The First Minute: How to Start Conversations That Get Results

Sometimes you read a book and you’re left with the feeling that you’ve just wasted several hours of your life. Admittedly that’s not often. But this book was the complete opposite. As someone who struggles getting mind to mouth, this book provides a clear framework to start pretty much any conversation, email or meeting. It provides a clear structure to form what you need to say and why. So clear in fact that I’m going to create an email template and write it on a post-it on my desk. By using the framework, the idea is to have confidence in any situation, including job interviews, leading meetings and on the spot questions. I can see how using the ideas in this book can create much clearer conversations with an emphasis on actions and solving problems rather than having less useful discussions about why they happened in the first place; though these are also of value, but need to be considered as a separate issue rather than the current issue you need to discuss. I’m super excited about putting the framework in action! I’m hoping with time it will stick and will help me to become more confident at talking to people and answering questions!

Read If: You need to work on communication skills and make super efficient use of yours and others’ time.

Book Review: Strong Female Lead


I must admit, this book is outside the normal genre that I would read but I saw it laid out in Waterstones and it sounded pretty inspiring. Mahdawi takes us through a very up to date journey through women with incredible leadership skills. These women got us through the pandemic, climate change and digital ethics, and will continue to do so. Tables and figures are used sparsely and only where needed to back up a point, therefore the focus really is on the narrative rather than the facts.

I can’t help but think there is a certain amount of pickiness in the case studies i.e. I’m sure there are male leaders that demonstrate the kinds of ‘feminine’ characteristics discussed in the book. I feel this would have made a stronger story by identifying some of these. I get why Mahdawi didn’t. Perhaps this could be a follow-on opportunity.

Read if: You’re wanting to get a new perspective on what leadership is and what leadership should be. If you’re wanting to have some female role models, you’ll find them in here.

Book Review: How To Take Smart Notes


If there is one book you should read before starting a Ph.D., this is it. For me, this book revolutionised the way I approach note-taking and writing. Whilst Ahrens isn’t necessarily the originator of many of the ideas in the book, he is the first author to bring the issues to a mainstream audience and talk about them in a user friendly way. Prior to his work, much of the content was only available in German. The book is based around how to implement a practical solution of Niklas Luhmann’s Zettlekasten system. I really like how he suggests this system in a way that is neither focused on using computers or manual pen and paper note-taking. He makes reference to all the different note types and how these can feed into your system to help you write. It’s filled with Ahrens’ own personal readings in order to provide a journey from reading to notes to writing. I do feel that the ideas are padded out somewhat but you can’t leave this book without feeling the impact it will have on your literary skills.

Read if: You’re always taking notes but you can’t find them or don’t know how to put them together into an argument. If you can never remember where you read something or what ideas connect, this book will help you create a more structured and useful style of note-taking.