Season 3 Episode 5 with Sinem Erdemli and Callum Goodwilliam is now available. Listen now.
Nov. 10, 2022

Creative confidence with the 12-minute method with Robbie Swale

Leadership coach, author and podcaster, Robbie Swale shares his 12-minute method to get started with content creation and growing your creative confidence using experiments

#023 - You’re a talented and hard-working doer but have you been putting off putting yourself out there and creating content to help others? In this episode, I chat with Robbie Swale, leadership coach, author and podcaster, who, in 2016, started writing blog-posts on his 12 min train journey to work and after 6 years, he’s now the author of the 12-Minute Method series of books, including How to Start When You’re Stuck, How to Keep Going When You Want to Give Up and How to Create the Conditions For Great Work. Robbie talks about importance of starting small and focusing on what really matters.

In this episode:

  • What is the 12-minute method and how to it into a habit
  • Getting started with content creation with minimum viable time
  • Juggling consistency and intensity
  • The pain of shedding your old identities
  • Growing your creative confidence using experiments
  • Releasing your creation out into the world without expectations
  • and much more!

Participant in Robbie’s book giveaway by Thursday 24th Nov at


The 12-Minute Method Podcast

The Coach’s Journey Podcast

Eisenhower Matrix

Gay Hendricks

Big Magic by Liz Gilbert

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Contacting Robbie






Show credits

Illustrations by Isa Vicente

Music by Brad Porter


[00:00:00] Robbie Swale: So a really important lesson that I have learned is confidence and competence come after. And so, for me then the question becomes what is the minimum viable amount of time that you could spend each week, on essentially, the important but not urgent stuff. But it's about obsessing, about what's, what's enough. It's just enough of that. not what's as much as possible. 

[00:00:22] Nirish Shakya: That's Robbie sw, leadership coach, author, and podcaster. In 2016, Robbie started writing one blog post a week during his 12 minute Train Ride to Work and now he's the author of the 12 Minute Method series of books, including How to Start When You're Stuck, and How to Create the Conditions for Great Work. In this episode, I ask Robbie how you can get started on your content creation journey , especially if you've been setting on it for too long, and how you can improve your creative confidence, especially if it's on the lower side. And congratulations to Paul Kiy, Matthew Bellinger. Sean Gabrielle, and the Twitter handle in Sydney. Winners of the book giveaway from season two, episode seven with Martin Thomas. And if you missed out, don't worry. Keep listening for Robbie's book giveaway this.

[00:01:13] Shivaun: This is the Design Feeling Podcast with your host Nirish Shakya. 

[00:01:25] Nirish Shakya: Hi, I'm Nirish Shakya, and I'm a designer, educator, and the host of my new podcast Design Feeling. Most of the time, you'll probably find me helping organisations put their customers first, or you might find me teaching design thinking and creative innovation, but I'm on a slightly different quest here - to explore the human behind the designer - who you are, what drives you, what frustrates you and why, and ultimately how you can bring more impact and meaning into your work.

[00:01:59] On this podcast, my expert guests, and I will be uncovering ways to increase your self-awareness, creative confidence and meaning.

[00:02:10] Robbie Swale. Welcome to Design Feeling.

[00:02:13] Robbie Swale: Thanks Nirish. It's great to be here.

[00:02:15] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. Thank you so much for joining me today. So Robbie, you are a coach and you're also the creator of the 12 Minute Method, which I'm gonna ask you to go into more detail later.

[00:02:28] And you've also written three books on the same series, How to Start, When you're stuck, How to keep Going, When you want to give up, and How to create the conditions for great work.

Why most rules don’t exist

[00:02:41] Nirish Shakya: But first of all, I wanted to kind of know from you, cuz I was also reading.

[00:02:47] your, information on the website, and one of the first things that you mentioned is that most people follow rules. Some people break the rules, but the truth is most rules don't even exist. Could you elaborate? What did you mean by that?

[00:03:04] Robbie Swale: Yeah, it was funny actually, like, that was written by, from, by somebody who knew me really well, who who'd like, dug into my story with me. One of my coaches, Rich, and he wrote that part of that website for me. And when I saw that he shared the, it's on a picture on my website, people can check it out on the

[00:03:23] And, when he shared that picture with me, I was like, Ooh, this is like, this is the co this is one of the core parts of my life, right? So I think the, perhaps the, the key part of that, most people would get the first bit, right? Lots of people follow the rules. There are rules about how to live life, about what we're supposed to do.

[00:03:44] and and then some people break them and they get really excited about breaking them and, and. That's wonderful and I love that and I've, I'm a little rule breaker sometimes and I like to like, particularly with like, it really appeals to me to take the point of view that other people don't take.

[00:04:00] Robbie Swale: I was noticing this, like this last night I was watching a football match and I was like, I really love fullbacks and defensive midfielders. And I realized that's partly because most people like wingers and center forwards and attackers. And so it's like, I like the kinda unfashionable things that's like a rule break thing that I like to do.

[00:04:17] But the truth is this is that last bit. A lot of the rules that people think exist don't, they're self-imposed rules. they're rules that we've picked up from society, from our families, from the people around us about, for example, how to be a good person. So like in order for me to be a good father, I have to do certain things.

[00:04:36] In order for me to be a good man, I have to do certain things. In order for me to be a real coach, speech marks, I have to do certain things. 

[00:04:43] Nirish Shakya: Mm. Are these more like norms of behavior?

[00:04:46] Robbie Swale: Right, Exactly. But we treat them like rules. We treat them like they're kind of set in stone, unchangeable, solid things. And I think one of the wonderful things about coaching, for example, but also any reflective practice is sometimes, especially with somebody else's help, but even by ourselves, we can catch those rules and go, Oh, I'm treating this as though this is the truth.

[00:05:05] This is self evidently true, or this is ex what I have to do. But the truth is I have much more choice here than I think, and I am inventing this rule. And, and that is like a, that's quite a big thing to say and quite a hard thing to see in our lives when we're following rules that don't even exist.

[00:05:23] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. A lot of times we don't even realize that we're following those rules cause we just think that's just normal to do that. Right. And we don't, We never question them.

[00:05:32] Robbie Swale: No, it's, it, it's like, so in, I, on my, I have a podcast for coaches, called The Coaches Journey. And on the, most recent episode of that, as we're recording. I spoke to a, a developmental psychologist who used to be based at Harvard, and one of the key pieces, in her work is essentially dealing with that thing.

[00:05:52] So, so if we, that you've just mentioned, like we don't even see them. We don't even know their rules. So in developmental psychology, one of the ways we kind of grow our ability to take perspectives and see the world is by just seeing one more of those things at a time. And when we don't see it, we are subject to it.

[00:06:11] It just happens to 

[00:06:12] Nirish Shakya: mm. Mm-hmm. 

[00:06:13] Robbie Swale: But as soon as you see the rule, you can go, Oh, this is a rule now. And I get to choose, like, there's a little bit of space between me and the rule, and I get to have a little bit of response to that. And that's like a really important thing for us to, to, to do in our lives sometimes if we wanna deal, especially deal with complexity.

[00:06:29] That's what Jennifer Garvey Berger, who's the one I'm talking about, her work a lot.

[00:06:33] Nirish Shakya: What you just said, remind me of my own kind of mindfulness and meditation practice. one of the first, things that, I do when I sit down to meditate is just observe, just be aware of the breath and the physical sensations. I'm not trying to change them, but just be aware of them.

[00:06:50] And one thing that I've realized is just that awareness has a lot of power and then you can choose to do what to do with them. A lot of times we're aware of what's, what's.

[00:07:00] Robbie Swale: Yeah. And, and I know from, from listening to I think episodes of this show, you've had a meditation practice for quite a long time in different ways, and I've always struggled with that. And one of the mo, the first times that I really, it was essentially that, a version of that technique, that was the first time that I really kind of, well, one of the first times I really felt the power of meditation.

[00:07:18] It was a workshop led by my friend Marie. and just like a 15 minute workshop as part of some training we were doing, and I think, I think it was. It might have just been, I'm noticing it might have been as, as simple as that. There might have been more to it. to just say that to myself, I'm noticing a sound, I'm noticing a thought, I'm noticing, and suddenly my mind, I could suddenly feel a different level of clarity.

[00:07:42] And again, yeah, like you say, it's that perspective taking, isn't it? but it's also quite a big thing, isn't it? To, I've just noticed that it's quite a big thing to notice a thought if you've never noticed that before, because then suddenly you realize I'm not my thoughts and who's, who's noticing the thoughts, and that's quite a big, big moment I think.

[00:08:04] Nirish Shakya: Yeah, you can get in some really inception moments in there,

[00:08:07] Robbie Swale: absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.

What is the 12-minute method

[00:08:09] Nirish Shakya: So Robbie, you are, the creator of the 12 Men of Method. Well, first of all, tell us what is the 12 Men of Method.

