Keep on Running

Making wellbeing a habit in pursuit of better work.

Keep on Running

Or in my case, walking. On November 27th I was encouraged to take part in #RWRunStreak, which is a simple challenge about taking exercise for a mile or more, each and every day until the New Year.

So far – I’ve walked over 60 miles and ridden my bicycle 22 miles. I’m enjoying the discipline of getting out into the fresh air every day, and I’m enjoying other things too. Saying good morning to people, having time to think about my work, becoming more aware of my posture and simply noticing what is around me too, is really enjoyable.

I often fit the exercise around other tasks I need to complete – Tuesday’s walk took me into town to get a few supplies for a workshop I’m facilitating tomorrow, and the previous day I walked 6 miles over an hour and a half to get to a meeting.

There are a few friends along for this journey too, and though we’re thousands of miles apart, its been fun keeping in touch via social media to motivate one another. I asked my fellow challengers how they are feeling so far, and here’s what they said:

Dominique Rodgers: Yesterday I walked to the courthouse (by mistake) and then city hall for a passport. The most challenging and rewarding part of this, for me, is figuring out how to fit a walk into the jumbled puzzle of my day. It’s been fun and everyone’s encouragement has definitely helped.

Broc Edwards: Doug, Dominique, and John (and, obviously everyone else one this public forum) – I’m enjoying it a lot too. Prior to the challenge, I ran/biked, at most, 2 out of 3 days. Having the commitment means getting a bit creative, sometimes accepting that a day’s run will be less than normal, going for a run when I don’t otherwise feel like it, or fitting it in at an odd time. Because of all that it’s a great experience and has taught me so much about where I was holding back or making excuses or just being sluggish. And, yes, seeing what others are doing, hearing about their experiences is encouraging and inspiring and really eliminates my excuses.

John Hudson: Great job, Doug! It has been great having all 3 of you along on this little journey. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do it this year, but decided to give it a shot. Now, we are so close to the finish! I hope to keep this going, to some extent, in 2015.

Broc: That’s the challenge, isn’t it John? Easier to do when it’s a short term commitment vs rest of your life. Daily isn’t 100% realistic, but when the timeline is open ended, it’s too easy to put off to another day.

John: Absolutely, Broc! I like having the goals and then the team surrounding me for support and accountability.

I’m enjoying weaving this exercise into the #100HappyDays challenge – they support each other nicely at times. I think what I’m trying to do here is make wellbeing a habit, which is in turn, improving my work. Thanks to John Hudson for encouraging me to start this journey, and to Dominique Rodgers and Broc Edwards too for coming along. Keep it going folks.

In case you missed it – for every pack of Stop Doing Dumb Things ordered in December I’m making a small donation to Arts Emergency. If you’ve been meaning to order some cards for yourself or as a gift to others, now might be a good time? Thanks for your support.

Routine – And The Importance of Choice

This is a weekend ‘not really anything to do with work’ follow up to yesterday’s post about the importance of routine, and not being a slave to it.

An Illusion of Choice

Just down the road from where I live, there’s a Sainsbury’s supermarket in the final throes of construction. How convenient, I’ll now be able to get my shopping from somewhere a mere 400 metres or so from my house. As this map shows, this will be the fourth Sainsbury’s to open in our neck of the woods, the distance between point A and point D is around 800 metres.

Sainsbury Locations near Wallington

I may be wrong, I often am, and I’m worried that shortly after this new shop opens its doors in just a couple of weeks, several independent local businesses nearby will forever close theirs. I’m not anti Sainsbury’s, we shop there, but I am pro choice. A quick look at the map shows me a big company doing its level best to make sure the main choice you have is simply which branch of their shop you visit. It’s all too easy – all too…routine.

I’m a little surprised it’s that simple to just walk into a town and try to monopolise it like this. Although we signed a petition in one of the local shops objecting to the store being granted planning permission, I could have done more by objecting directly to the council too, so I have a share in the responsibility for this outcome.

I found myself exchanging notes about this situation on Twitter with my friend Anthony Allinson, and he suggests that whilst changes in planning approaches may stem the tide, the root of the problem lies in the way the supply chain is locked down. This scenario is called a monopsony, from Ancient Greek ????? (mónos) “single” + ?????? (ops?nía) “purchase”, a market form in which only one buyer interfaces with many sellers. There’s your word of the week folks – monopsony. Why not pop over to read this excellent blog post of Anthony’s by way of a thank you for the introduction to the wonderful word, monopsony?

When I spoke about this situation with Carole, she recalled stories of Marks and Spencer contracting with suppliers in such a way that they could not produce for anyone else. Then, when that contract expires and is not renewed, the supplier, with no other source of business, fails. I doubt very much that M&S are the only big company pulling this trick, and it’s got an unpleasant anti-competitive tone to it.

