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This is fabulous - just the way i think...


Post written by Albert van Zyl from the blog HeadSpace.

The lives of great people give us interesting clues about how to organise our days.

All of them attached great value to their daily routines. This is because they saw it as being part of 'becoming who they are', as Nietzsche puts it.

For the same reason they were also highly individual in their routines. They had the courage to go against popular opinion and work out often strange daily plans that suited them.

This is perhaps the first lesson that we can learn – that it takes courage and resolve to design and stick to a routine that suits you. But as Emerson reassures us: 'The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going'.

There are at least 10 other lessons that the daily routines of the great can teach us:

1. Don't work long hours

Despite the modern obsession with physical presence at offices (also known as 'presenteeism'), very few of the great worked long hours.

Philosopher Michel Foucault would only work from 9am to 3pm. Beethoven only worked from sunrise until the early afternoon. No 12 hour days here. Author Tom Robbins schedules only 3 hours of writing at his desk per day.

2. Take breaks

Even during these short days, the great took plenty of breaks.

Socrates would sometimes simply stop and hold completely still for several minutes. Beethoven was known to punctuate his mornings by running outside and walking around – he called it 'working while walking'.

3. Take even longer breaks

The great all spent a single long period away from their desks every day to give their minds time to recover and regain its creative poise.

Beethoven started work at daybreak, but wrapped up by two or three in the afternoon which left him a good 14 hours away from work. Victor Hugo wrote in the mornings and took afternoons off entirely. Churchill would do nothing work-related between noon and around 11 at night.

4. Stop work and sit down for meals

Churchill would even have a bath and dress for meals. For us mere mortals, this injunction could simply mean sitting down with your sandwich away from you desk, on a bench in the park or somewhere else. Or resolving to chew and taste your food properly.

5. Don't work in the afternoons

There are some exceptions, but very few of our heroes did any serious work in the afternoon.

After writing in the morning, Victor Hugo spent his afternoons riding around Paris in double decker busses, watching his brethren about their work. For us this might mean blocking off afternoons for long tea breaks and non-essential tasks.

6. Mix it up

The days of the great contain a surprising variety of activities. It seems that we don't have to focus on a small range of things to succeed.
Even the grim German philosopher, Immanuel Kant went for afternoon walks and sat down for lunch with friends each day. Gandhi walked, spun, had a long bath and massage.

Churchill painted, fed his fish, played card games and constructed buildings all over Chartwell farm. He famously claimed that our minds don't need rest as much as they need variety.

7. Aim low

Don't schedule every minute of your day. Leo at Zenhabits suggests that we have morning and evening routines, and leave the middle of the day open for completing key tasks and other things that come up.

Daily routines are supposed to make things easier, not more complicated. Micro managing every minute of your day does not work.

8. Take time to relax

The great all reserved time to relax. And this doesn't mean engaging in some semi-productive activity like reading a book or washing the dishes. No, they blocked out time to do nothing at all.

Gandhi would often spend time just staring at the horizon. Churchill would sit down to smoke a cigar after lunch and Beethoven would stop off for a few beers after his afternoon walk. In his recent autobiography, Alan Greenspan mentions that he too makes time to reflect each day.

9. Get up early(?)

This one is the subject of hot debate. Samuel Johnson, Churchill and Dylan Thomas got up late. Gandhi, Franklin and Mandela all got up early.

But whether they were early birds or night owls, the great all make sure that they had long periods of uninterrupted quiet time; whether late at night or early in the morning.

10. Exercise!

Al Gore interrupts his work day at 3pm to go for a run. Emerson, Beethoven, Nietzsche, Victor Hugo and Gandhi all went for walks. Nietzsche said that he 'scribbled' notes while he took his walk and claims that some of his best thoughts came in this way.

Mandela's 5 am walks are legendary. The story goes that he once invited a persistent journalist to interview him during this morning walk - but she ended up being too out of breath to ask any questions.


What of my Yahoo?!

I am a yahoo! customer, a paying one at that. I like the email solution, its really neat, plus its currently unlimited in terms of storage.

I do not like hotmail that much, nor am I a great fan of Microsoft software.

That leaves me wondering - what on earth will happen when MS takes over Yahoo?! Will I suddenly see adverts on my webmail client (something I pay not to see), will my email client turn all bluey/grey rather than the subtle white I currently have? Will I have to do the unthinkable and move it all away elsewhere?

Where? Google perhaps?

Anyone else worried like this, or is it just me...

You heard it here first...


...yep, it seems my wishes are coming true. More media coverage of the need for better work life balances.