[00:08:17] Robbie Swale: Yeah. So, I guess there's one way in which the 12 minute method is just, It's just the way that I write my blog, which is, I set a timer for 12 minutes. I press go, I write a blog post while the timer is going stop when it stops, after I finish the sentence, proofread it once, and then post it online after that one proofread.

[00:08:40] and so in one way, the 12 minute method is just that. I could talk at length about how it's much more than that. But essentially I've been doing that writing practice now, for about, for over six years. So I've been writing one post a week, using that practice for about six years. It's like 270 of them now.

[00:08:57] Robbie Swale: And they, they later became books, 12 minutes. So originally, so originally this came, I didn't set out to have a blog. I was working with a coach and I was noticing that I was anxious, scared. Worried about kinda sharing anything that I'd made online. But actually more than that, sharing anything about myself, that was the theme that my coach picked up.

[00:09:23] He was like, I think this is about sharing yourself. Or he heard me say that, and that was what it was. And then in the end, what we did was we designed a practice to help me practice sharing myself and get through the worry and the fear and, and practice that. Cause I, it was a, it was really unpleasant to be worrying in that way, e every time that I wanted to even make a joke on Facebook, let alone put up my website, about my coaching business.

[00:09:48] and, and b I kind of knew that for my business it would be really useful to be able to share bits of myself online in different ways.

[00:09:56] Nirish Shakya: Hmm. So. What, was your biggest fear about sharing yourself?

[00:10:00] Robbie Swale: yeah, for me, When I dig into those fears, and again, this was some work that Joel and I, that coach at the time did a lot. I, we would dig into it in this kind of way. It's like, what are you afraid of? And then I would tell him, and if that happens, And so for me it would be like, what am I afraid of?

[00:10:16] I'm afraid that people will like laugh at me. And, and then he would say, Okay, if people laugh at you, what are you afraid of? And we'd keep digging and it would be humiliation, embarrassment. And underneath it all was like that I'd be alone. Right. So it would be so bad that people, people would, This is, I mean, it sounds kind of semi ridiculous saying it, but it's still feel it now, actually, it's like I'll be alone.

[00:10:39] if people, if I make something and people laugh at it, laugh at me, I'll be alone. And if I'm alone, if I really slow down on that, it's fear of death. Right. It's fear of abandonment and death. So,

[00:10:51] Nirish Shakya: best, ultimate fear for all of

[00:10:53] Robbie Swale: and, and it's, my experience near is that when you work with somebody and you dig into the fear, It always ends there.

[00:11:00] There's actually, if there's something that's really holding us back, if you dig in in that kind of way with somebody, it's always an existential fear. It's a bit like, I always feel like I'm cheating a bit when I'm digging in with somebody. Cause I know where we're gonna get to. I dunno how we're gonna get there, but I know if there's something someone's not doing, really somewhere underneath it is a sense that if they do this thing, their whole existence is under threat and it in the cold light of day, they know that's not true, but that's not what it feels like.

[00:11:25] Nirish Shakya: I mean, I, I remember doing this exercise just like a, a month ago where, someone was not replying to my WhatsApp message and I was really worrying me and I was like, Why is he worrying me? ? And then I basically

[00:11:36] Robbie Swale: cuz I know this. I know it myself. Yeah. Go on. What did you

[00:11:39] Nirish Shakya: and I was just like writing down, why am I getting worried? And then, yeah, it all kind led down to me again, being alone, being kicked out of the tribe and in, more prone to being attacked by a wild animal and ultimately dying just because a, receiving a timely reply from a friend who did, rep who did reply to me the next day.

[00:12:00] but the mind Chris, all these scenarios.

[00:12:02] Robbie Swale: Right? But you'd, you'd spent like two years in a slow, two days in a slow death by that point. Right? In some ways. And it's, it's like it's everywhere. This, this kinda stuff. It's really everywhere.

[00:12:12] Nirish Shakya: Hmm. So we're talking about, the origins

[00:12:16] Robbie Swale: Oh, oh yeah. Why 12 minutes?

[00:12:18] Nirish Shakya: before I.

[00:12:19] Robbie Swale: so, so, so nos. I love the, I love the interruption. It's a great interruption and it's an important one because, it's a really important one for me actually. I'm really grateful to you for that. Cause, part of the what, up to date, bringing the story up to date is that through my practice, I don't feel like that when I'm sharing things online anymore.

[00:12:35] And that's what I wanted, right? What I wanted in 2016 when me and Joel were having these coaching sessions was to not feel like that about sharing myself online anymore. And where, where we got to after a few different experiments was Joel said this great thing cuz he used to be a visual artist, a painter.

[00:12:51] And he said, When I was a painter, I used to love painting a series of paintings. What if we created a series? And so what we created was the train series, which was gonna be a series of articles written on my train journey from Clapton Junction into London Waterloo. And and what I would do is I'd get on the train and we'd already experimented with this.

[00:13:09] I liked the train. The train was a great place. Like I was already going somewhere. Didn't have to kinda worry about like if I was wasting my time and all that kinda thing, which I had a lot of because I was already moving. And so it was a kind of freedom I could read, I could, listen to something or perhaps I could write.

[00:13:25] And so the game was write while the train's moving. Stop. When it stops, proofread it once, post it online. And that's where the 12 minute Method really started. and I did that five times over two weeks. And it was stressful and uncomfortable and scary. And I did it. And I did. I posted them on,

[00:13:42] Nirish Shakya: what was uncomfortable about it.

[00:13:43] Robbie Swale: Oh, all that stuff that we've just been talking about, right?

[00:13:45] That every time I was pressing post was I was pressing post on LinkedIn. I decided to share it on LinkedIn. Cause I thought no one really reads LinkedIn. which was definitely kind of true six years ago. It's a bit less true now. but every time I was pressing post right, it was facing that fear of abandonment and aloneness.

[00:14:02] And so it's like, that's why it was uncomfortable. Cause it's like, cause what courage, which is acting in the face of fear, courage is, is uncomfortable when you're doing it. It feels like you can get a rush after it from being brave. But the act of bravery, albeit I think it's one of the most admirable human qualit.

[00:14:18] It doesn't feel, it usually doesn't feel like nice to be brave cuz you have to be scared and being scared doesn't really feel nice. but it did feel, But I got that feeling of courage, I guess, from it. And so what I decided to do was make it a weekly practice. So after the first five, it became a weekly practice at first until Christmas 2016.

[00:14:35] And then from Christmas, that was like, by then I was like, something's up here. I'm gonna keep this going. And like I said, it's been six and a bit years now and at some point where,

Turning the 12-minutes into a habit

[00:14:42] Nirish Shakya: did you manage to turn into, into a habit? Cause I'm sure like, it was probably easier to just get started with it in terms of, okay, I'll try it out for a few weeks, see what happens. But then maintaining that practice probably takes another level of effort.

[00:14:59] Robbie Swale: well, I would say a bit accidentally. So, there's probably a few things to say about that. Like I did, I knew some stuff. I knew some stuff about habits. Like I, I was interested in this kind of thing. I've been coaching for a year. I'd been reading books around the subject. So for example, the reason I did five at the start was that I'd heard that the podcaster, Tim Ferris, when he started his podcast, he may, he booked five interviews at first cuz he knew if he only booked one, he'd be so embarrassed by how badly it went and how uncomfortable it was.

[00:15:27] And he hated so much that he would stop. But if he booked in four more, he'd have to do them. Cause it'd be more embarrassing to tell those people that he was, gonna stop, than it would be to do the interview and then quietly do nothing with it later. So I did five at the start.

[00:15:38] Nirish Shakya: with my podcast as well when

[00:15:39] Robbie Swale: Right. Me, me too.

[00:15:40] Because it's, I mean, it's just such a sensible thing to do because, these things are, so, a really important lesson that I have learned, is, confidence and competence come after. So we think.

[00:15:53] Nirish Shakya: and competence come after.

[00:15:55] Robbie Swale: So we think that we have to wait to do something until we're confident or until we're good at it.

[00:16:00] But the truth is, those things come after we've done it almost always. So you have to, you need the courage before you go. And I learned this, there's a great YouTube video by a guy called Dan Sullivan about, I can't remember exactly what he's called it, but how to always Grow your Confidence or something.

[00:16:13] It's called, it's just,

[00:16:14] Nirish Shakya: will put the links in the show notes.

[00:16:16] Robbie Swale: Yeah. And it, it's like, but it, and it basically just says you don't need to watch it actually. Cause I've just told you what it says. It says, you need a commitment and you need courage before you do the thing. And then after you've done the thing will come the confidence and then later the competence.

[00:16:28] So like, it's really sensible to do that because it feels really uncomfortable to be bad at something. And I dunno how you were like, I wasn't terrible in my first podcast interviews, but they weren't great and they're certainly not as good as the ones I do now. And I wasn't terrible at writing a, a piece on the train when I first started, but after six years, I've got really good at writing a blog post in that amount of time.

[00:16:49] Nirish Shakya: mm.

[00:16:50] Robbie Swale: And, and so the habit partly came from doing that. So I was going then, And then I also, like, I, I'd heard a lot of people talk about writing practices. So like I'd heard Seth goin talk about it a lot by that point. Already read books, blog. There was something, those things, and so I was interested in it, but how I made it into a habit was a bit accidental.

