A new chapter: Product Manager at Oxford University Press

After three months of mini-retirement, or funemployment if you like the word (I do!), words can’t explain how honoured I am to tell the world that I’m the new Product Manager at the Oxford University Press.

Oxford University Press entrance

Starting today, I’ll be building products for the biggest university press in the world, whose history can be traced back to the earliest days of printing and goes all the way until now, with 6,000 team members across the world, and offices in 50 countries.

I’ll be based out of the main office in Oxford, so I’ll get to spend a significant amount of time in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, which is awesome to say the least.

As the relationship between product management and publishing is healthier than ever, I’m so excited at the prospect of shaping the future of high-level academic & educational products on the digital space. I will definitely share my experiences and challenges, so stay tuned for the next updates!

Product management tools at WordCamp London 2019

WordCamp London is an event I feel very attached to. It’s my local WordPress conference. It gave me one of my first public speaking opportunities back in 2015. If you have been to a WordCamp London in the past, you might have seen me running around with big boxes, or behind the registration desk. Last year I was one of the organisers, leading the communication team.

This year, I’m delighted to announce that I’m scheduled again as a speaker!

I’ll present a talk called Inside a Product Manager’s toolbox. Basically, tools and resources for product managers, founders at very early stage startups, solopreneurs, freelancers, plugin / theme shop owners, and generally speaking people who are in the business of building and selling digital goods.

It’s going to be a lightning talk, so it won’t last more than 10 minutes. I’m going to share my time slot with Luminus O. Alabi, who’s going to talk about remote work, and Mike Killen, who will explain marketing funnels for WordPress businesses.

When, where, why

WordCamp London will take place on 5-7 April at the wonderful London Metropolitan University.

5 April is Contributor Day, a day where people gather and either contribute to WordPress, or get themselves setup with help from seasoned contributors so that they can start contributing in the future. Whatever your magic is, there’s a strong chance you can apply it to WordPress.

6 and 7 April are conference days. I’m going to speak on the morning of 7 April, at 10:20am.

Tickets are still available, so if you work with WordPress, and you live in or around London—or you’re in the position to afford a trip to the best city in the world—then don’t hesitate and come join us. There are going to be plenty of learning, networking, and contributing opportunities.

Links

My speaker profile
My talk’s abstract
WordCamp London 2019 schedule

On Leaving Human Made

I have to admit it, I struggled a bit to think of the right words to write here. After a fantastic adventure with Human Made that kicked off on July 2013 with Happytables, and took me all the way to working on the various solutions we’ve been building for clients, today is my last day at Human Made.

This last lustrum meant a lot to me, and I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity to work with some of the smartest and brightest people I’ve ever met. Whilst I passionately love the whole concept of remote work, I wish I had spent more time together in the same place with them—maybe that’s what made the six retreats, one team meetup, and several trips and co-working sessions I had with many of them so special.

The Human Made team, Petritoli (Italy), 2017.

I’ve made some wonderful friends at Human Made, and many memories that I will cherish forever. The laughs, the hugs, the deepest and most interesting conversations, until the replies that I received when I announced my farewell internally—it was amazing to see how many things they remember about me, the time we met each other for the first time, or the time we did whatever it is that we did together.

Goodbyes aren’t easy, but they’re necessary when you want to fully open yourself to new hellos, so there’s that.

Thank you Human Made.

What’s next?

In case you were wondering—there is no announcement here. For the time being, there is no gig lined up.

Product as a discipline is my bread and butter, so that’s where I’m planning to stay. I’ll obviously keep a particularly focused eye on the intersection between product management and WordPress.

And while I look forward to put all the things I’ve learned over the years to good use wherever the next step of my journey is going to take place…

Can I help you?

Now’s the time to get in touch with me. If you want to pick my brain about your product, your ideas, your processes, remote work, your next talk or anything else before I land my next gig, or if you’re interested to be my next gig, drop me a line at hello@ this domain and let’s talk!

How I keep a consistent workout schedule

I’ve been asked recently how I keep up with my workout schedule. I’m not even remotely a professional athlete, but I’m serious about what I do with my body. And as my life is full of personal and professional commitments, if I want to work out consistently I need a process. Here’s mine.

You need a goal.

Reaching my full potential as a Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioner. Nothing less, nothing more. That’s my goal.

A good grappler is strong, fast, flexible. Has better, much better-than-average conditioning. I know myself, I know where I am right now, so to get where I want to be I can’t expect to improve significantly by just going to the BJJ academy on Monday-Wednesday-Friday. I need to train my jiu jitsu, and complement it with lifting some heavy stuff, and doing some yoga. At the very least. No excuses.

Your goal is obviously unique to you, and can’t be enforced from outside. It can be anything or everything, it’s yours and doesn’t have to be shared or justified to anyone else.