Families and firms are at war. It will only be won when parents - fathers as well as mothers - can care for their children without harming their careers. It's the economy that must change

The Sex War is over. Girls outperform boys at school and are streaming through higher edu cation. Young women are now taking home the same size wage packets as young men. But the celebrations have to wait. A new, tougher battle has to be fought. It is not a duel between men and women, but between families and firms. This family war will be won only when parents - fathers as well as mothers - can care for their children without dumbing down their careers.

Women now compete with men on a virtually equal footing in both business and politics - but only until the precise moment they become mothers. It is not a question of old-fashioned notions about their capabilities. "Women don't lose out because of outdated views about them as women," says Mary Gregory, an economics lecturer at Oxford University and expert on gender and work. "They lose out because they make different choices about work when they have children." It is not possession of a womb that now holds women back, but its use.

This is fertile political ground, and the Conservatives are beginning to move on to it. David Cameron has proposed that maternity leave should be made transferable, allowing mums and dads to tag-team the childcare, or even take time off together. It is a modest proposal, not least because fathers will only be paid £112 a week (the current statutory maternity pay rate). Labour's John Hutton retorted that few families would be able to afford to make use of such a right. This is true: but why deny those people the possibility?

It is lack of choice that is now the issue. Legislation aimed at tackling direct discrimination, most importantly the Equal Pay Act, has helped to bring about a sea change in employer attitudes and pay scales. Barbara Castle, author and advocate of the Equal Pay Act, must sit beside Keir Hardie, Clement Attlee and Nye Bevan in the Labour pantheon. The latest research from the TUC shows that the gap between the full-time earnings of men and women in their twenties is only 3 per cent. Even this small gap is explained entirely by the very large salaries of a handful of men at the top of the income distribution, which pull up the male average, and the unwillingness of women to pitch for more money. As Gregory suggests, "Women don't ask."

But the good news comes to an end at 30, the age at which the typical married woman has her first child. Children strike women's careers like a meteorite, while glancing almost imperceptibly off fathers' working lives. The pay gap for thirtysomethings is 11 per cent; women in their forties earn 23 per cent less. The picture gets even worse when part-timers are brought into the picture. Female part-timers in their thirties and forties earn only two-thirds as much an hour as male full-timers of the same age. It is motherhood, rather than misogyny, that explains the pay gap. As Gillian Paull from the Institute for Fiscal Studies writes in the latest issue of the Economic Journal: "The 'family gap' in employment and wages - that is, the differences in work behaviour between women without children and mothers - may be more important than the gender gap alone." Meanwhile, men's working hours go up slightly when they become fathers: and dads do better in terms of wages than childless men.

Direct discrimination is no longer the prin cipal enemy. Three structural problems explain the pay gap. First, women and men work in different occupations, with women clustered in less well-paid sectors such as teaching, retail and health care. This occupational segregation has hardly diminished over the past few decades. Second, the significant increase in general wage inequality has had the unfortunate side effect of making the gap between men and women bigger. Third, the penalty paid by women for working part-time after having children has become much more severe, as a high proportion slide down the occupational ladder in what the erstwhile Equal Opportunities Commission termed a "hidden brain drain".

Campaigners for gender equality hope that the Single Equality Act, scheduled for inclusion in this year's Queen's Speech, will force companies to conduct equal-pay audits. It is in fact a forlorn hope, but they should not be too disappointed. As Barbara Petrongolo, a labour specialist at the LSE, says: "Equal treatment policies like equality audits will not have much bite. The problem is not that employers are paying women less for doing the same jobs as men - it is that women are doing different jobs after having children."

Occupational downgrading

A slew of recent studies has dissected the complex data on motherhood and part-time employment. The conclusions highlight the real problems facing British families, and the failure of the labour market to deliver real choice. Most mothers work part-time for some years in order to balance raising their children with staying in the labour market: only a third of mothers with pre-school-age children are in full-time work. A substantial minority - around a quarter - of these end up in a lower-status job: managers become clerical workers. Some professions, such as nursing and teaching, offer most women the chance to go part-time without loss of status or hourly pay. And those women who stay with their current employer are less likely to suffer "occupational downgrading". As Gregory and her co-author Sara Connolly lament: "This loss of career status with part-time work is a stark failure among otherwise encouraging trends for women's advancement."

It is important to be clear what the problem is. Is it bad news that women want to spend time with their children? Surely not, given the evidence for the importance of parental engagement in the early years of a child's life. Are these women "forced" into part-time work, and now just grinning and bearing it? No - the overwhelming majority say they positively chose part-time work, and their job satisfaction is higher than that of mothers working full-time. Most men and women, according to the British Social Attitudes Survey, think that a conventional division of labour is the right one, with mothers taking on the bulk of responsibility for childcare.

