1% Better

I’ve been reading James Clear’s brilliant book, Atomic Habits.

In it, he tells the story of the British cycling team, who went from mediocrity to winning everything there was to win at the 2012 London Olympics.

And they did this, says Clear, by improving everything they could think of just by 1%.

They improved the cyclists’ sleeping habits, attitude, gear, clothes, nutrition, even bike storage came under scrutiny.

If you’re reading this and thinking – wasn’t there a doping scandal though – James covers this in the British Cycling Update on his website.

Doping scandals aside, the team were making a million and one improvements on a day-by-day basis, which allowed them to improve exponentially overall.

And you can too.

With small improvements every day, we can reap the benefits of what Team GB’s cycling coach, Dave Brailsford, calls The Aggregation of Marginal Gains.

When you’re writing, podcasting, making the thing you create every day, ask yourself this.

What can I do to make my system 1% better?

Recently, I’ve been trying to put this into practice on my podcast, Level Up Human.

We’re 70 episodes in now, and I’ve been working on the show notes. For the first 50 episodes, we didn’t write any. It wasn’t a huge thing in podcasting.

Then I noticed other shows released extensive show notes every episode. I’ve tried to improve ours by 1% for the last 10 episodes in a row.

Having done this, I also discovered it’s possible to feed your podcast into a Google speech to text translation service, in order to create an edited transcript of the show.

We now have extended show notes available to our Patreon community, and on our website, which are too long for our hosting service, Acast.

This allows our listeners to get a deeper understanding of the episode. Hopefully, it extends their enjoyment of the show.

This can be applied to multiple aspects of life. If you make a 1% improvement change every day, over time these build into systems that make it easier to succeed.

Clear says in his book,

“The more tasks you can handle without thinking, the more your brain is free to focus on other areas.” – James Clear

Building routines can lead to exponential growth and improvement.

It takes time, but after a while, these small changes build on one another to allow rapid improvement and growth.

Just don’t expect the returns to show up immediately. You have to keep at it!

I’ve been enjoying the Streaks app recently, which makes it easier to track small habits and build streaks to incorporate them into daily routines.

If you’re a science podcaster or love science podcasts, I run a new facebook group you might like to join.

What are you working on making 1% better?

Solocasts: How not to sound scripted

If your podcast consists of monologues rather than interviews, the temptation is to keep the quality high by scripting each episode.

And there’s a lot to be said for this.

Scripted monologues can be highly informative and a joy to listen to. Why read a blog post when I could listen to one?

You can even double up the impact of your work by blogging and podcasting the same material.

The challenge is to make sure that they don’t sound scripted. Luckily there are multiple ways to do this.

Know your message

If you know what you want to say, and what the most important point you’re trying to make is, keep this in mind throughout.

Then if you go off your script you can be sure that you’re speaking to the topic in hand, and keeping your ad lib relevant to the rest of the piece.

Script, practice, rescript

The written word is different from the spoken word.

Once you’ve written what you want to say, practice out loud.

Use the script as reference but try not to read it. Record your practice session and then create bullet points out of this recorded script for the next rehearsal.

Practice again, working from these new bullet points. Revise anything on your list that you say differently.

This way, when you come to record, your outline reflects the way you speak naturally.

Pay attention to posture

Recording slumped over your equipment with your head pointing down at your notes is likely to result in a recording that sounds very flat. Record standing up, and project if possible.

Practice every day

Practice speaking every day, and be prepared to dislike the way you sound for quite a while. It’s ok to be bad at something to start with.

The more you practice recording yourself daily, the easier it is to focus on specific goals, like eliminating ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ as you speak.

Steal like an artist

Which podcasters do you love listening to?

Try to imitate how they sound in order to analyse what they’re doing differently.

It’s ok to be a tribute act as you learn your skill. And solocasting is a skill, which is why it needs to be practiced as often as possible.

‘De-um’ your work

When I worked at the BBC as a sound engineer, a good deal of audio editing was ‘de-umming.’

This just means going through a sound file in a linear fashion, removing ‘ums’ ‘ers’ and crutch words like, ‘you know’, ‘basically’ and ‘well’ from the file.

These can be distracting to listen to and are best removed. As you practice, you will get better at eliminating them from your speech.

What techniques do you use to remove the scripted sound from your podcast episodes?