: Yeah, because I used to go to bed and think about it and write and then want to wake up and write and I could do more in those three hours than I could do for the rest of the day. And when I first had my son to be honest I was quite resentful and I thought, well, I’m never going to find that productivity again. And then you get to a place of acceptance where it’s like, well, your children are there and they don’t have any understanding around this, and you have to drop them off at school. So, one of the tricks I found is how you settle, how you start is really key to the rest of the day. And a really easy trick I learned is if you’re in flow the day before, don’t finish that paragraph. So like, get halfway through the paragraph, and then write the next sentence and it’s really easy to pick up. Days where you’ve like, completed something, and you’re starting again, they’re harder because you’re starting the engine from scratch.
Amantha Imber: It’s interesting. We were talking about Adam Grant before we started recording and he uses the exact same technique where he will finish, I think Ernest Hemingway described it like packing on a downhill slope or something like that. That’s interesting to hear that that works for you as well. And so you mentioned like the six to 9:00 AM slot when you’re alone. That’s gone and I’ve definitely experienced that myself. So, what replaced that?
Rachel Botsman: Well, it’s not just what replaced that. The other thing I think people underestimate is that six to nine slot requires a lot of energy. And you’ve probably experienced if you’re not present for them, or if you’re in a rush, they move backwards. They take their clothes off, nothing happens, right? So, it’s saying, like these hours are yours then whatever you do, how you switch from that mode to this concentration mode is really important. So, I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m British, but the tea making, the process of making tea properly making tea in a tea pot and sitting down and drinking it.
And then I always try and read something that is not mine that I think it’s brilliant, and I’ll have a stack of things. And it quietens you down, especially if it’s been a racy morning or there’s something happened that you can’t control. And so really what you’re doing is controlling your state and anything can happen on the way to work or the drop of the kids. But you’re saying I’m in control of that because I have these mechanisms and tricks and food and drink and listening as well. So, I found like podcast or listening to other books, not so that you’re totally immersed into it, but you’ve switched mode in a very conscious way.
Amantha Imber: So, the tea, the reading something, that’s quite inspiring and powerful because that almost become like a ritual to get you into that work state or a flow state.
Rachel Botsman: Yeah, definitely. I mean, the other thing is, I write on a pad and pen a lot so the other thing is I will write a list of things that I’ve got to get through and when you’re in writing mode like, I’ve got to read this paper, whatever it is but it’s still a to do list. And then it’s also, I literally right the time, the day, where I’m going to deal with other things. And like, that’s the religion, that’s the discipline, right? Especially on the days where you’re like, “I really don’t want to write,” like the temptation to just shop for shoes or do email, I always know when things are going really badly because I do invoicing which I hate. And it’s also not being too hard with yourself. Those days, your mind is doing something, I really believe that it’s tripping for a reason and you have to let it do that. But also know when, okay, I’ve done that now for three days in a row. There’s no more billing to be done, it’s about discipline.
Amantha Imber: Yeah. I want to come back to the big stride days and I’m curious if you’ve ever thought about what are the precursors to a big stride day? Have you ever thought what have they all got in common?
Rachel Botsman: I have. Sleep, number one, it’s absolutely key. Ironically, it’s when you’re not thinking about the work and you’re well rested. And there’s a difference I think between … They don’t often all, for me anyway, they don’t happen on a Monday. It’s not about the weekend of recharging or resting, it’s just literally you’ve slept really well. I think a lot of it is tied to your physical mental state. They often come when you’ve been wrestling with something, especially when you’re trying to really get to the heart of something quite complex. I often find they come also when you’ve been inspired by something and it can be something very small like you read a sentence. So, there are the consistent conditions, weather for me also is really big. I write really well when it’s raining. I think it’s because there’s nowhere else to go I’m well suited to the UK climate. But if you look at when it’s the most beautiful day, you’ll think, “When I go for that walk,” or maybe I’ll read outside and sunshine. So it’s like this inward focusing, the impact of the rain.
Amantha Imber: That’s fascinating it kind of gets you focused because there’s nothing else today to procrastinate on outside. And I want to know, you talked about invoicing being the kind of thing that you might go to, or that [crosstalk 00:12:26] very, very sad but very understandable when you’re trying to tackle a tough task. Do you have anything that you do or rules that you set yourself or tricks that you use to stay focused on tasks that can be hard to push through and try to push out the various digital distractions that are out there?