We may wish to change these attitudes, but equally we must respect them. The TUC, for example, struggles to take women's choices at face value, declaring: "Women take on a disproportionate share of caring responsibilities due to unequal pay and limited opportunities within the workplace." This presupposes a level of responsiveness to economic incentives that would make Milton Friedman proud. Like it or not, women are doing most of the caring because they see it as part of their role in life. Groundbreaking work by the American economists Rachel Kranton and George Akerlof suggests that being a mother is part of women's identity, and that this explains their otherwise irrational labour-market decisions.

Perhaps the problem is an economic one - the loss of productivity as a result of the underuse of women's skills? This is the argument adopted by many who are urging more government action, but it is a fragile one. The latest TUC report, Closing the Gender Pay Gap, estimates that £11bn a year is being lost. The Women and Work Commission puts the figure at between £15bn and £23bn. A strange, unholy alliance has in fact developed between old-fashioned feminists, who insist women ought to work full-time to gain economic parity with men, and Treasury economists, who worry about the apparently "irrational" squandering of "human capital" by educated women. The principal difference between these allies is that the feminists want to spend billions of pounds of public money on childcare to allow more women to work full-time - the "Swedish option", at which the mandarins generally baulk.

There are, however, grave dangers in relying on economic arguments. For a start, such estimates are notoriously difficult to generate and are open to subjective manipulation (another recent study even found that £5bn is lost each year as a result of bosses' failure to say "thank you" to their staff, which suggests there are easier ways to boost productivity). And even if there really is an economic cost, there may well be a counterbalancing social gain in better-quality family life and happier children.

"Cost" of legislation

Overall, welfare might be greater even if our GDP - the size of which is a source of constant anxiety to male politicians - is somewhat smaller. Employers and their representative bodies are also just as adept at producing studies showing the apparent "cost" of any legislation to help working families - whether it is to introduce a minimum wage, equal pay, better maternity leave or better rights for temporary staff. Equality then becomes a battle of numbers, each side wielding its own semi-fictional cost-benefit analysis. Once we start putting a price tag on equality, we have lost sight of its value.

The problem is not a dent in economic output. The problem is not that mothers reject a life as what the sociologist Heather Hopfl has called that of a "quasi-man". The problem is lack of choice, for women and men alike. Millions of women do not have the option of reducing their hours as well as maintaining their status. And very few men have the option of sharing the childcare responsibilities with their partner. Liberal societies should aim to offer individuals the maximum range of options from which to construct their version of a good life.

"The heart of the choice issue is limited opportunities for women to work part-time in high-quality jobs," says Petrongolo. Gregory agrees: "The crunch question is this - can part-time women continue at the same level?" The one area of dissatisfaction expressed by women working part-time is with their wages. That is not surprising.

Employers are reluctant to retain or hire senior part-timers. While 60 per cent of employers say they would allow a woman returning from maternity leave to switch to part-time status, of these only two-thirds would allow her to remain at the same level of seniority. So, less than half would permit a reduction in hours without loss of status. This may not just be the result of Jurassic attitudes, as Gregory admits: "We can't assume that employers are simply stupid." Assuming it costs as much to hire and train part-timers as full-timers, they will offer a lower return on investment. There may also be co-ordination costs, especially associated with part-time or job-sharing managers. But it is hard to know the true height of these barriers.

Since 2003, employees have had a "right to request" flexible working while firms have had a corresponding duty to take such requests seriously. Some one-off surveys suggest that since the law came into force, one in seven women have made a request, and that most have been accepted. But the Labour Force Survey - the main data source on workplace trends - shows no increase in levels of part-time work over the same period. This puzzles economists. The most likely explanation is that a similar number of requests was being made and granted even before the legislation, and that the law has made little difference. It also looks as if women are asking for part-time work in the sectors where they are most likely to be granted, such as nursing, rather than in the senior and professional jobs where the real problem lies.

Part-timer fathers

It is clear that British families do not want to outsource the raising of their children to others, and prefer to combine paid work and care. At the moment, this means mums, but in the future it could mean dads, too. The model we should be emulating is Holland, where workers have the right to convert a full-time job to a part-time one unless the employer can produce convincing evidence for damage to the firm. "We need to shift the burden of proof from the employee to the employer," insists Gregory. We need to go Dutch, and remove the words "to request" from the right to request flexible working.