[00:17:14] Like I, I feel very grateful, for example, that I decided to do one a week and not more. I think if I tried to do more, I would've broken that habit before Christmas, that 2016, I wouldn't

[00:17:25] Nirish Shakya: do you, why do you say that?

[00:17:27] Robbie Swale: I, I just think so, So one of the things that, so, oh, to, to answer your question from ages ago, at some point I stopped getting the train as much, and I wanted to keep the blog going.

[00:17:36] By this point, I can't remember exactly when it was. So I checked how long the train was that day, and it was 12 minutes. And that's where 12 minutes come, comes from. And, and the thing I think's funny about that is when I was publishing the books, After we'd coined the phrase, the 12 minute method, it was becoming a more of a thing.

[00:17:49] I checked how often the trains from clap conjunction to Waterloo are 12 minutes and it's like twice a day. So it's total chance that it's 12 minute method, not the seven minute method or the 14 minute or something,

[00:17:59] Nirish Shakya: It's very catchy

[00:18:00] Robbie Swale: it's arbitrary and it's capture. You're right. so one of the things I've noticed is that when I tell people about the 12 minute method, they quite often confuse what I, the 12 minute method for that.

[00:18:10] I wrote these. So I, my books came from the 12 Minute Method. and they think that, I wrote them, I wrote 12 minutes a day and I didn't, I wrote 12 minutes a week. And that's really important and I always catch it when someone makes that mistake now. Cause I don't think I would've kept the habit going for six years if it was 12 minutes a day.

[00:18:27] Cause I think there's something, So in the research they often call it, they call it self-efficacy. And what they say is, as I understand it from, I learned this from a woman called J Humanez. What Jata says in her book is,we have to be really careful with goal setting because we want our goal setting to be building our self-efficacy, essentially building our confidence.

[00:18:47] And if we set goals that are too big and then we fail at them, that actually lowers our self-efficacy. Now, if we set goals that are too small and they're too easy, that doesn't grow our self-efficacy. But this is the kind of, what do you call it, like comfort zone, stretch zone thing. You want the goal to be not easy, like not to be effortless, but you don't want it to be so hard that you fail.

[00:19:06] Cause you want to be constantly building the self-efficacy. And, and I, my suspicion is I don't know this for sure that, that if I, that part of the reason I made this a habit that lasted was because it was doing just. Writing in a week, not writing as much as possible. And, and as much as possible might have been, I mean it wouldn't have been 12 minutes a day, but that would've been a kind of faster thing to do.

[00:19:28] But I just know that there were days when stuff would've gone wrong. There would've been too many days where I missed it and then it wouldn't have embedded as a habit. But because it was once a week, like no, I don't wanna say this for sure, but almost no one can't find 12 minutes in a week. like we have days if you've got, like I imagine I've only got one child, if you've got four check children, and and a job and there's plenty of reasons that you might not be able to find 12 minutes.

[00:19:53] Cuz by the time your kids get to bed, you're probably need to sleep yourself, in a day. But in a week even the most busiest person with a parent and a business can, with a, with children in a business can probably find 12 minutes. And I think that was kinda why it's been a ha one of the reasons, it's been a habit that sustained for me, but then part of it was, A certain amount, a certain way in.

[00:20:13] I kind of realized that the habit was becoming really important to me. and I guess one of the insights I've had is that when you have a habit, if you keep it going for long enough, it starts to become weird not to do the thing rather than at first. It's weird to do the thing at first. It's weird to go to the gym in the morning, but after you've been doing it for a long time, it's kind of really weird not to do exercise in the morning.

[00:20:32] That's one of the things I found, Like at first it was kind of a weird and uncomfortable thing to write a blog post every week in 12 minutes and post it online with no almost no editing. and now it's weird if I don't do that, if it gets to and I haven't done it, I get a bit anxious and I have

[00:20:45] Nirish Shakya: Yeah, I love that. So basically you are training your brain to find not doing the behavior weird, pretty

[00:20:55] Robbie Swale: and the important thing about that is that, that to say to people is that I didn't know, like I didn't know this until I did it, is that it does happen. and it takes a while. so I learned from a woman called Ultra Star. I heard her say something like, we be, we become what we practice and we are always practicing something.

[00:21:14] And it's like you might have, I'm, I had been practicing not writing a blog post every week for a long time. So it's gonna take a while practicing writing a blog post every week for that to become more normal and a bit weird when I don't do it. So it doesn't happen overnight and we need more kind of commitment and to play more tricks on ourselves and that kinda thing.

[00:21:33] Nirish Shakya: it probably also helped me keep it as a habit for a long time that I it, as soon as it's out there in the world. once I've said, certainly after that first Christmas, I think it, by that point, it's weird actually. It happened surprisingly fast that people were. Like I remember , a guy I know called Jarrell. He was said, he sent, he tweeted me once saying I'm doing a Robby. And he with a picture of him like writing on the train. And it's like, again, once it's become a thing and you for it or that you do it again, it's a harder to give it impossible. it. I love it. Cause know, many people who listen to design feeling are designers, obviously, innovators, change makers, and a lot of times they're super busy doing the work, rather than talking about the work. So, writing, speaking, presenting, making social media posts and.

[00:22:23] I've been guilty of that as well, where I've been so hyper focused on my work that I haven't taken another time to, for example, write blog posts or create content, things like that. And I'm sure a lot people listening right now would want to get started with their content creating journey in terms of sharing their own knowledge, experience and skills and whatnot.

Getting started on your content creation journey

[00:22:42] Nirish Shakya: How would you recommend people get started, on that journey? especially let's say, I don't know, their trained ride is a bit longer or bit shorter or, or maybe they'll work from home, where there are more distractions. there's no like one time box limit of being gonna train. How would you suggest people get.

[00:22:59] Robbie Swale: well, I, I've become a huge fan of the, of a timer. Like, I just think it's a, it's a really useful thing. I use time as in all kinds of ways to help me do the things I want to do now. but I think the kind of higher level thought here is probably something like this. It's the, yeah, the kind of the bigger picture, longer term stuff.

[00:23:21] That's what I, that's where I get interested in in this kind of thing. It's like, but it's the, so it's like in the kind of important urgent matrix if, if you've ever come across that

[00:23:30] Nirish Shakya: Mm-hmm. , Theise, Andhow Matrix.

[00:23:32] Robbie Swale: exactly the important but not urgent square. That's the one that's, that's interesting for a practice like this.

[00:23:37] So it is like, it is important to, to talk about our work, to practice doing that, to share the things we've learned. Like that's a really important way to have impact, influence. it's never as urgent as a client. Some client work that's j right or, panicking about our tax return or whatever that thing is.

[00:23:56] you tells end the, and so, for me then the, the piece, the question becomes honestly, what is the minimum viable amount of time that you could spend? And I would, I think weekly is a good, is a better rhythm for this kind of thing than daily and a, and I think it's a better rhythm for most people than monthly.

[00:24:17] so what's a minimum viable amount of time you could spend each week, on essentially the important but not urgent stuff. And then it's a timer exercise and it's like, but it's about obsessing, about what's, what's enough. It's just enough of that. not what's as much as possible. Cause we'd all love to like, I'd love to have two days every week.

[00:24:35] Robbie Swale: To work on all my creative stuff and that would be a lot of fun. But I'm ne youthat's just not,

[00:24:40] Nirish Shakya: And we never end up doing it.

[00:24:41] Robbie Swale: exactly, So it's about that lesson. It, it's kind of, I think, I guess I'm talking and thinking cuz of the questions and the way we've been talking about, it's like the thing that you can keep going with.

[00:24:51] That's one of the lessons so that I've learned. So it's like, what's in that, what's the, what's the, what's the important but not urgent thing? What's enough? And that might be the, the, the 12 minutes. Like, I guess one of the things I've learned from the 12 minute thing is you can get a lot more done in a short period of time.

[00:25:07] I can get a lot more done. Can't speak for, I can lot more done in a short period of time than I think there've been a bunch of times over the times over the last six years when like, I've had an idea for an article that I was like, this one, this is gonna need to be a proper article. I'm gonna need to sit down for an afternoon to write this.

[00:25:23] And then like six months has passed and I still haven't written down my cool idea about branding. Exactly. Like, I'm like, well when am I ever gonna write the article about branding? Oh, okay. Maybe I just need to get over myself and. Do a 12 minute version of it. So at least there's a 12

[00:25:37] Nirish Shakya: very seen here,

[00:25:38] Robbie Swale: And, and then it, and then it turns out nearest that the 12 minute, in 12 minutes I can get like it, the whole, pretty much the whole article I'm branding done because it, it, it just didn't need the thinking.

[00:25:49] Like I think there's a proper way of writing an article. And it turns out, if you do an 80 20 analysis on writing my article about branding, I can do it. I can do the, the 20% is 12 minutes and that gets me 80% of the output. So it's like

[00:26:01] Nirish Shakya: Hmm.

