End of the month: The Lemon

9/10/2013 |

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It’s the end of the month.  Well, actually, it’s the start of the next month.  I’ve been a bit distracted by my lemon amongst other things.

I’ve been using this month to explore productivity in the midst of the personal challenge of finding out your unborn child is being diagnosed with chromosome disorders and ‘structural problems’.  Productivity when you’re distracted by ‘life’.  Productivity when it veers from feeling like the most important to the least important thing in the world – often several times a day.

I didn’t really have much of a hypothesis at the start of September.  I had an open diary, a heap of stress and the uncomfortable truth that I needed to use this as my material – to learn something from this truth – rather than to continue with the previously planned experiment, which involved being away from home when I really needed to be home.

But even without a hypothesis I learned a lot.

Firstly, I learned that disruptive times in your life are where you see the bigger picture from. 

Disruptive doesn’t  mean ‘bad’ it just means ‘different from the everyday’.  This is why holidays and camping weekends and jury service and birthdays and funerals are where we often find out the most about ourselves and what we believe our purpose to be in the world to be.

My own month of disruption led to two big epiphanies that are going to change how I work and what I work on over the next couple of years.  I’ve been wrestling for a year or so with the notion that where I’m most comfortable and where I add the most value is to be a ‘creator’… and Think Productive UK is now created.  Sure, there are still things to create, but there’s a lot more that just needs to grow or be managed.  I have had an urge for a while to move towards creation again, and through this month I think I’ve found the outlet to do that.  More of which later.

The second part of my disruption (and this is where it goes really meta!) is that productivity as an industry that Simply Lemonadeonly talks about the productivity of productivity.  What I mean is, most of its speakers and gurus and authors make their observations on the theme of productivity, using as their material, the work they do on the theme of productivity.  There aren’t too many writers or speakers who by day are tree surgeons or chief executives or acrobats who happen to also write about their productivity in those jobs.  So I’ve decided to take a conscious step away from writing about the productivity of productivity.  I will be forging a new path, getting back to making stuff that isn’t all about emails and to-do lists.  And this will, I think, make me better at talking about emails and to-do lists.  More of which later.

Secondly, I was reminded this month that no matter how hard we try, a productivity ninja is a human being and not a superhero.  I could say that several days were lost from my productivity, dealing with the personal challenges in the last month but actually, that’s wrong: I spent several days being super-productive at dealing with the personal – human – challenges of the last month.  Yes, I started the month framing one of my key questions as “can I still be productive in the middle of this mess?”.  By the end, I reached a place of acceptance.  Dude, that’s not the point anyway.  Be kinder to yourself.  More of which later.


And thirdly, I learned that when life deals you a lemon, you’ve got to make some lemonade.

It’s really hard.  It’s pretty humbling.  It takes some time.  It’s fragile.  I had a week or so when I just ‘checked out’ of the whole thing.  I put everything on hold to take stock, to be present with the situation and with Chaz.  And I became comfortable that emails piling up was par for this course, and for as long as I need it to be.


So, what lemonade did I make?

Well, the month really focussed me on what I should do next.  We’re restructuring Think Productive UK to focus my time on creation and away from the managing and maintaining stuff that others are much better placed to do.  I’ve passed responsibility for our workshop content from me to Ninja Lee.  And I’m in the process of doing the same thing with the day-to-day operations, which Elena does much better than me, anyway.  So my aim is to spend only two days a week in the world of ‘productivity’ from now on.

I’m going to be kinder to myself.  I’ve decided to explore the issue of kindness in October’s experiment.  Part of this is that October’s experiment now starts on the 10th of October, not the 1st, as every other month’s experiment has.  And I’ve cemented Mondays in my diary as part of a regular 3-day weekend (soon to be one of two “full time dad days”!).

And with the rest of my time, I will be back in the worlds of start-up and social enterprise.  The first project I’m working on is to teach ex-offenders how to make and sell natural soap.  I’m hoping it’ll provide work experience, employability training, jobs and hope.  And we’re thinking we’re going to sell the soap under the brand name “the lemonade soap company”.

Because when life deals you a lemon, it’s time to make lemonade.


  1. Elloa

    Oh Graham, you literally moved me to say your name out loud when I read “and with the rest of my time, …”

    There are some blogs I read which, by their very nature, are vulnerable and open and humble. These are mostly written by women whose world is full of art, poetry, deep & meaningful conversations and so on. Indeed, I find it easy and important to write in such a way myself. But reading a blog from a man, and not a hippy dippy one ’embracing his feminine side’, is authentically moving and very powerful.

    I LOVE the sound of your new enterprise. Have you hooked up with SSE? There is also a project in Sussex which goes by the name of Camellia Botnar which houses young people on the verge of going seriously wayward, and teaches them a skill – carpentry, hospitality and service, pottery, painting, ironmongery and others – and then sells their work (or service) in a really nice garden centre. It’s inspirational and you know it’s changed lives.

    Sending you and Chaz loads of love and support, and excitement for the lemonade you’re about to make. And let’s face it, in this dirty ol’ world, everyone could do with a bar of soap. Love the metaphor and so grateful to have read this today.


  2. graham

    Thanks Elloa! The whole process of the experiments all year has taught me such a lot. As has my forays into improvised comedy, with its emphasis on being in the moment and saying “yes and…” to whatever comes your way, even very negative news about chromosomal disorders. I don’t think without these two things I’d have been equipped to face what’s been a really hard few weeks. For me that’s proof of the power of lifelong learning – and the need for lifelong curiosity.


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