Maybe you’re planning a trip to a big city that you’re visiting for the first time and you don’t want to get tired after walking for one hour. Maybe you’re single and you want to get in better shape to increase your chances to find someone. Those are perfectly good goals. Just maybe don’t say things like “I want to be healthier”, that’s too vague and it’s not how humans work.

Planning is key

Normally, I try not to work out on a Sunday, but if I do, I do it on a Sunday morning. Sunday afternoon is all about relaxing. If there’s one reason for me to get my laptop on a Sunday afternoon, is planning my workouts for the week.

Here’s what I normally do. I open my calendar—nothing fancy, I use the macOS built-in calendar, with personal and work calendars on. I hide all the work events that I don’t have to attend. I only want to see when I’m actually busy.

Then I start putting workouts wherever I can, so that I can still do whatever I need to do (personal or work). At Human Made we don’t have working hours, but I want to have a strong, uninterrupted day of work, so I always workout very early in the morning or late afternoon / evening.

My weekly schedule at full speed usually looks like this:

Monday: BJJ 6-8PM.
Tuesday: Gym early morning, BJJ 9-10PM
Wednesday: Yoga in the morning, BJJ 8-10PM.
Thursday: Gym early morning, BJJ 7:45-8:45PM
Friday: BJJ 6-7PM
Saturday: BJJ 9-10AM. Gym late afternoon.
Sunday: Gym in the morning, if I had something else to do on Saturday afternoon.

When to skip a workout

Do I really do all those workouts? Sometimes I do, sometimes I skip a workout or two. But I have a clear process to decide when to skip a workout.

I may skip a workout for two reasons: my body is sending me clear, unequivocal signals that it needs to rest (i.e. I’m sick, there’s some body part that’s sore but it’s not good pain, etc.), or I have something important to do / somewhere important to be, that wasn’t in my calendar when I planned my workout week.

Because after all we’re all human, it happens sometimes that I ask myself if I can just stay home. The answer lies in those two reasons. I scan head-to-toe, is there anything unusually sore? I check my heart rate, is it uncharacteristically elevated—which would mean the body is fighting something back? Is there a commitment in my social life or work (a meeting, a conference, someone’s birthday, etc.) that I can’t give up?

If the answer to all those questions is “No”, then I have no choice. Pack the gym bag, and head to the gym or the BJJ academy, wherever I planned to be. Thoughts like “but it’s raining!”, “but I just don’t feel like it!” have no chances to be considered, because they go against my primary goal, and having my workouts clearly planned on my calendar puts me in a mental state where working out at that time of the day is just not negotiable.

You don’t have to kill it every single time.

You don’t need to do personal bests all the time. You don’t have to go to failure, or destroy yourself to reach that last rep every workout. Stop putting unnecessary pressure on yourself.

If you’re in the gym and you find your flow, you’re doing already more than enough. You find your flow when what you’re doing is neither too easy (you’d get bored) nor too difficult (anxiety and disappointment in yourself kick in). H/T Firas Zahabi for this.

Recovery never stops.

Maintaining a workout schedule where you train twice a day is possible only if you look after yourself when you’re not training.

Tim Ferriss’ podcast episode with LeBron James and his top-secret athletic trainer Mike Mancias highlighted a concept that I adopted immediately: recovery never stops.

Sleeping 8 hours per day, eating enough protein, use ice packs on critical joints (knees, elbows, shoulders, etc.) are all things I constantly do. CBD oil, rollers for the back, the occasional dynamic stretch at home, those are all good complements to your recovery. Essentially, when you’re not training, you’re resting from the previous training session, and at the same time preparing for the next one.

My first 24 hours with Apple Watch

My Fitbit Charge 2’s sporty strap was fairly worn out, so instead of spending ÂŁ8 on a strap for an old model, I decided to upgrade to the Fitbit Charge 3. Then I thought “hang on.”

The new Apple Watch was released not long ago, and as a product it seems to have reach the maturity to make me realise it’s worth the investment.

Apple Watch Series 4 (ph. Wareable).

Apple Watch Series 4, welcome to my life.

40 or 44mm?

First of all, I needed to decide if 40 or 44mm was the right size for me, which is why I didn’t buy it online. I went to my local Apple Store, try them both, and decided to opt for the 44mm, despite my skinny 12-year-old-like wrist.

F’ it, bigger is better. My eyes are usually not exactly happy with things that are challenging to see.

Watchfaces and complications

The watch comes with the Infograph watchface by default, and I thought it was a tad overwhelming. So I switched to Infograph Modular.

Infograph Modular watchface for Apple Watch Series 4

This is all new to me, so I’m still trying to find a good balance and frankly speaking at the beginning I’ve found the complications a bit confusing.