[00:26:02] Robbie Swale: experiment with, I guess cause, cause I'm trying to give the practical stuff here.

[00:26:06] Experiment with less if you wanna get started, experiment with less time than you think at first. because probably you can do more in that time. And I guess what I, to hit one more, one more kind of thought about this. So after three years of these, of this 12 minute writing practice, I realized I'd written.

[00:26:29] 80,000 words, 12 minutes at a time. And so this is such an obvious lesson, Nourish rich, but I didn't know it. Like I kind of could think it but didn't know it, which is that if you sit down for a small amount of time consistently every week, in the end you end up with a lot. And it's like obviously true, like self evidently true.

[00:26:50] And yet I didn't use that at all in my life or work. And now I use it loads because I, I really learned it by that because essentially those 80 words is where the series of the 12 month method series of books came from. I can talk more about that if that's interesting, but I guess we're talking about practically how do we get started?

[00:27:07] it is first just practice starting with whatever the thing.

Juggling consistency and intensity

[00:27:12] Nirish Shakya: and consistency always trump's intensity.

[00:27:17] Robbie Swale: I, I, I would question that slightly. Like I started saying that kind of thing. Like I started thinking a lot about the tortoise and the hair when I published the second book in the series. The second book is, The first book is how to Start when You're Stuck. And the second one is how to keep going when you want to give up.

[00:27:32] And when I published, Keep Going. I was thinking a lot about the tortoise and the hair. Cause I was thinking about how the tortoise, I was the tortoise with my 12 minutes a week versus other people who had like written lots more blog posts than me at the start and have now written far fewer than me because they were more the hair and I was more the tortoise.

[00:27:50] I think there are really times for the hair, and there are times for intensity, but, but it's like, I think most of us either. Like, we know about the hair, we know about the story of hustle, and we use it. And in fact, we overuse it to the point where we, we get exhausted and we d we don't leverage the tortoise enough.

[00:28:11] I certainly didn't. And it's like, actually you can leverage the tortoise by going, I'm gonna do like one social media. If I do one thoughtful social media post once a week in a 15 minute period that I do on Friday mornings every week, then I'll have 50 by the end of the year. And that will have the, the, the interesting thing about these, these kind of practices is they don't, they won't just affect your social media, right?

[00:28:36] Because to do a social media post, to have a blog post every week, I have to have an idea every week. And I have to practice communicating that idea. And I have to, deal with my fear and I have to be courageous. And so there's all these things that I'm practicing accidentally through a creative practice like that, which have all had a huge impact on me, over six years of that practice.

[00:28:58] Nirish Shakya: I love it. I love it how you. Painted that picture of that ripple effect of just that one social media post. Not just about, Hey Argo, I'm gonna just sit down, write, and post it. all the things that need to happen to get to that point and all the things that could happen after that point, could really help you learn and grow.

[00:29:18] I had never actually thought about it like that.

[00:29:20] Robbie Swale: absolutely. And I mean, another way to think about it, is sometimes when I wanna guide people through setting up a 12 minute practice, I, I, I tried to reverse engineer what Javan I did. We didn't do this consciously, but essentially we asked me a kind of bigger question than ones we've been talking about, which is, who do you want to be like in five years?

[00:29:37] Robbie, How do you want to be different? And I want to be someone, I wanted to be someone who could share things they'd made online, without feeling that kind of anxiety and fear. And then essentially we asked me the question, Well, what does that, what does someone who can share those things online without anxiety and fear do regularly?

[00:29:53] Well, they share things online. And then how can you do that in a way that you can practice it every week and there's the, without getting too stressed in a safe way without stretching beyond the, in, beyond the stretch zone with building the self-efficacy. Well I can write in on the train or in 12 minutes.

[00:30:09] So you can also play that out. You can think, who do I wanna be in three or five years and what does a person like that do regularly? Then how can I break that into something down that I can do and practice every week?

The pain of shedding your identity

[00:30:18] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. Start, Yeah. Starting with who, like, like your identity, right? Cause a lot of times we tend to do things that aligns with our, in what we believe our identity to be. And

[00:30:31] Robbie Swale: Here's the rules again. Yeah, so we have some more rules here. Like I have some rules about what Robbie does like, cuz Robbie is this and that and the other. And I am a man who grew up in England who went to a state school. who studied maths at university, who worked in the arts? What does Robbie, who did all those things do?

[00:30:48] And then I act in those ways until I realize those are a bunch of made up rules too. And we can just choose. So obey different rules if we want to,

[00:30:56] Nirish Shakya: Yeah,

[00:30:57] Robbie Swale: it's hard because our identity doesn't like that. Right. Nourish. This is worth saying. Like we, the part of us that is us doesn't wanna die. I think this is a part of all that fear as well.

[00:31:05] It's like, if I do this thing that's scary, I'll change. So as a part of me, the current identity really doesn't wanna change cause it doesn't think it's safe. Cause it's not safe for it because, and I heard, one of my mentors, Robert Holden, said something like this once, he was like, it feels like when you're gonna do the, the, the courageous thing that you're not gonna get through it alive.

[00:31:24] And that's because you're not like the you that goes in and does the courageous thing is not gonna get through it alive cuz you're gonna come through it, you're gonna be changed. And that's really scary for your current identity. So I think it's a great, really good point that you make about. It's about our identity.

[00:31:40] That's one of the things that's going on. And that I'd never caught that. That's what that question does, isn't it? Who do you want to be in three years asks you how do you want your identity to change?

[00:31:49] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. And another topic that I was, I came across recently was this topic of, of, creative destruction. Right? If you wanna create something new, you gotta destroy something that already exists. And a lot of times it is about destroying elements within your current identity that you wanna let go of so that you can make space for the new elements that you wanna bring into it to your identity.

[00:32:09] Robbie Swale: And I dunno about you, but I, I hate that. Like, I know it's true, but it's unpleasant. It's horrible. I don't like it. Like we're kind of, we were talking a, a bit, a few minutes ago,

[00:32:19] Nirish Shakya: It's not comfortable. It's very uncomfortable.

[00:32:21] Robbie Swale: exactly.

[00:32:22] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. And, I can totally relate to that story because, I mean, this time last year, I didn't have a podcast. so I had to adopt that, adopt, adapt, adopt. I had to adopt the identity of a podcaster, which didn't really come easy to me. Like, I, I don't really like to, put myself out there or be the center of attention, anything like that.

[00:32:47] And it, it took a while for me to kind of adopt that identity. And now that I have adopted that, now not releasing an episode every fortnight makes my mind feel uncomfortable, right? Because it's like the new normal for me. it feels weird. and I remember like, when I was starting out, people were saying, Oh, you should, post every week, like post a new episode every week. I didn't wanna do that because I knew that if I just posted every week that I was gonna fail. That's just too much work for me for, for my other commitments. So I started with for Fortnight a week. and now without, in thinking about it, I've got more than 20 episodes, I think like 22, 23 episodes. And it doesn't, hasn't felt like a lot of work, but I've managed to kind of get to that, number, which I never thought was achievable for me, like this time last.

[00:33:37] Robbie Swale: And, and what did you have to, So there's loads in there, isn't there? Like, cause you come across, Now I gotta say, cuz I've, I've been on quite a lot of podcasts. You come across as very natural and you have like quite a strong, presence in the show, but also in the way that you do it. Like, it feels like you really.

[00:33:53] Created this show like you Yeah. You feel re grounded in it, in it all. so I'm curious about that, but I'm also curious about what you had to do to, So it's like one of the choices you made was fortnightly and not weekly. And it's really interesting cause with my podcast I started off fortnightly and realized that was too much and went monthly, even though that's not what, what you're supposed to do.

[00:34:12] and I, my, one of my podcasts anyway. And so I'm curious if were, were there any other things you had to do to make it sustainable so that you could get to 20 something episodes?

[00:34:23] Nirish Shakya: I think the thing that really worked for me was. Like you said, social accountability. I told my listeners I'm gonna, I was gonna publish every fortnight and if I didn't do it then that misaligned with the identity I was trying to create, pub in public.

[00:34:42] Robbie Swale: Yeah. And you'd be out, you'd be out of integrity as well. Right. You, you've broken your word, which to a lot of people is. It's like we, people do it all the time. It's been like, I've been really practicing in the last few years to, to never lie, which is a really hard thing to do. And you do it. Like I, I did it in a shop the other day.

[00:34:59] I just said, See you soon. And I walked out and I was like, I'm never gonna go in the shop again. What? Like, it doesn't make any sense, So it's like we do, we tell all these tiny little, like, without thinking lies, but we'd also do it to ourselves and our friends. So, But there's a piece there, which is, Yeah, you also, like, once you've said you're gonna do it, it's quite a thing, isn't it?

[00:35:19] Social accountability, integrity, all those things.

Growing your creative confidence using experiments

[00:35:24] Nirish Shakya: So, Another thing that I wanted to dig a bit deeper with you was, around creative confidence and being able to use the skills you already have as a designer, as a problem solver, as an innovator, to use them creatively in the workplace or, wherever you operate in the industry.

