Stop

The antidote to busyness.

When I’m overrun I find my natural reaction is to throw more work at it.

The solution is usually the opposite of this.

Stop.

When I stop, I’ll often find I’ve been running in the wrong direction entirely. Sometimes for weeks or months. Or years…

You’re never too busy to stop.

The lost art of leisure

Whatever happened to leisure?

Author Ryan Holiday defines leisure as- “freedom from the work needed to survive, freedom for intellectual or creative pursuits.”

Many of history’s greatest figures, from Ben Franklin to Churchill, took leisure seriously. Reading, writing, painting, socialising, walking even, all scheduled into their days.

Leisure is following our curiosity and delighting in the world around us.

Yet today, it has been replaced by seeking stimulation.

From binging Netflix to scrolling through Social Media, our downtime is today about stoking our overstimulated minds to drown out the stresses of everyday life.

The cost?

We no longer get the restoration leisure once provided.

Costly indeed.

The upside of getting it wrong

On Thursday we (Unplugged) tried to install our first cabin.

Unsuccessfully.

At time of writing it’s sitting abandoned at the side of a (quiet) road in Hertfordshire.

Fingers crossed no one steals it.

So what went wrong?

We took a gamble.

The site we chose is accessible across 200m of arable field.

This poses a problem for a 25tn lorry carrying an additional 8tns of cabin. Yet we weren’t too worried- “It’s June, it’ll be bone dry” we thought.

Cue a week of storms.

Initially I was agitated. Another £1.5k to finish the job next week. Plus a further delay.

But the more I think about it, the more I’m seeing the upside of getting it wrong. The more we f**k up for this first cabin the better (in reason).

Because now is the perfect time to learn.

We have no experience of cabins. No experience of solar panelling, land dealings, farms, the list goes on. And whilst a successful install would teach us some of the above, it is in failure that we really dig in and see the truth.

Viewed through this lens, the situation becomes rather enjoyable.

In fact, short of the cabin being stolen or trashed, I hope we have a few more upsets along the way.

Default State

When was the last time you took a digital detox?

Give it a try!

I’ve started switching off my devices between 6pm and 9am.

What I’ve noticed (after the initial anxiety subsides) is an unusual sense of calm and level headedness.

“That’s strange.” I thought on one occasion. “Where’s this come from?”

Then I realised my mistake:

This is our natural state.

We ‘re designed to be calm and level headed (when not being chased by a lion).

Yet due to the overstimulation of life in 2020, we rarely experience this! Instead we’re a jumpy bundle of nerves.

Unplug. Try it.

Stargazing

There is nothing quite as humbling as looking up at the stars.

I find all the silly worries and anxiety of the day melt away when I consider I’m one of the seven billion humans hurrying about our lives on a giant ball hurtling through space. And that ball is itself an insignificant prick vs the immense size and emptiness of the universe.

Crazy.

4hr workday > 8hr workday

The 8 hour workday comes from the factory shift.

It takes a worker 10 minutes to build a widget.

In 8 hours they build 48.

In 4 hours they only build 24.

Pretty simple.

I can understand the logic.

But what of those not making widgets? The lawyers, the consultants, the marketers, the entrepreneurs even.

These fall under what management guru Peter Drucker might have called “Knowledge Workers”- They earn a living by thinking and making good decisions.

Yet good decision making is hard to come by.

What if the answer is working less?

Here are three reasons a shorter workday could be the key:

  1. Overstimulation– 85% of people check their phone with in 15 mins of waking up. The rest of the day is a blur as we’re bombarded with content. Every idle second is filled with a trip to our phones.

    A recent survey found (source missing, you’ll have to trust me) that 36% of “Knowledge Workers” (those paid to think for a living!) spent zero minutes just thinking each day. Zero!

    We just do not give ourselves the space.

    By cutting the workday to 4 hours we give ourselves the time to think and pursue other interests. Will some people use the extra 4 hours to watch Netflix? Sure. But some won’t and the emphasis will be taken off a constant need to be busy.

  2. Parkinson’s Law– Work expands to fill the time available.

    C. Northcote Parkinson proposed this law in his brilliant book by the same name.

    If we have 8 hours to fill in a day, we will fill it! If we don’t feel like doing the important work we’ll busy ourselves with non important work.

    What does everyone do all day? They email! (again, no data… I’m sorry)

    Every email that gets sent sends the recipients into a frenzy to respond, all the while procrastinating Knowledge Workers are churning new emails into the mix.

    By capping the day at 4 hour, people would just get the work done and go home. Why waste time sending emails?

    Much of the work we do doesn’t matter. We could not do it and be no worse off.

  3. Creativity– AI is coming. Automation is here. Repetitive work that requires no thinking will be replaced by machines- it’s happening already.

    It’s no longer about finding answer (the machines can do that) but asking the right questions. The final frontier vs the machines is human creativity.

    To cultivate creativity we need changes of scenery. We need a clear mind. We need different perspectives.

    Who do you think would be more prone to creative thinking:

    The worker sat at their computer ping off emails for 8 hours.

    Or the worker who worked for 4 hours and spent the afternoon taking a stroll, reading widely, and pursuing a whole host of other interests?

We’re so afraid of change that we rarely stop to ask- “Is there a better way?”.

Just maybe- there is.