It is possible that without the risk of occupational downsliding, more men may also choose to work part-time; but it is also necessary to give men the same freedom as women to take time off for childcare as women. Cameron's idea of transferability is a step in the right direction: it is high time the government stopped deciding for us which parent should raise our children.

Markets are usually good at offering choice, but at present the labour market is failing the family. Companies are not generally acting on the basis of a rigorous business case against senior part-timers. They are exhibiting what psychologists call "path dependency": doing what they do because that's what they've always done. A decisive legislative strike on the Dutch model could jolt them on to a fairer path. Rather than aiming at creating economy-friendly families, it is time to shape a family-friendly economy.

This is the kind of package Labour MPs used to advocate. Indeed, the Commission on Social Justice - under the influence of its deputy chair Patricia Hewitt - proposed just such a move back in 1994. But, in a battle between families and firms, Labour now leans towards the latter. Gordon Brown loves to praise "hard-working families". What families need now is for him to work harder for them.

Working parenthood: by numbers

1/3 of mothers, and one-fifth of fathers, use some form of flexible working pattern

£7,000 average cost of taking a full 12 months off work after the birth of a child

83% proportion of women who want to return to work after having children

1 in 3 proportion of female corporate managers who lose status after having children

94% of all new fathers take some time off after the birth to care for their children

90% of mothers take at least six months' leave

39 number of weeks women are entitled to statutory maternity pay at 90% or less of weekly earnings

2 number of weeks men are entitled to paternity leave (pay negotiable)

Research: Simon Rudd


Linux for the masses


My sister called this morning, saying she wanted to spend money on a PC
for her kids.

I told her that in reality, they just needed a Linux machine. "A what?"
she replied. So after a discussion with Icy, we decided to donate my old
NEC PC to the kids. We had already donated a custom built laptop to
them, but urr, they have managed to demolish it. You see, they don't
consider laptops fancy, only desktops. Odd.

Anyway, my NEC PC was bought in 1998. Its a very old Intel Pentium P3.
133MHz, 512MB machine. I decided to use XUBUNTU - a very lightweight and
slick Linux distribution for such old machines.

Its fab. It does a lot of stuff.

In reality, I have to wonder now - why oh why should kids need a PC with
Windows bloatware on it? Lots of licensing to worry about, viruses, and
the need to increase the hardware spec every time the OS changes.

For those who want to revive an old PC - I recommend Xubuntu.

Sometimes it snows


Dear diary,
Everyone was in a bad mood at work today. Hopefully they cheer up tomorrow.
That is all.


Your Privacy in the UK


Please may I encourage you to read this report Overlooked!

I support Liberty, and I believe that this nation has always had a strong liberal resolve. Though things take time, there has always been a movement towards doing the right thing, such as abolishing slavery, equal rights for women, healthcare for all, education for all etc.

We cannot sit back and let a small group of people undo such a strong history - they are steadily undoing a lot of things. And that is what it is, a small group of people making decisions for the millions of us.

Do you value your privacy? Read on to find out...

Americans are drinking their drugs now...unknowingly

It appears that there is something in the water in the States.

Traces of prescription drugs to be precise. The Washington Post and NY Times have pretty good overview articles on the topic. For even more insight check out Yahoo! News, theres a lot of information floating around (sic) about this right now.

It goes to show, civilisation moves on at such a pace, it can quite easily lose the plot. Were we not supposed to live together to protect eachother? Looks like protect=exploit.

Oh well, Evian it is...though I prefer Perrier ;-)

Crunchie Day


Yes folks, its Crunchie day, that means you head on down to the coffee shop, get a coffee/tea and grab a Crunchie whilst you are there. Sit back, sip, munch and enjoy.

What a week we've had: Storms, Terminal 5, Man on runway, England playing good cricket, Me procrastinating again, all amongst others.

Through this all, I got a chance to catch up with the lesser spoted CaptainDamo recently. He's doing well, and I'm happy to say we are arranging a meet up soon. Jobs a goodun.

This weekend, lets all chill out. Especially as there is now a study in line with my idea of working-from-home taking off bigtime. Well done you journalists. Keep up!

Procrastination hurts


Sometimes I wish I learnt from my mistakes, and STOPPED PROCRASTINATING.

Lesson for 2008 - Don't Procrastinate.

Bah - serves me right.

Weather Warnings


I do like to observe how we handle adverse weather here. Whilst our
overall collective resolve is strong, the basic infrastructure we rely
upon is extremely poor. There are continued issues with the trains this
morning, and we are bracing for another day of storms.

I recall my childhood, when during periods of deep snow, we'd still go
to school - and have a whale of a time in the playground.