[00:35:46] And not having that fear that, oh, what, if someone thinks it's not good enough, or what if I'm using the wrong technique? Because I, I felt like that a lot of times, growing in my career where, for example, I, learned about a lot of the design techniques at, university. but even though I knew a lot of the techniques, I was too scared to use them properly in the workplace.

[00:36:11] or like, even going into meetings, With stakeholders, they would be having a chat about how to solve a problem. And in my head I would know, or I would have a particular method that I've learned and also used in the past that I know very well could potentially work. But I would, I'd be too scared to even speak up and say, Look, can we try this?

[00:36:33] Nirish Shakya: Because, well, first of all, I didn't wanna stand out. I didn't want to be then wrong and I didn't want to be made fun of. And that really stopped me from, expressing a lot of my opinions and suggestions and ideas that very, very valid. And I think that really stunted my growth, doing my, especially during the early stage of my career. how, how, what should do you think I should have done?

[00:37:00] Robbie Swale: I'm curious, first of all, like I've got a load of ideas in there I can speak about, but, but what do you think you should have done differently?

[00:37:07] Nirish Shakya: I'm min asking the here,

[00:37:11] Robbie Swale: I know it's so, it's terrible. I hate it on my show. People ask me questions, it's like, What are you doing? But Nearest you told me this is like we're having a coffee, so I'm asking you a question, but you can bat it back to me if you want.

[00:37:20] Nirish Shakya: I'm gonna, I'm gonna try to talk your talk or talk your walk. I dunno, I'm thinking of the 12 minute method, . Was there anything I could've done to, just to get started? but then I would've just tried to maybe just say it and see what happens and, I don't know, treat it as an experiments maybe.

[00:37:42] Robbie Swale: Yeah, I think that that would be in there for me. But, but first of all, I wanna say like, it's easy for us to talk about. It's easier for us to talk about this later in our careers, And, and, and it, and it feel like we could have done more earlier in our careers. cause I feel I have some of those same stories that you do, or it feels like that, But we are different now to how we were then.

[00:38:02] And, and I also think, I'm always aware, I think one of the reason people hire me is because I'm outside of organizations, right? So like, and I like it outside of organizations. It fits with who I am and I work for myself and I go into organizations and that's great, but. Being in an organization, there is a lot going on beyond the individual.

[00:38:22] There is a lot of, organizational culture norms. And there, we can, the rules that don't even exist, it's not quite true that they don't exist in some cases. It's just that they're not rules in the way that you think they are. But there can be ways of being and things that just aren't done.

[00:38:36] And they can be hard to resist in an organization. And in an organization. It's easy to say,it's just an irrational fear. You won't get kicked out of the tribe, but people do lose their jobs and that is a thing that happens. And you can not actually lose your job, but have your life made hell in an organization by somebody who is on something and on some trip and wants to do that.

[00:38:59] So like, all of that is real. And we need to say that, especially if somebody's listening who's in the organization, who's been in the meeting, who's had the solution, but has felt like terrified of saying it. Like there may be something in that. For that person. And there may have been something in that for you.

[00:39:17] I think the actual action piece is something like what you said. It would be designed, some experiments to try it in the, but we, again, we remember the, the self-efficacy piece. so it's like they should be small and safe, right? So there was something, if we go back to the 12 minute method, it was small, five, five blog posts.

[00:39:37] And it was safe because at the bottom of every blog post I said, I wrote this article on a train and what that did, know, with one proofread. And then I posted it. And what that does is it lets the terrified part of me relax just that tiny bit. Cause it's like anyone who mocks me for this article, like it was written on a train, I can just say that.

[00:39:54] Remind them of it. And I, I'm off the hook, right? So it's like the practice, we wanna make it small and safe and then we wanna gradually build it to build that confidence so that. That's a part of it. The other piece I think, goes back to that identity thing. So one of the things I think that can be a powerful exercise is to define, like you said about the podcast, who do we want to be?

[00:40:20] Like, what kind of person do I want to be in meetings? How do I, how do I want to show up? And, I, I guess for you, it sounds like, and I, I really feel this and I've had clients who are the same as well. I wanna show up as someone who's able to share the things I know, Right? Of course. That's my story, because that's what this whole thing was about for me. then the problem is I'm not that yet because I'm not sharing it. I'm sitting in these meetings not giving the answers, and I feel terrified about it. So I'm gonna have to practice that in. and then, then that practicing again, it could, it could come through in experiments. Like, what's the safest meeting?

[00:40:54] Where can I practice? Just saying one thing, whatever it is in the meeting, more than I would've otherwise. but sometimes the first step I do with people when I'm working with people is the first task is to just, in the meeting, just notice what happens. Just the first one. Don't try and change anything.

[00:41:09] It's like the breathing piece, right? Just go to the meeting, sit in it. And your task for the first one is just to notice, just to pay attention what

[00:41:17] Nirish Shakya: I mean, notice what happens in the room or inside of you.

[00:41:20] Robbie Swale: ex Exactly. Everything. Well, I don't really ask, usually I just say notice what happens and see what people come back with. And sometimes they'll come back with, Well, this is what happened. And actually, that woman was quite mean to the, my colleague who, who, who spoke up. So it's no wonder I don't want to, speak up or sometimes it's, yeah, I had the idea and then I just went hot and cold and, And like, I felt super and my breathing got faster and I noticed that.

[00:41:43] And then depending on what they say, we get into like, well, what's the thing? Then? What else is interesting and what's the one thing you wanna change? So running experiments like this is good to remember our like,high school science, it's like only change one variable at a time. So maybe it's like, well this time next time just try when you get hot and cold and your breathing changes, try changing your breathing. See what happens. Or maybe it's like, just smile at the person who, the, the at the person who was mean, or the person who was had someone be mean to them. it's like, I don't know what the thing is, but we'll just try something. And usually actually thinking about the work I've done with clients, usually a bit like the 12 minute thing. The change happens quicker than you think, with these things. And then one last thing, and I've said a lot in your, so choose where we go from here. One last thing is, you talked about creative confidence. There's another way of looking at this. So that's all quite direct at that meeting scenario and what we might do. But what I've found is that creative confidence in one area tends to affect our confidence in other areas. creativity really is about doing something, that, that we don't know how it'll turn turnout. So once I've practiced writing and sharing posts, and I dunno how that'll turn out, I have gradually become, it's not the only work I've done on things like this, but it has definitely contributed to me being up for saying things to people and not knowing how it'll turn out. So it could also be that a good way for a a, a designer, a change, a problem solver, a leader to think about this is find a way somewhere to practice being creative, trusting that that will help them in the other places that they want to be.

[00:43:23] Nirish Shakya: I love that it's kind of like creating something and just releasing it into the universe without knowing where it's gonna up.

[00:43:32] Robbie Swale: Yeah. And that's what happens when you're like, Cuz that's the, like the fears, if you think about the meeting situation are really similar to the fears we were talking about, about the podcast or about the WhatsApp message or about the 12 minute blog. It's like, I'm afraid that I'll get kicked out of the tribe here and I'll die and I'll be

[00:43:46] Nirish Shakya: Hmm,

[00:43:47] Robbie Swale: so like practice facing that fear in one place.

[00:43:49] And it's like, which is anything you put out into the world really, and it'll help, It might help you in another.

[00:43:56] Nirish Shakya: love it. 

Releasing your creation out into the world without expectations

[00:43:57] Nirish Shakya: And a lot of times we tend to create things with expectations in mind in terms of, I, this has to receive a certain kind of, reception from people, or, it has to be perfect or it has to be this and that. and when we set ourselves those, I guess, self-limiting expectations, that creates more fear within us that either stops us from doing it, or yeah, we just don't do it at all.

[00:44:22] Robbie Swale: And it also kind of, it sets us up to fail in some ways, and it, and it puts success outside of our control. like we can't guarantee, like there's no, no one can guarantee that when they write an article, no matter how big your mailing list is, it'll get a certain number of clicks or likes. what's in our control is to create it and to share it.

[00:44:41] and so, yeah, for me, an important part of like, looking back, going back to your question about how did I maintain the habit, there was an important part of it, which again, this is something that I knew of, but I hadn't really practiced before. The, the 12 minute method was, like I knew that. I needed to focus on the practice, not the outcome. so it, it, for me, it was about if I've shared the piece, if I've written it in 12 minutes, proofread it once and shared it, I've succeeded. It's not, it's got a certain number of, that doesn't, it doesn't mean I don't think about, worry about, get anxious about the number of likes or comments and that kind of thing.

[00:45:18] Robbie Swale: So if anyone's listening, going, Please go and comment on my articles, my ego needs it. but it's like at the end of the week, have I done the thing that I could do? Yes. So I can feel at peace with myself.

[00:45:30] Nirish Shakya: So you are more concerned about what's under your control rather than what's not, which is like likes and comments and things.