Rachel Botsman: I’m not going to lie, I mean, it’s really difficult but this is the most basic advice, the way you start your day you will continue. So, I call it like that monkey brain, that jumping, right? So, if you are going through the check Twitter, check Instagram, check LinkedIn, check email, check blah, blah, blah, you’ve put yourself physically in this racing mode. I mean, I don’t understand neurologically what’s going on, but you understand, physically you feel very different. And so I think this idea, I’m not a believer that you get everything out the way, and it works for some people, like I’m going to do an email eight to 9, and then it will be a clean slate. There’s usually something in that email that comes up that you have to deal with or that bothers you, or that requires more than five minutes to answer. So, the way you start your day really sets the rest of the day and I’ve become far more disciplined around that.
And even like, I can’t believe my phone was my alarm. It’s such a stupid thing to do, with all due respect. It’s like waking up and having a can of Coke there, there’s no way I could resist the temptation. And I thought I was being super efficient because I thought, if I set my alarm for 6:15, my kids typically wake up at 6:45 I can do half an hour of emails and wow, I’m super mom. And then they wake up and everything’s cleared. And then I can have their breakfast, make their lunch, like listen to the pace of it. There’s no way you’re going to start your day and be able to … Yeah, for some people maybe, but not for me.
Amantha Imber: Was there was there a moment in time we you had your phone as your alarm then you’re checking emails, first thing in the morning, dawns on you, “What am I doing?” or was it a gradual shift?
Rachel Botsman: I think I realized it but I didn’t change the behavior for a long time. I think I realized it when … I’m really short sighted so I have to put my lenses in to see and I remember like turning the phone on, I sleep with airplane mode, right? So, at least it wasn’t dinging and ringing. And it was pitch dark in the room, my husband’s asleep and it’s like right up to my face and I’m like, “Well I haven’t even put my lenses in.” This is not how human beings are meant to wake up. My feet haven’t even touched the ground. And one of the things I try, I’m not particularly religious person, but every morning when my feet touch the ground, I try and ask myself, like, why am I doing this? What am I grateful for? What do I want to achieve today? And even I think that’s my one minute mindfulness, that’s all I can do.
And you come back to the end of the day and you think, did I do that? Did I achieve that? How of balance was I? And for me it’s been a form of self reflection that if you keep missing it, there’s probably something physical or time base that you have to address. So, maybe you don’t have enough support or you don’t have enough support at the right end of the day, maybe you’re eating wrong. Whatever it is, there’s something structurally you can probably change.
Amantha Imber: So now, I assume you’ve got an old fashioned alarm clock next to your bed.
Rachel Botsman: I do. Yeah. And my son’s learned how to work it so it went off like 4:00 AM the other day and I was like, okay, [inaudible 00:16:18] phone.
Amantha Imber: Gosh, got to love that. Wow. And so you’re saying, like, it’s really important to set your day up
well, and how you want it to flow. And so with that, what time would you first check your inbox, or Twitter feed or Instagram feed on a good day?
Rachel Botsman: It’s different now, because I’m not in that writing mode. I mean, it really does switch, right? So, there’s no way I stuck to the drawers when I was on the book tour. I mean, you’re like responding to media inquiries. So, I think this is one of the key things, is you don’t have to be in this state all the time. But when you’re working on a project that has a massive artifact or just by design requires concentration, you’re going to have to redesign and re structure your day. Now it looks quite different. So now, I’m actually back into this, I’ll do emails, nine to 10 but then I won’t get into the habit. I turn it off. And then I’ll probably check it again around four o’clock. And people who know me and who need to get a hold of me, they will text me. So that’s the thing, there are ways that people can get hold of you if it’s really truly time sensitive.
Amantha Imber: That’s very disciplined. So, checking emails twice a day.
Rachel Botsman: Yeah.
Amantha Imber: That’s cool. I want to switch gears and talk about presentations because you do a lot of presenting a lot of keynote speeches. I would imagine that that’s probably a large part of a typical week for you, would that be fair to say?
Rachel Botsman: Yes and no. So, the other thing I learned is that when I look at my calendar, I should say, and you can go, right, like so I’m going to do four speeches this month. And there’s, it looks so nice, evenly distributed, one in Los Angeles, one in Munich, like one per week. For me, it’s not the way to structure time because speeches, they require, yes, you do a lot, but they still require prep. Then you’ve got the travel, then you’ve got the delivery, and then you’ve got the return trip home. So, unless they’re in domestic, even if their domestic, even when they’re Melbourne based, it’s four days.