Which brings me to climate. I haven't seen that much snow in the South
for a long time. I hope that it is the ambient heat of increased houses
that is melting it, rather than anything else.


Whats wrong with telecommuting?


Another note about lack of space in offices, and the need to share desks.
Frankly i would like some ballsy execs to order some of their employees to work from home.

London is getting saturated with workers. There isnt even enough vertical space to go around.

The solution is simple: trust.

Never has an employer trusted its employees. How is it that a non human entity influences the behaviour of managers such? Policy and the like i guess. Well i stand alone. I trust my team and encourage them to work from home. They have always delivered for me.

Trust is a beautiful thing. Be human and trust your employees.

Be sensible and encourage working from home.

Let the brave dominate the future.


Thank crunchie


Another week ends. Synergy and disharmony unravel. I noticed that swiss toni is a union rep. Very good. I attended my company's disciplinary course. Very shocking. My view is that some firms actually dont give a damn about you. And that includes your managers.

I need to form my own firm. Could also do wirth firm form, but ninja training is helping there.

Anyway its friday. I must open a new savings account this weekend. Have to keep on finances now, spent far too much on my holiday.

Politics. I am fed up of vision-less bland politicians who vomit blurb about stuff they have never seriously studied. Id cards on govt hands precisely because data can be so easily lost (by said govt btw). Ffs.

Give them all 30k salaries. They dont deserve a penny more. Oh and no expenses!





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cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Putting it on the line


.I've had many wacky ideas before, and oddly over time some of them have appeared.

So i thought as an experiment i'l put some up. Why? Because after years of collecting lp, cd, dvd i began asking why i couldnt get media on a memory chip. Now you can, via flash rom cards. No moving parts and density galore.

So what else do i think?

- bonjour via mobiles. We have bluetooth. We have sms. Sms or chat via a bonjour autodiscovery network at short range is next.

- blackberrymania. The iphone or rim, concept is email and text chat on your mobile.

- unified transmission. Ever wondered why mobile companies have to put up and manage their own masts? They will converge, selling them to or creating a shared carrier.

- commuter rebelion. Watch for less out of towners commuting in to work. Savvy yankee firms offering flexiwork will grab more people.

- small laptops. Yes of the 11inch or smaller kind. Airbook is not it. Its still big. Trust me.

- kindle. Yes. If besos gets his debug and r2 right, its gonna work. Imagine it one device to read but your library is permanent and held online and globally accessible, even if only via amazon. I'm sold.

- sony cyberman. Convergence you chaps. Put your best cam on your best phone and add best walkman. Iphone will finally have a rival. Oh yes, see blackberrymania above for what to put on the device.

- linux. Yes. Yes. Yes. Time approaches where critical mass is only hurdle for free os and opensource computing in your home.

- tvputer. Think about it.

Thats it for now. Ive many more but this p1i has a iffy tiny keyboard.


Make governance accessible


There is much to be said about honesty in all walks of life. Without this we would be constant victims of fraudsters and not have any genuine relationships. It is with in mind that i stand frustrated by our collective leadership.

We are a nation that is approaching critical junctures where our behaviour and action will have permanent and critical effect.

So why are our leaders at local and national level so shifty?

Is governing a business or skill.

Therein lies the solution i think.

We should flatten wages to 50k. No additional work or sponsorship allowed. That way they live in the commons and can therefore manage the commons better.

Tell me, do you think a billionaire has your best interests at heart in any deal? So why then do we believe mps do, whilst they earn more than gps and do, apparently very little.

Question this. Think it through. Make the change happen.


Cold snap


This morning things are very cold here in southern england. Not quite shivering bones weather but cold enough. Makes me wonder what the people in sunnier climates would be doing.

Watched another chinese film at the weekend. They have a really good way of building stories. Very admirable. Also went to watch national treasure 2. Formulaic but enjoyable.

This week is going to be difficult. Work has a lot going on for me. Bah.

Check out swiss toni's post about graffiti. Made me laugh.

I'll blog some neat gadgets soon. Intrigued by some of these.


New Host


I've transferred this blog to my own host.

Slowly things will converge, as all things in life do.

Apologies for any glitches during the transition. More goss later.


<< back to thenumnum.net


Weekly musings from a confused mind. This blog, and all posts within it, are just ramblings. They are in no way affiliated with any past, current or future employers. Neither do they represent my deep felt views, or those of my friends or family. Really, its just a blog, which is a new thing, and has new dimensions. So please, dont take anything seriously. If you do, contact me via a comment, and I will get back to you to resolve the situation. Seriously, enjoy life, ignore this blog, and views within it.


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