[00:45:38] Robbie Swale: yeah, exactly. Like one, one of my favorite frames for this, this is a good thing to think about, is like, it's good if I've got a client who once, for example, has a set, wants to set a financial goal for their. I'm gonna say something like this to them. I'm gonna say, Well look, let's do that and let's make it an ambitious one.

[00:45:53] Cause that's gonna help us get creative. It's gonna help us, you get into action. It's gonna have us like doing some really good, thoughtful, exciting work. And a financial goal for the business is outside of your control. Like, it doesn't matter how many proposals you send out, you can't guarantee that anyone will say yes to them, no matter how much thought you put into those proposals.

[00:46:13] Cause we dunno what's happening in the client's business or anything, right? And so we wanna set that goal, but we don't wanna define our success by that goal. We wanna define our success by what are the things that are completely within your control to do. and usually that I ask that by like, what would you have to do about, for example, growing your business such that regardless of the outcome, you can feel at peace with yourself.

[00:46:37] And that's essentially another way of asking the question, What, when have you done? And I've done enough if I've written the blog post, like it's wonderful. Some, some of them have been read thousands of times. Some, most of them have been read, I don't know, a hundred or, or 200 times or less. but I've done my bit if I've made it and shared it, and then I can feel a piece of myself.

[00:46:55] Nirish Shakya: I love that. I actually started, doing something similar during my weekly reviews, where I, I used to follow them more of the, the get things done, David Allens Get Things Done Weekly Review. Methodology. but even at the end of the week, I never felt like I was doing enough. Cause there was always something more I had to do.

[00:47:14] And I recently decided just like change the way I was doing my weekly review in terms of I wanted to basically at the end of the weekly review feel that I was doing enough, right? Regardless of how much I did. And I basically define what enough looked like

[00:47:30] Robbie Swale: Hmm.

[00:47:31] Nirish Shakya: so I can use the eyes andhow matrix in terms of listen down everything that I knew I had to do for the week, but also categorizing them and okay, what is important and urgent?

[00:47:41] What is not urgent but important? And also things that were not important and not the urgent. And at the end of the week, I would look, look at all my things I've done, and if I have not been able to do the things, and if they're in the not urgent and not important bracket, I wouldn't worry too much about it.

[00:47:59] Robbie Swale: Mm-hmm.

[00:48:00] Nirish Shakya: Because for me that was enough. Whereas before, because I didn't have any rules around categorization, I thought I had to get everything on my list done. For me to feel that I've enough and that I'm enough

[00:48:14] Robbie Swale: yeah. I, I love it near, So you've done what I call, uh, attitude management there. So I have this, I, I, I don't think, I think the people who focus too much on time management are like setting themselves up to fail. Cuz we can't manage time. It's just a thing that ticks by, like, we don't have any control over it.

[00:48:28] Right. We, we just can't

[00:48:29] Nirish Shakya: is time. Even

[00:48:31] Robbie Swale: Exactly right. I mean, yeah, another rule that doesn't

[00:48:34] Nirish Shakya: a.

[00:48:34] Robbie Swale: potentially. but, but one of the things that I think, So one of the questions that I sometimes ask when I give talks on time management or productivity is, do you actually want to do more or do you just not want to feel like you're failing all the time?

[00:48:46] And if that's the case, which it always is for somebody, at least in the talk or the, the, the room that I'm in, a bit like you, it's like I can just change the way that I think about all this. I can change my mindset and there's some great ideas for it. Like one of the ones that I talk about is essentially what you've done.

[00:49:01] It's like, write your to-do list. Use your ex in a way that you can succeed at it. So don't write like write book on your to-do list, cuz there's no week where you're gonna write a book, right? It's like, write something that you could feasibly cross off at the end of the week, which might be like, spend one morning of this week, spend the morning, spend three hours writing, whatever.

[00:49:20] It's. Another one that you might like or listeners might like is, I learned this from Gay Hendrix. I is to put yourself on a diet just for a couple of weeks, of not complaining about time. And one of the interesting things about this is I discovered when I did this that, , like a lot of the pain came from me.

[00:49:36] Me worrying and talking and complaining about time all the time. And when I stopped doing that great example of this, I used to, I I, this is gonna, for some listeners, they're gonna be like, Oh no, me too. Maybe you, I used to start all my emails basically with, so sorry for the delay in replying to this email, right?

[00:49:54] Nirish Shakya: all been guilty

[00:49:54] Robbie Swale: All of them, but like all of them. And I just, for this two weeks cuz I'd set myself this thing, based on Gay Hendrick's idea. I just stopped doing it. And what was amazing was, I actually sent more email. and not just because I wasn't wasting time writing that sentence at the start, but because I stopped feeling guilty every time I hit my inbox.

[00:50:11] Cause what happened was every time I hit my inbox, I had this story, this rule I'd made up that I should have replied to all these emails already. And when I stopped telling myself that story, every email that I sent, I felt better about them. And then suddenly, in fact, I was able to be more, more productive in the, in a kind of human sense, which is not just getting stuff done, but doing what matters.

[00:50:35] Nirish Shakya: That's awesome. I love that. I mean, small things can make a huge difference.

[00:50:39] Robbie Swale: Yeah. And, and again, it's like, I think it's a really important one because that, that, it's amazing that you've done it in that way. And I think people could, could do that. I could do the diet about time. My friend Joe Hunter, she likes, she tells people instead of a to-do list, write a ta-da list like with jazz hands, like musical theater.

[00:50:55] because it's like, what are all the things you've done? Because often we haven't crossed everything off our to-do list. But, a good one to do for this is like, check your sent items at the end of the day. Cause no one remembers the emails they've sent. Right. We just remember what's in our inbox.

[00:51:09] Robbie Swale: If you look in your sent items or your, it's like, it's go, it's easier on email than it's on something like WhatsApp. On email, you can just see they're like, I dunno, probably when I worked in an organization I used to send, like, I got hundred emails a day, but I wouldn't think about them because they were just like, fast done things and instead you've got this list, Oh, I am doing something, I'm, I'm contributing in some way.

[00:51:29] Nirish Shakya: It's a productivity trap.

[00:51:30] Robbie Swale: Yeah, absolutely.

Stop doing 1 thing each week that drains your energy

[00:51:31] another thing that, I picked from one of your books was, this question, that I asked myself, which is, which one thing that drains me of energy that I'll stop doing this week? and that's something that I started doing recently in terms of kinda looking back my week and then just.

[00:51:46] Nirish Shakya: Trying to kind of see like what gave me more energy and what sucked it out of me.

[00:51:50] Robbie Swale: Yeah.

[00:51:51] and I found that a really powerful exercise to just, again, first of all just be aware of what's happening.

[00:51:59] Robbie Swale: It's a noticing thing again actually, isn't it? It starts with that, isn't it?

[00:52:02] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. A lot of times I realize, I, some of the things I, I have to do because, they start the way like in a lot of, I hate a lot of the admin work when it comes to, for example, running this podcast or I, I hate looking through lots and lots of data when I'm doing my design work cuz I'm not really a data person.

[00:52:19] I'm more of a, a people and a visual person. But sometimes I don't have a choice. I have to do it. But what I realized was that just being aware mentally and emotionally prepares me for it. That okay, maybe before I do this exercise, I need to just, I. Have a cup of coffee or just go for a walk, or maybe after I've done it I need to take a nap or something just to kind of, recharge my batteries because I'll be more aware of what was going to happen and be better.

[00:52:46] Prepare.

[00:52:47] Robbie Swale: Right. So the thing that trains you of energy, it is doing the task, but it's also the stuff that surrounds it, right? It's doing it when you're tired. It's the kind of resentment of doing it. It's, it's feeling like you shouldn't be doing it. So asking that question, paying attention, auditing the things that give us, and, and, and trainers of energy is a really important task.

[00:53:05] Again, like sometimes when I talk about, sometimes for people, it's not about time management, it's about energy management, right? If you could look after yourself mentally, emotion, Which is, one of the reasons it's great that this show exists spiritually, physically, if you could look after yourself in all those ways, we could do more of the things, but also feel better while we're doing it.

[00:53:23] and yeah, that question, again, it was part of a coaching program that I was a member of. Once I was asked to an answer that question, what's one thing that drains me of energy that I will stop doing this week? And it had that effect on me that you're talking about. It made me look back, It made me notice all kinds of things.

[00:53:39] Robbie Swale: Things about like, I would just sometimes, which I was able to then try and stop doing again. Just bring into awareness. So it'd be like just spending, I think I was playing a computer game at the time and there was like a time, every time I played it that, I would get energy from it. It'd be exciting, it'd be fun.

[00:53:54] And then sometimes I would be on it for like an hour too. And by the end, at some point in that hour I, it would start to drain me of energy and I would leave it feeling kind of groggy and a bit, a bit self-loathing, and there, there it was. But until I noticed that slowed down and noticed it, I didn't have that perspective to be able to start changing it.