So, if you’ve got four speeches, it’s actually a month gone. I’ve now found, I think of them as delivery weeks. I think of them as outward facing weeks where I know I’m going to be speaking and interacting with a lot of people and then I will have … So I cluster them, so like last week I had seven speeches. But I won’t do any now for three. And on the calendar, it’s blocked teaching prep, because I’m about to deliver a new course at Oxford and the blocking I still don’t know if I’ve got right because I’ve been blocking in weeks and I think I have to be blocking fortnightly even though I’m not working on another big book. So yeah, so like article to write block. And then I’ll do like meeting dates as well.
Amantha Imber: That’s batching it I guess, is … Yeah. I want to look at how you prepare for a speech, and I’m curious as to how that’s changed in the last five years because I’ve heard you talk about how you feel like you’ve learned so much around giving a good speech and how you do prepare. So, can you talk me through, what does that look like? How do you prepare for speech?
Rachel Botsman: So, I think the main, I can’t watch early speeches, for me, I can see how clumsy they are. And in terms of preparation, I’ve found that you can speak to the event organizer. And with all due respect, they will tell you the number of people that’s going to be in the room and they’ll tell you what the rooms like, and they’ll tell you what they want you to talk about. But then I always know if I’m talking to the right person, because I say, “Well, why do you really want me there? And why have you put me in this particular slot? And how do you want your audience to feel?” And this was a really new question that I started asking and if they said, “I don’t really know,” then you’re not speaking to the right person. You’re not speaking to the person that said, “We should have Rachel here.”
And so insisting that you have that briefing with that person is really important because otherwise you’re going in dark. So, that’s been really key, is really using briefings in the right kind of way. The fear in question is really interesting because people can say, they’ll often say, “Well I want you to talk about trust in the digital age, whatever that means,” if you say to them, “Well, how do you want people to feel?” they’re then really thinking about the state of the audience so they’ll say, some people will say, “I want them to feel challenged, or I want them to feel inspired.” They are two really different speeches and there you get your guidance on tone and content and delivery. So that’s been really key, is debriefing. I’ll then put something together. So, I kind of have this … It might be worth describing actually, because people say, “Well how do you put speeches together?”
And I found, so I write blocks around particular examples and stories, so Facebook’s a really good example, a lot of people are mixed about Facebook because of Cambridge Analytica. And so I’ll have speaking points in a Google doc and then every time I think of a new point, or it changes on stage, I edit that in the Google doc. And then I have another slide library that is, like if you saw the organization, it’s so [inaudible 00:22:30], I actually think it’s quite beautiful in terms of information design, I didn’t do it but it makes it so easy that I can look at it and I think it comes from writing, is that you’re literally, “I’ll pull that story.” And I’ll pull that story.
Amantha Imber: So, how is that organized, that slide file? Can you paint a picture of that?
Rachel Botsman: So it’s on Dropbox practically and the highest folder, so my previous work was all co-sharing, so that’s one in one thing. And then the newer, it’s called trust. And then you go in, and it will have like core concepts. And then you go into core concepts and it will have like core things that I’ve written about that are my ideas like trust leaps, being one of them, or risk propensity or whatever it is, trust evolution. And then you go into that folder and it’s got all the slides and stories attached to that concept. Another folder will have other people’s quotes. So, these are other people that I find interesting that have spoken about vulnerability or trust or risk. Another folder will be all organized by company example, so Uber will have a folder, Facebook will have a folder, Airbnb will have a folder, this is what I mean.
And things can live in two places, but only two places. That’s another rule because otherwise you end up with too much duplication. And then I have a really important folder which is evolving ideas, and these are things that really as I’m saying this, material being tested. So, these are ideas that I’m testing on the stage that I know are not right, material ready to be designed. And this is when I know it’s working, so Jerry Seinfeld describes it as fishing. So, as a comedian you fish, and you feel when you’ve got a bite. And the work that you do on stage is turn that bite into actually catching the fish. And then for me, because slides and stories are so important, I then can get to the stage of, I know how this is visualized.
Amantha Imber: I am loving this. This is great.