Luca Sartoni suggested to have more than a watchface ready to choose, as I might want to switch to a more minimal setup when I don’t need to be bombarded with options. I thought that was smart, so now I have Simple and Cronograph ready to go. It’s a good start, and I’ll definitely experiment more, especially once I’ve bought some other straps for non sporty outfits.

Things I was / wasn’t expecting

I’ve done a strength & conditioning session earlier today, and my Apple Watch recognised that I was running on a treadmill. I was expecting that, so I’m glad it happened.

I was also expecting the usual “stand up!” / “move!” / “breathe!” kind of notifications, which I’ve killed with fire immediately.

I wasn’t expecting the quick reply experience to be so slick. I received a couple of texts on Telegram while working out, and in between sets I’ve been able to send a couple of “OK” and “Thanks!” to someone. I’ll make sure this won’t create a false sense of urgency in my mind, because I don’t like getting distracted while in-the-zone for something (whether it’s physical activity or work), and I don’t want to think that because I can answer immediately I have to answer immediately. I’ll have to be more precise with the Do Not Disturb feature (phone, Slack, etc.) from now on.

Tips and tricks?

As I’m coming from a completely different wearable device, I’m looking forward to hearing any tip or trick that you think I should absolutely know and that it’s not that obvious. Hit that comment section below with your suggestions!

Cultivating jiu-jitsu (or any other passion) away from the action.

Six weeks. Six weeks away from the mats. This is what I was given yesterday by the doctor who performed the follow-up visit to my shoulder, which dislocated during a Brazilian jiu-jitsu sparring session last week.

We sportspeople know very well how agonising it is to stay away from our favourite activity, but I strongly believe we could still somehow cultivate our knowledge of the sport while being far from the action.

This is how I intend to spend my 6 weeks away from the mats. Jiu-jitsu is a niche sport, so hopefully you’ll be able to adapt these tips to the sport you practice.

Organising my knowledge

I normally train 4 or 5 times per week, which means that I’m normally exposed to many new techniques—attacks, escapes, takedowns and whatnot. Flow charts or diagrams help us get a better grasp of those and organise our knowledge so that the many things we learn find their place in the grand scheme of things.

Here’s a flow chart from Rickson Gracie that you can easily find on the Internet:

As you may know I’m a big fan of Trello, and I believe that Trello boards can be used for jiu-jitsu too. This is an example of a BJJ Trello board that I’ve found online, built by some BJJ practitioner, so you can build yours from this. You can use Trello to list principles, gather techniques, track your progress, the sky is the limit.

Watching high level matches and breakdowns

We’re lucky enough to live in an age of mass video content production and distribution: this little thing called YouTube is full of high level matches that you can watch whenever you want, wherever you want. All you need to do is searching for your favourite grapplers—you’ll find matches, but also post-fight analysis and conceptual breakdowns.

While YouTube has content for several lifetimes, you might really want to go for the extra mile. In that case, subscribe to UFC Fight Pass. It’s well known among MMA fans, as it provides you with the whole UFC history at a monthly cost of $7.99–$9.99 (ÂŁ4.99–£5.99 here in the UK), but many people don’t know its catalogue also features professional jiu-jitsu tournaments such as Polaris, Eddie Bravo Invitational, Combat Jiu-Jitsu, and several documentaries, original shows, and in-depth analysis of UFC fighters—there’s one on Demian Maia you really shouldn’t miss.

In case you didn’t know, this doesn’t force you to watch stuff on your laptop, tablet or phone—both YouTube and UFC Fight Pass can be enjoyed on your big screen via devices like Chromecast, Apple TV, Xbox, and Amazon Fire TV.

Cardio, stretching & flexibility

Ask me what’s the one thing I don’t want to lose during my 6-week forced holiday from jiu-jitsu, and I’m probably going to answer “flexibility.” I’m not the most flexible person around, so I don’t want to get things worse. If you’ve been doing the same stretching sequences for a while, scan YouTube for static & dynamic stretching exercises, and create new routines frequently.

I like starting from the bottom, stretching ankles, then proceeding with knee rotations, hips mobility exercises (super important for people like us who work in front of a computer all day), and stretch all the various parts of my body all the way up to my neck. Good range of motion is crucial!

Don’t forget to warm yourself up a little bit before stretching. If you’re at home, just doing some jumping jacks or running on the spots for 5 minutes does the trick, depending on your current condition / injury. I’ll abuse indoor cycling at the gym, because I don’t want to lose my current conditioning.

Solo grappling drills are also pretty good, do those that don’t affect your injured side of the body.

Studying from resources

Again, YouTube is full of instructional videos, but there are also great books, DVDs (or digital-only version of those, which I happen to prefer), podcasts, etc. I don’t have unlimited time to dedicate to jiu-jitsu, so when I’m able to go to the academy I prefer to spend my jiu-jitsu time over there. Staying away from the academy because I’m injured means I have more time to consume that kind of content.