[00:54:12] So it would be things like that. But I also like that question was what made me sort out my finances. This is a weird thing to say because I noticed that what, one week I noticed what drains me of energy is worrying about my money and do, It wasn't just that though, it was worrying about my money and doing nothing about it. So I was like, okay, I'll stop doing that this week. And then once I've said to my friends and this pro coaching program, I'll stop doing that this week. And the next time I'm doing it, I'm like, am I gonna, again, bit like you said, am I gonna break my word? Am I gonna be embarrassed next time I'm writing about this or am I gonna do something about my finances?

[00:54:48] And I did the thing that I kind of knew and it was like, it wasn't perfect, but I did something right at the time. For me it was. Set up a different account, like make a decision about saving tax money and how that works. Saving for, for when, my business is going badly. those kind of things.

[00:55:04] It was just like, what's my first try at this? I need to do something, this and that is basically how I got my finances under control.

[00:55:12] Nirish Shakya: I love that. I mean, there's, there's so much. I can definitely pick from this conversation and try it next time. I'm, I'm feeling that resistance of,doing my taxes or something

[00:55:22] Robbie Swale: Yeah. I know. Me too. I still haven't, I still haven't got to a point where I, I think one year I did it in like October, but I'm, I'm the deadline is, the, is still the thing for me with that maybe next year.

[00:55:33] Nirish Shakya: So Robbie, now I would like you to close your eyes and imagine yourself from six years ago, you know that Robbie swell, the younger year Robbie swell that was about to take the train, the 12 minute train, riding something on the train for the first time. What advice would you give that Robbie Swale,

[00:55:54] Robbie Swale: Hmm. It's a lovely question. As a science fiction fan there, I always, worry about that kind of question though, because I don't wanna change the space time continuum too much. especially now I've had a, a child, there's a film, I think it's called About Time, it's like a kind of romantic comedy about time travel with Bill Nae in it.

[00:56:12] And one of the great amazing time travel points that I'd never heard anyone meet before. He can't time. Once he's had a baby, he can't time travel back to before the baby, because if he does, it, the baby changes. There's this like, horrific moment where he comes back to the present and it's, it's a different baby and he doesn't change.

[00:56:29] slow. It's a great one. for me, I think a lot of the path of the last six years has been a path of trust. now I'm not sure that this advice would land, cause I think it's, it might be one of those things I just had to, I just had to go through practicing trust, like practicing making something, sharing it, and trusting.

[00:56:50] but I think it would be, the advice I would give would be, you can, you can trust yourself that little bit more than you're, And you can trust that the, the universe a little bit more than you're doing and, and that'll be okay.

[00:57:04] Nirish Shakya: Love it. Love it. Thanks for sharing that, Rocky.

[00:57:10] Robbie Swale: Thanks for asking.

[00:57:13] Nirish Shakya: that leads me to my next question. What's been your biggest failure doing this journey, and what did you learn from it?

[00:57:27] Robbie Swale: Well, what comes to mind is that I use a goal setting exercise every year. It's a, a story that James Clear first share that I first read about on James Clear's blog. It's a story about Warren Buffet. I won't tell the story now, but we can find a link to it about an avoid creating an avoid at all costs list.

[00:57:46] And, and what it, what it, I use it in a yearly, yearly way and it leads me to five goals for a year. And I had published 12 minute book on that for two years, two different calendar years before the calendar year in which I got the first 12 minute book out. And, I wrote about this, each, each year, like I, those two years I hit it and I had to like, I felt like it was important to do this.

[00:58:12] It was important to write an article about when you don't hit your goals for the year. Like I'd set goals and it's fun. The first couple times I did this goals exercise, it was great. It really served me. Cause it's. Remembering what's important, the most important things, and then remembering that the next most important things, they're the highest risk things.

[00:58:31] So like if you wanna make sure you do your five most important goals for the year goals six to 25, they're the most important things for you to not do because they're the things that will distract you. Cause they're really good things to do, right? They're interesting things, they're good, but if you do them, you spread yourself too thin.

[00:58:47] And the first time, couple of times I did this, it made me much more productive because suddenly I had permission to say no to everything else. And I focused on the things. But then, it's like each level of success you have to, you need, brings in new complexity of problems. And a few years, like I didn't, I, well two years I didn't publish the books.

[00:59:08] I didn't know whether it was re resist resistance. I didn't know what was going on. Like it looked like I was learning about, on one level, I was learning about publishing and working out publishing industries, but hugely disrupted. It's kinda learning, working out. Where do these books best sit now? . but also I was learning about goal setting and it was like, well, look, if I, I didn't include the training course I was doing on my list, and it's like I did a training course that that took a lot of time.

[00:59:36] And when I look back at the end of the year and was like, Why haven't I done this thing? It was like, well, I didn't take into account the fact that I was gonna spend, I can't remember what it was, three hours a week for three months on this training course. That wasn't part of how I looked at it.

[00:59:50] I had to look even more carefully at what I was doing. and yeah, there were other, other things in other years that I can't quite remember, but that's one of the failures. It's like, yeah, it, it, and, and I guess in that publishing story of these books, I'm not sure about that one near, if that was a failure.

[01:00:11] Cause I feel really happy with how, where they've ended up. And maybe I needed those kind of two years of. Thinking, I had a publishing off from a publisher, which in the end I decided not to take cause it wasn't right. But I waited a long time for that and it's like, maybe I needed to go through that to get them to the right place.

[01:00:27] I don't know about that one. but for sure, And there's another book, another way of thinking about it is there's another book that I had on that, that list as well, It isn't still isn't published. And I've, I feel like I've learned quite a lot from that as well. Again, about like, well, what am I actually gonna do?

[01:00:41] And how clear do I actually need to be about these things? And how do I write goals for a year in a way that I can succeed at them in the same way you, you are changing the way you're dealing with that for a week. So Yeah. Be somewhere in there, I think.

[01:00:53] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. There was a quote I heard. You either succeed or you.

[01:00:56] Robbie Swale: Right. Well that's, I mean that's what's great about that and that's the way I think about it, is it really does, if you keep practicing that, if you keep practic and, and like I practic this, cause I've, had a coach for most of the last seven years and. if you're being coached by somebody really slowing down on, on the things that have gone well and the things that haven't, you're constantly learning.

[01:01:14] And so I've really embedded that. And if you really embed that, it's wonderful. Cause it does mean that when you look back at things, it's harder to find regrets. Cuz every failure does become, I think that's about this in my personal life as well. It's like the things that I regret the most. there now I think about them as I, I need to make sure I never do that again.

[01:01:32] I never hurt a person in that way, or I never, be as careless as I was there or whatever. These things are there. Like they're the rocks on which the kind of person I want to be as built. and I didn't used to know that. and it took quite a lot of kind of soul searching to, to get to that place, really.

[01:01:46] But I think you're right. It's like we can, if we look for those lessons, Then our past looks different. And when our past looks different, some of those rules we've set ourselves, just thinking about the start of the conversation, don't seem as, as firm anymore. We have more choice about them.

[01:02:04] Nirish Shakya: And what's the best resource that's helped you in your career?

[01:02:08] Robbie Swale: I guess. We talked about coaching quite a lot. Like it, I mean, I would say this, but I didn't know this at the start, but it, it really has been. But maybe the, like, I think if I hadn't read the War of Art by Stephen Pressfield before, setting out on this journey, it would've looked very different. there are a lot what I like about, about, Books like that is there are, there are other books that say the same thing.

[01:02:33] Like, if I'd read Big Magic by Liz Gilbert at The Perfect Moment as well, it's another amazing book about similar things, that would've done, It would've, it would've fulfilled that, that thing too. But I happen to read The War of Art, which is a book about winning our creative battles and dealing with resistance, which is what Stephen Presfield, who's the author, calls the kinda universal force that stops us doing the things that come from the higher parts of ourselves, the, the kinda courageous acts we've been talking about in this whole conversation.

[01:02:58] Writing businesses, speaking up when we can or want to. and, and the big lesson I got from that was I used to think that I, I basically had a rule, the, the rule that I thought I was true was people who are meant to start a business or write a book don't have these thoughts of doubt. That I have all these worries and fears.

[01:03:19] They're a sign that I shouldn't do these things. And the war of Art really taught me with all the stories that Pressfield tells about himself and about other people that e like if not everyone, many, many people, most people have these thoughts, but some people just do the thing anyway. and, and that was very powerful for me,

[01:03:38] Nirish Shakya: Mm, Love it. So Robbie, imagine it's your last day on earth and someone comes up to you with a tiny piece of paper and asks you to write something on that tiny piece of paper for the world to see. What would you write?

[01:03:56] Robbie Swale: Someone has asked me once, asked me this a little bit before, or a question a bit like it, and I gave an answer and then I thought afterwards I should have given a different answer. So I, I'll give you, I can, I can give you the different answer. So I said, when a guy called Neil McKinnon asked me that question, or a question a bit like it, was do the right thing. That's why

[01:04:13] Nirish Shakya: the right thing.

[01:04:13] Robbie Swale: do the right thing. That's

[01:04:14] Nirish Shakya: What did you mean by.