Rachel Botsman: There’s a real process behind it. So, it makes it really easy because … And I have a rule where I always tell something new in a speech, always. But if you’re testing more than 20%, it’s not going to go great. So, when organizers I want something completely new, I’m like, you don’t, like this is taking years. It takes about 10 speeches to get one point, to know how to land it. So this is like one thing I say to people when they’re giving speeches, I’m like, so you think you’re going to stand up there, and a lot of you would just read the speech in their head as well, they won’t even read it out loud. And you think it’s going to come out like a TED talk. With all due respect, this is 10,000 hours of practice, right? It’s really getting to a place where you can have no notes because the stories, it’s in you, the points are in you.
So it’s a long winded way of the things. I’ll put something together and then I will think about it and then I’ll come back to it. And then you have to send it usually in a couple days in advance, which is silly exercise because then on the way there, you’re really refining the points and so and then I get there and I’m usually I can add a slide or move a slide.
Amantha Imber: Yeah, definitely. How do you translate what the organizer will say about, I want people feeling this way, with picking out the points and the slides? In your system, have you got emotion tags as well?
Rachel Botsman: That’s a really good question. No, I don’t have emotion tags. So, last week I was with one of the banks in the Royal Commission and it was a really tough speech because you’re talking about trust in a company where trust is in crisis. So, you look at some of the stories and you’re like, I can’t use that because it’s funny or I can’t, you actually take material off the table which can be quite helpful. And the other strange thing you find I mean, it’s just like writing music, right? You could open with this story and then finish with this story and then in another speech, you flip those things so your close is your opening and they will feel completely different. The bookmarking is key so knowing how you’re going to open and knowing how you’re going to close.
I’ve been in audiences where people, Simon Sinek is a great example where they’re like, I’ve seen him open like that five times. It’s a criticism. And I’m like, because he knows exactly where to take the audience from that point. It’s like his opening melody, and he’s grounding himself on the stage. You always go somewhere quite different, because he’s listening and he’s feeding off what’s going on in the room. So, I think the number of opening stories you can have is quite limited, but where you go from that, that’s the blank canvas.
Amantha Imber: That’s really interesting. I want to talk about how you prioritize incoming requests. I imagine because of your profile, you’re probably getting a lot of people asking you for things, to write things, to say things, to be part of things. How do you decide what to say yes to versus what to say no to?
Rachel Botsman: It’s funny. It’s one of my goals, I’ve been working on this year, not saying no, but finding myself less in situations where I’m like, why did I say yes? To be honest, when there’s an email that, can I pick your brain, or it’s really, really long, I get a lot of requests from students doing masters or dissertations that aren’t part of the course that I teach that you have to say no to. And I always try and direct them to a resource. I always try and close the loop and be helpful. You also get a sense, I’m getting a bit of a sense when someone’s quite hard to shut down and then being more comfortable that you don’t have to be the person to reply. So, you put that on someone in your team. But the thing that I’ve really started to ask myself is what is the intentions of this person? Or, why are they asking me to write this piece? Why are they asking me to do this interview? And if there’s an alignment, so you really believe in what this person is doing and you think it’s good for your work and you think it’s interesting, then you consider it. Does that make sense?
Sometimes you’re like, “Can you write a piece for The Guardian?” Okay and you’re like, New York Times, we should totally do that. But then, a really good example is they might be pushing for an open on Facebook that’s completely contrary to your opinion and you get halfway through and you’re battling with the editor and you’re thinking well, why didn’t I ask them where they were coming from? Because then you have to abandon ship midway through. So, being okay, just saying no to people that really actually don’t matter to your time because they’re just saying pick your brain, finding a way to help people when you shut them down and also making a no a clean no.
Amantha Imber: How do you do that?
Rachel Botsman: So, often it’s better when it doesn’t come from me. She’s just not available, no reason.
Amantha Imber: Yeah, so this will be your assistant doing that?
Rachel Botsman: Yeah, especially with picking requests because if you say something, like even saying I’m really sorry she can’t attend, what is that, why? Or like if we sweeten the deal where she … And then you have to ask yourself, if they come back and they said x and then they doubled the amount you’ve put yourself in a very tricky situation because then you’ve said no and then you’re showing more money can actually change that which is not good for anyone. Then really the other thing on the calendar is like absolute no-go days, kids’ first day of school, all these things, it doesn’t matter what it is. It’s different for different people, no-go days are no-go days and sometimes you have to invent a no-go day. IF it’s a really tricky no, I’m really sorry but one of the kids is the lead in a play.
