60 Minutes: Reflections on Balance, Work and Life

3/4/2013 |

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As Soul II Soul once sang, “back to life, back to reality”…

That’s how it feels at the end of my 60 Minutes experiment.

I’ve shared quite a few reflections from the month in the previous posts, particularly the thought that perhaps 3 hours could be enough to live sustainably. And without wanting to get all sociological, perhaps doing so would reduce un-neccessary consumption and solve the unemployment problems we face in one fail swoop: throughout history people have tended their fields, grown their food and hence worked about three hours a day to do the things that make them happy rather than focussing on buying the things that make them happy.

But far be it for me to tell you not to upgrade to the latest iPhone or buy expensive shoes.  I digress.

So it was an interesting month.  Here are a few final observations before I move on to my next experiment:

I’m behind

3 - 60 minutes small-02This might raise a smile or some reassurance or make you feel mightily smug.  I started the month by saying I could be more ruthless and that an hour might be enough.  I’m glad I used the word might..!  As I’ve always said, Productivity Ninjas are only humans and anyone feeding you the superhero or wizard dream is lying to you.

In reality, an hour was enough to cover maintenance, but I didn’t push much forward.  I’m behind on things.  The team are freaking out.  We don’t have a 2013/14 ratecard and we’re already a few days into the new financial year, there’s some graphic design jobs that are really slipping, there’s stuff that our new Canada office needs that I need to sit down and create.

There’s A LOT of stuff I would have done in March but couldn’t fit into 60 minutes each day.  Turns out I’m human after all and also there’s never a good time to experiment.  Que Sera.

Organising and Reviewing are harder to justify and prioritise when you have so little time

I haven’t tended to my own organisational systems, which are so valuable when you know you’re behind.  Such systems can help you at least feel aware of everything you’re behind on and feel in control of it.  I’ve occasionally felt very stressed or vulnerable by the lack of activity.  It’s crazy to think a few years ago I lived permanently without a second brain and all my productivity tools.  And yes, my mind was filled with the gut-wrenching doubts I’m now having to overcome as I get back up to speed.

It was the first time I’ve really experienced disorganisation on such a scale in about six or seven years, and what I learned was that I definitely I don’t want to go back to it.

I have 65 items in my @action folder

This is high.  I like to keep it to around 20.  What this means is that anything non-urgent, non-vital or non-easy has been ruthlessly ignored.  I’m letting people down… which is good AND bad.  It’s bad where it means vital stuff gets lost.  It’s good because it’s a painful but important part of focussing.  Rarely can focussing on what matters be without cost to people or things that are peripheral in comparison.

I didn’t really have much fun.

3 - 60 minutes small-02-02This was a big disappointment to me.  I didn’t become the cool dude in the Pepsi Max advert, or the jumping out of the plane roller-skating women from the Bodyform advert.

It should also be said that I’ve had lots of house stuff to sort out in preparation for a big move later this year, so I used a lot of time constructively.  And I used a lot of time, you know, just bumming around at home or in coffee shops just enjoying the fact that I had an excuse to be a bit lazy all day.

But those moments were often interrupted and pierced by my thinking about what else I’d be doing if I wasn’t doing this stupid experiment – and the guilt, jealousy and anxiety that went along with those thoughts.

I was right about one thing.

It’s really really helpful not to have too much to do when you’re training for a marathon.  I finally hit a groove with my training.  I started to see April 21st and reaching the finish line in London, with Buckingham Palace and 26 miles behind me as a positive reality.  I’ve been daunted by it until these last couple of weeks – probably a natural story told by many a first-time runner training alongside their full-time job, but still, it felt like March allowed me the focus on my running, overcome my injury and help make it happen.

This topic hits a nerve

Talking to people about working 60 minutes a day got some incredible reactions – anger, confusion, laughter, confrontation, bemusement, awe.  Not tiny reactions, but huge gut reactions, driven by peoples’ own views of self, their views of work and a whole heap of personal values.  It showed me that my journey to hell* or to paradise* over the last month (*delete as appropriate) was a worthwhile journey.

As always with these experiments, I see this as the start of interesting conversations rather than an end point.  I’ve valued the conversation this month immensely.  And it’s the first time I’ve started to think about how I should try to bring these experiments to life once my year of extreme productivity finishes in December 2013.  There are some stories I should tell and some conversations I should start.  I don’t know yet in what exact form: a book?  a video?  a keynote talk? something else?  If you have ideas, I’d love to start that conversation with you, too!

The final word

I spent longer in the last month than I ever have in my life thinking about the nature of work, life, balance and the meaning and intertwining of these words and concepts.  I’ve reflected a lot about what all this means.  What it ALL means.  And I valued the opportunity to do that with so much space and freedom.  I learned once again, like I did when I wrote my book that one of the most important things we can do for our productivity and sanity is to make space.  Without the specific need for it or the thing to fill it with.

Making space for its own sake, proudly and boldly, to see what comes to fill it.  And this month I used that space to ask questions.  As Johnny Nash once sangthere are more questions than answers… and the more I find out the less I know“.  And I’m cool with that.

Because this month taught me to focus more on “being” and less on “doing”.

It taught me to just enjoy the moment.  To savour every single moment, living in the complexity rather than constantly trying to search for answers or get things done.  To value every moment, for all the lack of simple answers.


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Read more of Graham’s 60 Minutes blog posts, or check out his other experiments, The Dice Man and Email Fridays

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  1. Lou Drake

    I see an opportunity for a TED talk perhaps? Definitely a keynote speech!


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