[01:04:16] Robbie Swale: So it's like, I think that, but, but what I would write on it now is do the right thing, even when it's hard. Like that's the thing that, I think that is one of the ways that if we could all, a way, it's what I've been practicing with the 12 minutes, right?

[01:04:36] It's like the right thing for me was to, was to share more of what I know, but it was really hard and so I wasn't doing it. For some people it's like, I know really No. Underneath that I need to, it can be all kinds of things. I need to break up with this person cuz it's bad for both of us. I need to.

[01:04:51] Be more present with my children, but it's really hard cause I get distracted by my phone all the time, or I need to,actually I get two choices. I can kind of, I can like do the easy thing and just tell these people about this bad news in my team by email, or I can do the right thing and I can sit down with them altogether or one at a time and do it.

[01:05:08] But that's scarier for me and harder for me. All of those things that I've just listed. Mostly people have a sense of what the right thing is, but it's really hard to do. And I think if we could all do the right thing, even when it's hard, our lives would be better and the world would better. in a way it's kind of, it's, it's more honor essentially.

[01:05:24] I think that the word honor often doesn't, it's one of my values really, but it often doesn't spit old fashioned, doesn't kind get used very much, but it's like that do the right, I think do doing the right thing, even when it's hard, is kind of a definition of being more honorable. And I think the world could just do with a bit of that really

[01:05:41] Nirish Shakya: I'm gonna do a quick recap of what I've learned that conversation over the past hour, and I think that's a great segue to what I was gonna say in terms of a lot of times, doing the right thing or, like in your case, sharing yourself, whether it's online or offline can be really scary.

[01:05:57] and that's anxiety. That fear does not feel nice. And even when you try to be brave, it feels really uncomfortable. but I think one of the things that, that I took to heart around getting started was, getting started is probably more important than being good, right? Is the confidence and the competence will come after.

[01:06:19] and the number one thing is just get started before you could. and one of the ways you could do that is to carve yourself this minimum viable amount of time, rather than saying, Okay, I'm gonna, I know write something for an hour every day, or I'm gonna work out or go for a run in every day. What is the minimum viable time that he can spend on it?

[01:06:41] Nirish Shakya: Like, what is enough? Right? Even if it's just like five minutes or 12 minutes. Right. Or even if it's two minutes. I think just like what I think James Claire mentions in his book Atomic Habits, but it's a two minute thing you can do. cuz once you create that time to perform that behavior, it's not just about that behavior, but everything that leads to that behavior.

[01:07:04] So in your case, I think you made a social media post, but to make that post, you had to have an idea. And to have an idea, you need to kinda sit down and think about it. And then the further ripple effect of that behavior as well in terms of maybe other people reading that post and then commenting on it, or maybe giving a call, talk more about it.

[01:07:23] So there's so many things that can happen before and after that little. Behavior you've created, right? So the impact is, far reaching. but a lot of times we don't do a lot of these things because it probably does not align with who we believe we are, our identity, our current identity, or we find it really difficult to let go of that, right?

[01:07:43] Because it is about killing a part of ourselves so that we can let a new part of ourself, be born and, and grow. and another thing we talked about was around creative confidence. and one thing that I really liked about what you said was around, around, before you even try to change anything by yourself or about the way you operate, just notice.

[01:08:09] What happens cuz there's great power in awareness. and that really reminds me of, a lot of the mindful practices that I've, I've learned as well. and also what you said around creativity is about, doing something without knowing how it's gonna turn out. Right. Just letting it go and focus on the things that you do have control over and not worry about the things you don't. Cause there's probably more things we don't have control over than things we do.

[01:08:38] Right. and I love how, one of the things that we talked about was around, what's that one thing that he can pick every week that he can let go? Something that is draining energy out of your week. Cause a lot of times we don't think about it. We never stop to reflect on this and then we just keep going to the motions, repeating the same thing every week.

[01:08:59] And then it just keeps draining our batteries and we don't know why. We don't know why it was so frustrated at the end of the week, why it was so exhausted. And sometimes just stopping and being aware of that can help you make the change or just manage your energy better. Right. a lot of times, getting started requires, like you said, trusting yourself a little bit more.

[01:09:19] cause sometimes, I have been guilty of not, not trusting myself, thinking maybe I'm not good enough. Can I do it? What if there's, what if that? Right. and ultimately it is about, yeah, doing the right thing, even when it's hard. know, a lot of times doing the right thing is not easy. doing things that are not as important is probably, a lot more enjoyable sometimes and lot more comforting when there's all these like, other distractions that,that's demanding our time and attention, energy.

[01:09:46] Nirish Shakya: But it's about, Sticking to your guns and picking that one thing that does matter to you now and will matter to you in the future. So many learning, so many nuggets there, Robbie. for me personally and I'm sure for whoever's listening right now. So thank you so much for sharing those.

[01:10:02] Robbie Swale: Yeah. Well thanks for reflecting them. It's really beautiful to hear and I feel like in this conversation. Yeah, thank you for all your thought partnership. Cause it's kinda, we've touched on some really beautiful, beautiful things. I think.

[01:10:16] Nirish Shakya: Thank you. So, Robbie, if people want to contact you or follow you online, how can they do that?

[01:10:24] Robbie Swale: So I'm at robbie That's the, kind of place where you can, from which you can find everything if you want to. Although, because my website is evolved, it's, it's due a kind full look at and redesign. It's a little hard to find things. So I'm gonna name a few things that you might find, want to find on there, or just Google of themselves.

[01:10:43] So you can find my books. They're on am but they're also on Amazon Waterstones, places like that. You can find my podcasts there in all the podcast places. There's one called The Coaches Journey, which is for coaches, and if you happen to be a coach listening, and I've got lots of resources for, but also on all the podcast platforms is the 12 Minute Method podcast.

[01:11:02] So that's not me slowing down and investigating for myself and trying to pay attention to the process, not worrying about listen, who's gonna listen and when it'll be useful. That kinda thing we've been talking about. slowing down for myself and trying to learn about what it, what it took for me to do the various different things that were hard for me to do, I didn't do for a long time.

[01:11:18] And then I finally did, and I'm also on most of the social media platforms, but LinkedIn is the one because of that was where the blogs posts went. That's the one I've ended up being most active on. So I'd love to connect with people who've heard this on LinkedIn if they wanna add me and just let know that you heard me on this show.

[01:11:34] yeah, and, and I'd just love to hear from people. Like it's very meaningful for me. When I hear from people saying this insight, this thing that I learned from you or your work in some way had this impact on me. So I love to hear from people who, who have that kinda thing to say,

[01:11:49] Nirish Shakya: So Robbie, you'd like to give away copies of your book, How to start when you're stuck. how do you, how, how can people, when.

[01:11:58] Robbie Swale: So I think what we'll do is we'll post a question, and I think you'll share this on your, on the various social media platforms that the podcast has. And the question is gonna be,what's the thing that you have been meaning to do for a long time, or wanting to do but haven't started?

[01:12:16] Nirish Shakya: So what's the one thing that you've been meaning to do that you haven't started yet? Oh man. I've got so many things.

[01:12:23] Robbie Swale: great. Well, you can enter as well, and what I think what we'll do is we'll pick, we'll pick a few, we'll either pick them randomly or we'll pick the ones that are most,most creative in some way. and, and then we've got a few of how to start. You're stuck there that we'll send across

[01:12:36] Nirish Shakya: amazing. So you can go onto either Instagram or. LinkedIn, even Facebook, Twitter, I think, and even TikTok. Now, I do have a, a channel on TikTok. so please post your responses, in the comment section. So we'll give you a couple of weeks to do that. Drop your responses by Thursday, the 24th of November, and Robbie his favorite responses that will win a copy of his book. How to Start when You're Stuck. And you can actually get =started with that thing that, that you're feeling stuck about.

[01:13:13] Robbie Swale: definitely. And I'll, I'll be around on most of those platforms as well to, to get involved in the discussion if there is some. Not on TikTok though, so I can't do that one.

[01:13:21] Nirish Shakya: Hey, you can always get started.

[01:13:22] Robbie Swale: could, but would it be, it might just be a distraction nearish from doing the important things. I'm not sure. Although there's some really fun, There's a WhatsApp group that I'm on that one of my friends sometimes posts TikTok videos too, and that it does look a lot fun

[01:13:34] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. Hey, I'm sure like, you can pull out a few dance routines,

[01:13:38] Robbie Swale: maybe. Yeah. I'm not sure about that. I think my two year old daughter is already a better dancer than me.

[01:13:46] Nirish Shakya: Great. Well thank you so much further, Robbie, it's been a pleasure chatting with you over the past hour. 

[01:13:51] Robbie Swale: Yeah. It's been a total pleasure here. Total pleasure.

[01:13:54] Nirish Shakya: Thank you so much for joining us in this chat. if you are enjoying listening to the Design Feeling podcast, please do consider leaving an honest review on Apple Podcasts. It'll really help get this podcast out to more people. And please do share the podcast with a Design Thinking friend who could benefit from these conversations. See you next time.