In just under 6 weeks time we move back home to Northern Ireland after spending the last 4 years slap bang in the centre of London. I’m a little panicked by the thought of everything I still have to do in my remaining 42 days…or is it now 41…or maybe even 40. The last time I glanced at the list in my book there are some 50 or so people I’m hoping to catch up with for a coffee before I go and I have another list on the go of places & restaurants I want to visit. All of this got me thinking about how we choose to spend each of our days. UK life expectancy is currently 81.5 years and that equates to just shy of 30,000 days on earth. Seems like a lot doesn’t it? Indeed, one of the most chilling questions I’ve heard posed recently was at TedXBrixton a couple of years back when Peter Cochrane, futurologist, asked the audience what quartile of their lives they considered themselves to be in. (I’m hoping & praying I’m in my 3rd & not 4th).
So – how do you spend each of your days? This is what I did with mine yesterday:
6.30-8.30am Woke up, listened to R4 Today programme (even though it makes me angry & I do sometimes end up shouting at the radio – any credible alternatives gratefully received) & read online – news, articles, email, Twitter. My favourite piece on the radio yesterday was hearing John Caudwell (founder of Phones 4U & famous for being the UK’s biggest ever tax payer) preaching about tax avoidance in the midst of the #PanamaPapers row. I don’t agree with John’s politics or his stance on Europe but I do believe that everyone should pay their fair taxes.
8.30am-midday I spent this time making a number of connections for entrepreneurs I’ve met with this week & last. One of the most important parts of networking is not attending events & collecting business cards for yourself; it’s making useful connections for others & bringing people together for the greater good of the group. All the best networkers I know – Oli Barrett, Marc Ventresca, Denise McQuaid, Tom Holmes, Sinead Crowley – all operate along the same lines – in order to get it back, first you have to give it away. This month for me is all about blockchain (I’m looking at potential applications of blockchain for the wider public sector & have a few interesting meetings coming up so watch this space) and social prescribing so this morning I had a great Skype call with the guys at Bitnet Technologies in Belfast & another Skype call with a couple of Irish entrepreneurs who’ve got an interesting community driven social prescription model & solution. I also answered a large number of emails – my least favourite part of yesterday – and I noticed that the UFI Trust have this week announced their VocLearnTech Fund 2016 so I had a quick Skype with Sarah Axon to find out a bit more about it before promoting it out to my networks. It’s open until 12 May & you can find more info here if you’re interested in applying.
Midday-1.30 Time for a swim. I try to swim a mile every day if I can. I’m lucky in that there’s a 20m pool in the basement of the apartment block we’re renting in. I treat it like meditation – no phones, no emails – just your own head & your own thoughts.
It’s an incredible way to settle your head & solve problems or challenges you’re struggling with. I had the pool to myself yesterday which is always a bonus. I’m a slow swimmer but that’s ok. When I started back in the pool on 29 December my time for a mile was 1 hour. Yesterday it was 49 minutes. I like visible improvement, even if it’s gradual. My best swim this year so far was in the outdoor 50m pool at Laugardalslaug in Reykjavik. It was January and in the middle of a fierce snowstorm – but the water in the pool is geothermally heated to the temperature of a warm bath and it was amazing to feel the icy snowflakes landing on your shoulders and back. Swimming is a real pleasure these days as it was something that I had to give up when I was in a startup – I just couldn’t spare the time.
1.30-4pm Phone calls with associates, new people in my network, a couple of people that I’m working with, a chat with my Mum (very important to make that call every day), a nice call with the team from the Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Oxford that I’m hoping to work with this year.
I believe it’s important to chat with people on the phone or via Skype. You don’t build meaningful relationships with anyone via email. A couple of interesting emails dropped into my inbox yesterday afternoon – one unsolicited from a high end recruiter asking me if I’d like to apply to become a trustee of a charity that I’m already well known to. It did make me wonder why they’re paying good money to recruiters to bring them people that they could just lift the phone & call but hey-ho. That’s a discussion for another day.
4-6pm Wrote this blog, got ready for a dinner at the Irish Embassy & caught the bus down to Belgravia. An evening in the Embassy is always one of my favourite nights out in London.
I see lots of people that I already know but also meet interesting new people as there’s no shortage of them passing through our Embassy. This is largely down to our Ambassador – Dan Mulhall – who is a remarkable mix of diplomat, historian and story teller & who along with his extremely interesting Australian wife Greta hosts the most welcoming & eclectic of gatherings. Last night was no exception. I sit on the London board of the Irish International Business Network and, like any organisation that cares about succession planning, we run a Future Leaders programme. Last night’s dinner was to celebrate the success of our latest cohort and 4 of our young people stood up & shared their stories.
It was incredibly moving to listen to them – one is a rugby star turned tech entrepreneur, one is a former social innovator turned healthy food producer, one is a lawyer and one has left his City career behind & is starting a property portfolio – and we have 50 more like them. As the Ambassador said at the end of the evening – “We can all relax – our future is in safe hands”. The Irish diaspora is an amazing thing – I often wonder how people who aren’t Irish manage.
10.45 I left the Embassy with a head buzzing with ideas from the conversations I’d had, caught the bus home & went straight to bed, thanking my lucky stars that I’m part of such a wonderful set of networks.
I’m fortunate in that all my days are different from each other & these days I have a lot of freedom in how I choose to spend my time. It’s a great gift, although there’s no doubt it took many years of hard work to unlock it.
Make each one of your days count. None of us really know how many of them we have left…