I’ve got two great books on Jiu-Jitsu—Mastering Jujitsu written by Renzo Gracie and John Danaher, and Jiu-Jitsu University from Saulo Ribeiro. Podcast-wise, The Grappling Central Podcast and Jiu-Jitsu Brotherhood are two I like. The Joe Rogan Experience has plenty of jiu-jitsu-related moments—don’t miss the episodes with John Danaher, Georges St-Pierre, Rickson Gracie, and so many other.

Bonus tip: Manage information overload!

No matter what you do, information overload is always around the corner. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many techniques, too many books, or unnecessary facts: excessive quantity of daily information will only confuse you.

Whatever your sport is, whatever the thing that make you feel alive is, we all experience some time off from time to time. If you have any other tip on how to maximise your days away from the action, hit that comment section below!

How I Manage My Email

Evergreen topic when it comes to work, communication, and productivity.

My setup is pretty standard, and perhaps won’t apply to many people, but I thought it could be still a good one to share.

I use an email client

As I manage eight email addresses I really can’t jump from Gmail to Gmail, and importing emails from different account into a single one is just a nightmare.

My client of choice is Airmail, both on macOS and on iOS. I know there are probably better clients out there, but I’ve been using it for years and I have yet to find the time to search and setup a new one.

Inbox Zero is my daily goal

And I normally don’t call it a day if I haven’t reached it. Bear in mind, I’m privileged enough to have to do long replies fairly rarely. So at the end of the day I make sure I have read / replied / deleted / archived all the emails that needed one of those actions. Obviously this doesn’t happen everyday.

I always “Reply all” and “Send & Archive”

I don’t always have my eyes on my email. In fact, I check it during my work day with fairly large time gaps. Every time I put my eyes on my inboxes, I reply immediately to all emails that require a 30 second / 1 sentence answer.

I’m used to “reply all” because it’s the best way to make sure everyone is kept in the loop, and “send and archive” because once the last email in the conversation is mine there’s no reason to keep it in the inbox.

I don’t treat my email like a to-do list.

If something needs to stay in the email as a reminder, the content ends up in a personal Trello board and the email gets archived.

The only reason why an email stays in the inbox is that it requires a reply that can’t be written and sent immediately.

Email notifications

At Human Made we have a bunch of internal websites we use for important discussions (see my 7 Tips to use Slack effectively, second tip). I constantly tweak and optimise what I want to see in my email from those—some sites don’t affect my work, so I don’t get notified. Some do, marginally, so I get notified only for posts. Other sites are important to me, so I get notifications for posts and comments.

Every time I get subscribed to a new GitHub repo I click the unwatch link if it doesn’t affect my work. The link is in the email notification you receive when you get subscribed, so in case you didn’t notice it please consider clicking it straight away otherwise you’ll get flooded with ticket notifications you don’t care about.

Newsletters

I use only one personal email address to aggregate the handful of non-work newsletters I receive—news briefings, which I read in the morning, hobby-related stuff, which I read in the late afternoon.

I don’t filter / label / snooze / use the importance marker.

Too much work. Email for me is simple: it’s all about reading, replying, deleting, archiving.

Curious to see if you have something you could share!

Supporting Content Creators

You know one thing that really makes me feel good? Supporting content creators.

We all consume some form of free content online—articles, podcasts, newsletters, but even songs, short movies, etc. Sometimes they’re teasers to sell you a complete package, a product, or a subscription, but in so many instances they’re more like side projects whose goals don’t include generating profits.

So how do I support them?

Likes, subscribing and sharing are the classic ways—but what if you wanted to give them something more?

Some use PayPal donation buttons, or other services—I support my content creator of choice on Patreon and I really like it.

Patreon seems to be the standard these days actually. If the content creator has set up their account there, you can send them money on a recurring basis—for example every time they release something.

You can also set up a limit per month, in case you don’t want to end up sending them more than makes sense to you.

How do I decide who to send money to?

It can be a musician, a YouTuber, or someone who manages a newsletter, a blog or a podcast that really gave you something. These days there’s no limit to the kind of content that is shared online.

I chose Kevin Moore, keyboardist for Dream Theater, Fates Warning, OSI, and a bunch of other projects, whose music in his Dream Theater days meant a lot to me in my teenage years. He’s still making excellent music, albeit stylistically quite far from what his previous coworkers do.

Ok, but how much should I send them?

Whilst I believe any amount would make the difference for the content creator, my personal rule is: it should be a fair chunk of money I think they deserve (so probably not a stupid $0.20/month or something), that is still somewhat insignificant to me.

How do you determine what insignificant means, in the context of money? Ask yourself, What’s the thing I buy regularly that’s not essential? I like me a cocktail in a bar from time to time. There you go. $12/song for you, Kevin. The average price of a cocktail where I live, and coincidentally the upper tier of support for him (Collaborator, $10 + $2 VAT).