A Choice

Just off the area covered by the map, is an independent greengrocer called Carshalton Patch. I discovered this shop a few months ago and I love it. They work hard to source close to home, several of their suppliers are just a few miles away. They compete on price, not across the board but several staple items are just as good value as in Sainsbury’s (I’ve just done a price check and a large cucumber at the Patch is £1.20, it’s £1.30 in you know where). They source interesting varieties of produce, stuff you don’t always find in you know where, and here’s the kicker. Their food tastes great. I buy my tomatoes from Carshalton Patch and I often eat a couple on the way home.

Stop and think for a minute, when did you last buy produce from a supermarket that was so tasty you couldn’t wait to get home to try it?

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People often dismiss this kind of choice because they’re too busy to fit it in. The Carshalton Patch is close by to one of the stations I use to travel into and out of London from (see yesterday’s post for nerdy train map), so I can easily divert to it. The shop is about a mile from home, so I can and do fit my visits to it into my local walks. Yes – I have to make a little effort to use Carshalton Patch, and when they are clearly making a lot of effort to bring me choice, I’m more than happy to reciprocate.

Have you got any great local businesses near you?

Routine – And The Importance Of Tweaking It

Do you have a routine, or are you a slave to it?

I don’t have a typical commute to work, I travel at different times, and often to different places. When I do travel in the rush hour, I’ve come to notice people waiting for the train, often stand at the same spot on the platform. Many people know precisely where the doors on the carriage they want to get onto, open. Gaggles of commuters huddle in bunches near these spots and I enjoy standing alone, in between gaggles.

I get funny looks from the gagglers. ‘Why’s that weirdo not standing in a gaggle? Doesn’t he know that we know precisely where the doors are going to open?’ I find myself taking an almost perverse pride in trying to find a different spot on the platform every time I travel.

My journey into London starts out in the suburbs, it’s a frequent service, and it takes just under 40 minutes. I can see how people faced with the prospect of fighting for a seat, might be driven to gaggle. In my case, regardless of the time of day I travel, I have never boarded a train from our station into London and failed to get a seat. Never. Not once. In these circumstances, I just don’t get the whole gaggling thing.

Yesterday I took part in a meeting at Workhubs – a really handy coworking venue run by Philip Dodson near Euston station. I was there to take part in one of a series of International Collaboration Days, organised by a bunch of interesting folk including Bernie Mitchell and the aforementioned Philip. We enjoyed good breakfast and good company. Here are a few notes I took:

  • 99u – Insights on making ideas happen
  • 750 Words a Day – the practice of writing
  • Routine – tweak it.
  • Only 3% of freelancers currently use coworking spaces.
  • Structure – you can hop from place to place on a scaffold, only up and down on a ladder (hierarchy).
  • Conversations – small groups. Four or five max – beyond that it’s more like a series of monologues? How can we help the quieter voices get heard?
  • It’s important to do a few small things, often.

I want to focus on routine. We all have them, and the conversation was around how to use our natural desire for habit forming to our advantage, rather than get bound up in it, like the gaggles seem to. A few suggestions were made which I found interesting.

Bookend your day with routine. Do your habitual stuff at the beginning and the end of the day – and try to practice being more free form in between.

Take breaksdon’t be a prisoner.

Do some of your routine stuff in different places. Lots of enthusiasm for working out doors bubbled up, and the recognition of limitations too – we were trying to keep it real.

Tweak your routine. I found this part of the conversation really useful as it helped me get more comfortable with the sense of having routine – something I struggle with at times, and something I’ve wrongly railed against in the past. There’s no doubt that since I found an appreciation of routine, I’ve got better at getting stuff done, and simultaneously I’m a fan of experimenting with different ways to work. I encourage my clients to try different things, so I have to find a way to get the routine stuff done, and the tweak idea interests me. Let’s go back to the travel thing again.

I routinely walk to the station. I get a mile walk under my belt and I enjoy being with my thoughts for the time the walk takes me. The tweak happens when it comes to which way I go. There are many routes I can take from home to the station, I’ve mapped out some of them here (nerd alert):

Routes to the station from home

Some are a bit longer than others, and on the days I find myself ready to leave a few minutes early, I take a slightly longer route. The super sharp eyed among you will see that there are two stations on this map. I can and do use both – just to further mix things up. The walk is my routine, the route I choose is my tweak.

As a result of these conversations – I’m looking again at how I do what I do. Am I getting the mix right enough of the time? I’ll let you know how I get on. Meantime if you’ve any helpful ideas on how you make routine…less routine, please let me know.