I don’t do white boxes. I can’t. Blank white offices make me fall asleep. Literally, by 2pm I’ll be dozing hoping you haven’t noticed I’ve got my eyes closed. This is one of the reasons I quite my first corporate job out of uni just 6 weeks after I started, and have never looked back.
I’ve worked in more colourful offices since and while I managed to stay awake in those, I knew I needed to get outside often, to stretch my legs and get some fresh air.
You also wouldn’t find me working late into the night. I know a lot of people feel pressure to work in a certain way. To have lunch at their desk and to be seen to be working until at least 9pm. But I know that none of those things make me productive. I need my sleep and I need fresh air — these are non-negotiable if you want me to do my best work.
And knowing how I work best makes running my own start up much easier.
When I’m stuck in front of a computer screen and find I’m not making progress, I know I need to get outside. Not just for a bit of fresh air these days, but to go for a run or cycle off into the countryside for an hour or two.
I’ll admit, there can sometimes still be a little inner battle. Between wanting to feel productive and not avoiding the work by doing something completely non-work related, and then also wanting to get some head space, turn off for a while and get some perspective. The expectation of society still hovers in the background of what we ‘should’ be doing with our time.
But of course, going for a bike ride usually wins. I love it. And actually getting that head space is always really valuable. When I get back I feel refreshed, ready to hit work again at a renewed pace and sense of vigor.
There’s no point struggling to get something done for 4 hours, if I know I can go for a 2 hour ride and then knocked out the work in 2 hours once I’ve got back.
Plus, it’s interesting looking at how the more I get outside, the happier I feel and the more my business is starting to progress the way I want it to.
If you’re part of the start up/adventure scene you often hear the cheers as someone announces they’ve quite their job and the intrigue as another person launches their latest side project. And it’s pretty awesome. We are all masters of our destiny and delightfully that includes how we spend our time.
While getting out on the bike for 2 hours or going for a short run helps me put perspective on the current project I’m working on, getting out into the wild for a longer period, really challenging myself physically and mentally puts the wider context on my start up. It gives the room to dream of how it could evolve differently, to consider what I would actually really love to be doing that I’ve not yet pursued. And most importantly it gives me the courage to know that I can do it, whatever it is that I would love to create, is possible.
Completing a wild challenge renews in me a faith in myself. It shows me what I can accomplish, if only I’m silly enough to dream up some random challenge and then boldly follow it to the end, no matter how I feel along the way.
At the start of a big new challenge, like walking 70 miles along the river Cam, I sometimes have a bit of a panic. I felt incredibly stupid as my friend Nicola dropped me off at the source of the river — who’s stupid idea was this? What the hell was I doing? I’d never walked further than an hour or two, yet alone for 4 days completely on my own, camping out by myself en route!
But knowing that this feeling is just a part of the story, that once you get going, a couple of miles in and you’ve broken out the jelly babies, it starts to feel pretty awesome. Particularly when the sun’s shining as you walk through wide open countryside while everyone else is stuck in a white box.
That’s when you know it’s worth the occasional doubt, during the adventure and the start up, in order to discover what you hadn’t even thought possible before.
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