Amantha Imber: I love it. I love it and have any parenting hacks that you’ve learned as a working mother that just serve to help things run a lot more smoothly at home? You’ve got two kids under five, is that right?
Rachel Botsman: One’s six now, six and four.
Amantha Imber: Okay, yeah, six and four.
Rachel Botsman: Do you know, the funny thing is, I think the hacks get harder as they get older because they get smarter. I think when they’re under the age of three it’s distraction hacks. And they don’t have a sense of time so you can make it up to them. I’ve realized even now, six is such a beautiful age but they start to develop empathy, they do have an awareness of the day of the week. So consistency as much as you can, I found is really important. So, them knowing when I can pick them up from school is a big one. So, it’s on, when mommy’s going to pick you up. The way you spend that time, so like five to seven is their time. And I always find the wheels come off if you organize something and you think you can squeeze it in because then they’re like, “I waited for this time.” It’s not fair to them, you’re really cheating. So, it’s an obvious thing but being present when you’re really present is quite key.
I think the one thing I’ve really got right is I’m very protective of my weekends. So, I really 100% try not to work on the weekends and they know that I’m always there. Holidays are not always possible. And then getting really smart around where you need support and not feeling guilty about that. It’s so easy to say, it’s really hard to do and even finding the right kind of support and the right person that doesn’t support you and doesn’t judge you. My son is also becoming more and more interested in my work.
So, I find showing him things, saying this was really exciting, that’s, I’ve got to go on a plane and do this thing, so I’ve got to get to Aspen next week, is a really good example. So I’ve been talking to them about mountains and what he thinks mountains look like in summer and what an Ideas Festival is, what does he think that is. And so he now wants to take photos of the mountains to see if this is, you can engage them in your journey without them being physically there.
Amantha Imber: That’s lovely. I was down in Vancouver for work a couple of months ago. And in the lead up we were talking about what are the animals in Canada, and I bought my daughter who’s four this toy moose and I’d take photos of it like having a drink and on the toilet and just kind of building up this story about this moose. And then when it got home, it was so much excitement. And yeah, just to do something to kind of share about where you were, I like that.
Rachel Botsman: They don’t understand you’re tired. That hack does not … So I always that wait, if I’m really honest with them, and I say I’m just really tired, can you give me a break? Or can you just follow the instruction because I have nothing left, they’re like, “What? I don’t care whether you’re tired.”
Amantha Imber: So true. So true. I had one question before we move into kind of some rapid fire finish questions. Thinking about how you work, what’s something that would surprise people about what you do, how you do what you do and get it done?
Rachel Botsman: How visual it is. I don’t start words, I start in pictures and concepts. And I think it’s because I was trained as an artist, so I
Amantha Imber: You studied fine arts.
Rachel Botsman: I did, I studied fine arts. So at the moment I’m researching the relationship between transparency and trust. If you read the academic papers, you’re bored and turned off and completely confused within like, with all due respect about three hours. But if you actually start to look at how transparencies represent an architecture and how it’s represented in films and design, and you start to create this board and ideas start to emerge. So, the process is extremely visual, even though the output is more word space.
Amantha Imber: That’s very interesting. I love that. Okay, let’s finish with some rapid fire questions about what are the things that you’re consuming, because I think that’s something that people struggle with, is that there’s so much information out there, and it’s hard to know what is the best stuff to feed into your brain. So to start with, podcasts, what’s a podcast or two that you’re really loving at the moment?
Rachel Botsman: I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, I’m listening to Where Should We Begin? by Esther Perel. I started listening to it for four months, not for relationship advice, but this idea that you can let listeners into a very private window and that she’s kind of this pattern. She does pattern recognition, so she recognizes what’s going on between the couples and she’s explaining that to you. And then I got really absorbed in it because, I don’t know if you’ve listened to it.
Amantha Imber: I have, yeah.
Rachel Botsman: I mean, it’s restored my faith in the ability of relationships of all kinds to rescue and be restored out of all kinds of places of pain and anger. And so the power really talking and listening to each other is what that podcast is about versus affairs and relationship. So, I love Guy Raz, I think he’s genius at what he does on NPR. So, how I built this is just great. I love those. They’re great for the bus. I was actually listening to Adam Grant’s.
Amantha Imber: WorkLife?
Rachel Botsman: WorkLife. And I really enjoyed revisionist history in Malcolm Gladwell first season. Didn’t quite get into the second season. And now I found Actually, I’m listening to a mixture audible books, audiobooks and podcasts. So, I’m listening to Jordan Peterson’s 10 Laws, or something, it’s very dark. And then this is going to sound really weird, but I will listen to books that I read.
