I always knew “work-life balance” was nonsense . . .

Here’s Debbie Millman (designer, host of the Design Matters blog):

“I do not believe in work-life balance. I believe that if you view your work as a calling, it is a labor of love rather than laborious. When your work is a calling, you are not approaching the amount of hours you are working with a sense of dread or counting the minutes until the weekend. Your calling can become a life-affirming engagement that can provide its own balance and spiritual nourishment. Ironically, it takes hard work to achieve this. When you are in your 20s and 30s and want to have a remarkable, fulfilling career, you must work hard. If you don’t work harder than everyone else, you will not get ahead. Further, if you are looking for work-life balance in your 20s or 30s, you are likely in the wrong career. If you are doing something you love, you don’t want work-life balance.”

To an obsessive like me, there’s nothing strange about her view at all!

My Big Decade: The quest for future direction

In Timothy Ferris’s Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks opines:

[Question: “When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?”] What did I key into the sat-nav system of my life [where do I want to be 10, 20 years from now]? What is my ultimate destination? You have to look at that every time you feel overwhelmed. Remembering that destination will help you make the single most important distinction in life, which is to distinguish between an opportunity to be seized and a temptation to be resisted.

What a fine image, the Garmin GPS of your life!

2017’s Big Years: Sayonara

Farewell to a trio of obsessions (and when I say obsession, I mean day on day, everyday, not quite mania but sometimes damned close):

Writing Big Year – you drove me mad and I let you down and you didn’t “work,” but I can’t gainsay the many huge gains I made over the year. I’ll learn from you and turns 2017’s disappointments into 2018’s successes.

Fitness Big Year – you were tough to uphold (man, did I bitch and moan!) and I recast you a few times, but I’m now half a cyclist on top of being a jogger, my fitness is improved (whatever that means), and I’m addicted to daily workouts. My gratitude to you, old friend.

Rock Music Big Year –  your daily aural treat was sublime, and if you haven’t rekindled my old fixation on life-saving toons, something nascent smoulders inside me now. Bless you (and I wish I could repeat you in 2018).


Andres’s Big Decade: How to obsess in 2018

I can’t wait for 2018! So much is going on in the lives of me and my family and friends. For the third Big Year (I’m turning 63 next year) in my Big Decade, I’ll swing at four obsessions. They range from all-consuming to “should be simple to fit in.” Not all details are settled yet but here’s 2018’s framework (beyond the joy of life itself):

1,000 Big Year

The nuclear power history book is still my albatross. After a maddeningly ineffective 2017 attempt to frame my writing push, in 2018 I focus on process and output. For each day in 43 weeks*, I draft 1,000 words (4 pages); draft uninterrupted between 5 AM and noon; ban morning Facebook and emails; micro plan, monitor & review.

You’ll note none of the “finish this or that by such-and-such date” project plans I’ve issued over the last two years and then clawed back. That doesn’t mean I won’t plan. I will and I’ll publicize in order to increase my accountability.

Tractor Big Year

Huh, you say? The working title for the book is Reactor but you don’t suck the life out of a title by using it all year. Hence Tractor, rhymes with Reactor? For each day in 43 weeks, I spend an afternoon hour researching, planning, readying for, and executing publication of Reactor.

Freshness Big Year

In 2016 I jogged a lot. This year I’ve tackled “fitness” by introducing cycling and arriving at an “exercise daily” regimen that works. Next year I’ll still exercise daily but at slightly lower intensity, plus I’ll address alcohol, diet, and insomnia.

“Freshness” is code for wellness, energy, and vigor. Note that 2018 can’t be the year to cycle huge distances, to do much tough or long-distance hiking (with one notable exception), to race, or to speed up. Instead I’m setting artificially strict regulations for 52 or 43 or 39 weeks (depending on which rule). I’m sure you’ll be amused at this quirky list:

  • 90/30/3 – each week, and only in the afternoons, exercise 9 times, cycling 90 kms, jogging 30 kms, and gym’ing 3 times. (Annual targets are 3,000 kms, 1,200 kms, 100 gyms.)
  • M-W AFDs + 14 – absolutely no alcohol for the first three days of each and every week, and no more than 14 standard drinks per week.
  • 2 alarms – each and every day, set an alarm to go to sleep and one to rise.
  • No snacking cheese – each and every day, stay away from cheese platters (cheese in recipes is fine).
  • No afternoon snacking at home – each and every day.

Stillness Big Year

“Stillness” is code for mindfulness, meditation, peacefulness, etc., etc. I could have called this the Headspace Big Year, but Headspace is a commercial product. I commit to spending 10 minutes each and every day following guided meditation according to the Headspace app.


Doing four Big Years flirts with overstretching but I believe I’ve structured the obsessions suitably. One big year, the most important one, carries a massive time commitment. Two of the four require an hour or two a day. The final one only takes ten minutes a day.

I’m now deep into practice for each of 2018’s four challenges, so that I can leap out of the gates on January 1.

2018 is bound to be a fascinating twelve months. I’ll do my best to make sure it’s also joyous, effective, and balanced.


* Travel and family commitments mean that, depending on which Big Year is involved, 2018 is 52 weeks or 43 weeks or 39 weeks.

Should I go micro?: A Big Year of ten minutes a day?

This year one of my Big Years involved only three quarters of an hour each and every day, namely listening to an album. What impressed me was that squeezing in a daily activity of this short duration proved very practical. And it brought with it a healthy sense of discipline, perhaps even imbued with a hue of devotion.

Why not take this further? Is there something else I should be doing, or yearn to do, that need only take ten minutes a day?

But that would be trivial, I hear you scoff. Why bother? Well, when I say the Rock Music Year was “practical,” it certainly wasn’t “trivial.” I still had to consciously plan to insert the activity into the cacophony of life and work. We all have things we’d love to do, things that seem simplistic, but that we never seem to fit in.

Okay, I hear myself chuckling, let’s give the idea a spin in 2018.

Photo by Agê Barros on Unsplash

Big Decade: I wish I could focus on TV series!

A traditionalist, I’ve always favored books over movies and TV. I missed out on The Wire, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones. I heard the plaudits – these were slow-build, movie-budget, character-based series of immense gravitas – but I ignored them.

I was wrong. Today is a new era of film, living inside television, or more accurately, the modern streaming world. Today is a new Golden Age.

I’m playing catch-up. I’ve revelled in Mindhunter, Vinyl, The Crown, Fargo, True Detective, and Legion. Magnificent, each one of them, as good as any novels I’ve read over the last half decade. I’m now ploughing through Justified, Chance, Berlin Station, Dark, Godless, The Sinner, Mr. Robot, The Handmaid’s Tale, SS-GB, The Night Manager, The Code, and Halt and Catch Fire. Quality remains superlative.

In this Golden Age, what I wouldn’t give to run a TV Series Big Year! I think I’d commit to two episodes a day, for each of 365 days (I can download many of them onto my iPad, don my blue Jabra headphones, and squeeze in screen time any section of a day). Assuming ten episodes per series we’d be talking about 70 series over the year. Wouldn’t that be fun, and, more to the point, meaningful?

But . . . but . . . but I can’t. Other priorities overrule. Maybe 2019? 2020? Will the Golden Age Of The TV Series last until then? I certainly hope so.