Amantha Imber: Why is that?
Rachel Botsman: So, I’m listening to Yuval Harari’s Sapiens, which I must read 12 months ago. It’s either because you’re like, I think I forgotten something that was quite key. But when you listen, you pick up a different thread. So for me, the thread that I’ve picked up, I think you hear it at a more macro level than you read things. So as I’m listening to it, I’ve picked up this idea that, when you create a digital tool and society becomes more efficient, then civilization become smarter about how to use that time. And if you look through the history of time, every time we’ve created something that is a device or a tool to make things more efficient, man has not filled that time wisely. And that’s so interesting, because when everyone’s like, well this addiction to technology, it’s like what innately human beings, how we got this desire to automate things, make things more efficient, but we can be still and be bored and rest. There’s this innate quest to fill time. So that’s what I’ve got from listening to the book.
Amantha Imber: I like that. That’s really cool. E-newsletters, are there any E-newsletters that you subscribe to, that you actually look forward to receiving?
Rachel Botsman: There’s one.
Amantha Imber: What is that lucky one newsletter?
Rachel Botsman: I generally hate them really do. I don’t know why. It’s Jessi Hempel, she writes for WIRED. I think you have to be selected to go on her list. I think she’s only ever writing for about 200 people. And it’s not promotional in any way. She literally says, “Here’s the five most interesting things I’ve read this month,” and she has a radar across topics and publications that are very different from my own. Here’s the one thing I’ve written, I think it’s something like, “Here’s something I heard that I completely disagreed with.” She’s not asking for feedback, it’s very much one way. And so I think the reason why it works is she knows exactly the purpose of that newsletter that she writes wisely and that people want that kind of curated information. It’s not laid out in any way, so we’re text based so I find that yeah, generally newsletters just real self promotional.
Amantha Imber: I like the idea of a curated list that it’s being sent to. That’s very cool. Do you then forward that on to a lot of people?
Rachel Botsman: You’re not allowed to, and that’s one of the things.
Amantha Imber: You’re in the club and you can’t let anyone else in. That’s really interesting. Finally, books, what’s a good book, a physical book or a Kindle book that you’ve read lately that you got a lot out of?
Rachel Botsman: I don’t do Kindle.
Amantha Imber: So, it’s always hard copy or an audio?
Rachel Botsman: Well, I have to read a lot of proofs because people are also blurbs which … It’s a privilege because you’re seeing the book in its raw state, so then I have to read the PDFs. What have I read recently this week? So I’m reading on my bedside table at the moment, I’m reading New Power by a guy called Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms. It’s very closely related to my work, so it’s about how power is moving from institutions to these distributed movements and models and it’s really interesting. I’m rereading a book called More Human by Steve Hilton, because I’m really interested about size and scale when things lose their humaneness and whether there’s a perfect state around that. I have the Jennifer Egan book, Manhattan Beach. So, the way I read I should explain, I read one thing through to completion and then I’m dipping into other things. So, I’ll probably get through four or five books a month.
Amantha Imber: That’s pretty good. Wow.
Rachel Botsman: And then I’ll have work reading as well, I have to do.
Amantha Imber: That’s cool. What great recommendations. Well, thank you so much, Rachel. I so loved learning about how you work, it’s awesome.
Rachel Botsman: Now it makes you sound really anally retentive. It’s more fluid than that. It’s the organization of information people. I think when you lose work, you then have to spend a lot of time recreating it. So, how you capture even after every speech I write notes on what went wrong, what went right because you think it’s going to stay in your mind and it won’t even a week later. So, that’s probably my biggest tip, is how you document what you’ve learned, what you changed and really good organization of information is really key.
Amantha Imber: I love it. Well, I’m going to go away and reorganize my slide deck. Hey there, that’s it for today’s episode. If you’re looking for more tips to improve the way you work, I write a short monthly newsletter that contains three cool things that I’ve discovered that helped me with better, which range from interesting research findings through to gadgets that I’m loving. You can sign up for that at howiwork.co, that’s howiwork.co. And you’re probably sick of podcasts telling you to give them a review in iTunes if you liked the episode so, I promise I won’t ask you to do that but if the root attracts you then, go for it. And if you liked this episode and you want more, just hit the subscribe button. See you next time.