Your Super Secret Bonus Day

While having breakfast with a friend yesterday, I was reminded about an idea I had a few years back.

“You know what I need?  I need one of those secret bonus days you talked about inventing.”

It had been so long that I had forgotten my radical idea/invention, time altering notion.

(Image Courtesy of Western Michigan University Registrar’s Office)

The idea is a simple one, but does require altering the space-time continuum.  Everyone, and I mean everyone gets a Super Secret Bonus Day each week.  It appears on your calendar.  It can be between Wednesday and Thursday, after a hard Monday, anywhere you like, it is up to you.

The Super Secret Bonus Day is yours.  You get to do those things that you never get to do for yourself given your busy almost crazy paced life.  Read that book, go to the beach and lay in the sun, write, paint, sing, or just rest.  There is a catch.

No one else knows you are gone during your Super Secret Bonus Day.  You may have spent that day at the beach between Monday and Tuesday, but no one noticed.  For them, it was business as usual, but you are surprisingly tan and relaxed.  There are no logistics that you have to work out to have your day, no child care, no guilt for wanting to spend some time alone away from your significant other, kids, parents, co-workers, boss or friends.  It is your day and everyone gets one.

As we talked a little more at breakfast, I began to wonder.  Why is this concept so attractive, yet so unattainable?  (Besides the whole altering time thing…)  We are so busy, so stretched, and so scheduled that there is no time left for us.  We all have these lists of things we would like to do, but time slips away and they become a somewhat resentful reminder that there was no time to accomplish these things.

Given that a few years have passed and I have been unable to alter the course of time (despite a few good attempts), I have a new idea.  We can still have our Super Secret Bonus Day, but it may look a little different.  Everyone can have a Super Secret Bonus Day but the reality is you need to schedule it on your calendar.  Once a week may be too much to start, so I am going to try for once a month (for some of you, once a quarter may be more realistic).

Here is my plan.  I am going to put my Super Secret Bonus Day on the calendar once a month.  A day for just me to ponder life, read, and write a little while sipping coffee in some amazing local coffee shop, eating a lunch without the rushing of managing young kids, and quiet time in a library or art gallery.  What will your Super Secret Bonus Day include?

A few Super Secret Bonus Day Guidelines (no rules, this is supposed to be fun right?)

1.  It is your day.

2.  Do something you like that is not work related.

3.  Come to some agreement with those within your sphere that you each get a day, and let it happen without making the other person feel guilty for taking their day.

4.  Help someone else take their day (watch their kids, encourage them to schedule it).

5.  Have fun!

Reflections on the Challenge

Where did January go?  If nothing else, the collective challenge helped the weeks go by.  It was strange this morning to wake up and have the freedom to check the news online, but I refrained.

The News.  What is happening in the world?  I don’t know, but I do know what is happening in my world.  I feel a little more connected to people around me, especially my wife and kids.  I feel less negative about the world, the people in it, and the state of the economy (I had to buy a new washing machine so I am totally doing my part).  We actually had our neighbors over for dinner this month (it took 3.5 years to make it happen) but we did it.  I read a few more books this month.

Being Generous.  For the past month I have been trying to find ways to do this one. There were a few opportunities but I hesitated and the moment passed.  I tried to be more generous to those around me this month but that doesn’t count for the challenge so I had to create a plan.  I did.  Tomorrow is the day, and I am going to try it out.  Wish me luck. (Yes, I will be two days late, but it still counts right?)

Dreaming Big.  As for the dreaming big part, I went out on a limb this month.  There is this national conference I attend each year with some colleagues, and in January they sent out an email asking for speakers and ideas for the conference.  A big dream of mine has been to be a speaker at this conference and I took the leap and submitted my idea and topic.

Putting the idea out there was pretty scary but the response has been great.  My colleagues and others voted, made some great comments on my idea.  Time will tell if it becomes a reality at this year’s conference, but the process and taking the risk was helpful.

Hmmm.  I wonder what February will bring?

Collective Challenge Day 17 (the check in)

Day 17.  We are past the half way mark in our Collective Challenge.  I took a few days off for two reasons.

1.  Since we are refraining from the news in the hopes to break off some of the negativity of the news cycle and quiet things down a little, I didn’t want to become just another source of noise for all of you.

2.  I started my first fully online class last week and a big part of the class is online postings, and that consumed a lot of my time.

During one of the online conversations (the folks in class are all over the country, from Vermont to California) I shared that a group of us were collectively trying to avoid the news.  They found it interesting and wondered how it impacted me.

So far, despite my initial discomfort with changing my routine each morning, it has been a great experience.  I feel less negative about things: life, the state of the world, my own community.

How is the challenge for you?  I wanted to hear from you to see if this little experiment is working.  Keep it up, just a few weeks left.  You can do it, you are going to make it.

P.S. Yes I still watch football, just not the news about it before or afterwards.

Collective Challenge Day 9 (a new week, a new opportunity)

For those of you keeping track there was no post for Day 8.  I took the day off to rest because I was tired.  I hope each of you took the day off, rested, and are ready for the upcoming week.  Taking a day off, a day to yourself is important.  This rest is not only important during this collective challenge, but important in our lives to maintain ongoing balance between our work and our life.

Recently at work, a few people from another department were heading to lunch together and saw me in the parking lot.  They shouted out to me.

“What is the deal with that SKOOK sticker on your back window?  We noticed some members of your team have it too.”

“It is a long story, come and find me later.”

They found me later that day.

It all started a few years ago.  My team and I spend a lot of time in the car driving all around New Hampshire.  Just north of Franconia Notch there is a road sign.  It reads: Skookumchuck Brook.  To give you some perspective it is just under 100 miles from my house.

Over the years it became a ritual when you passed that sign to stop, snap a photo, send a message, or call the team and yell “SKOOK!”  SKOOK was our way of saying, “hey, I am 100 miles from home, but working hard, finding opportunities, and most likely putting in extra hours to make this happen.”

Everyone who received the message would chime in with encouragement and sometimes a little taunting, and it became a little club, or almost a subculture.  We would notice the times of these messages: 6:00 AM meant someone was on the road around 4:00 AM, 6:00 PM meant that someone still had a few hours until they were home again.

Striving to be a SKOOK on the team meant you thought about each day, how to make a difference, and how to maximize the opportunities right in front of you.  Being a SKOOK required a little more effort, a little more dedication, but the reward of knowing that each of us was giving their all to a cause larger than ourselves made it worth it.

After about a few years of this, I was searching the web and found a website that sells SKOOK stickers.  Apparently Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania (the Coal Region) has a nickname: SKOOK.  And they sell merchandise!  And from that moment forward we have stickers on our cars.

There is another week before us.  We have a choice.  We can let the time pass by like any ordinary week, or we can try to be a SKOOK.  We can make the choice to see each day, each hour as an opportunity to make things happen.  An opportunity to make a difference.  Let’s get out there and earn our stickers!

Collective Challenge Day 7 (Week 1 Recap)

Week 1, done.  Just three weeks and three days left.  Today seemed a bit harder than normal to stay away from the news.  I had gotten into the habit of spending Saturday mornings getting caught up on the news and happenings in the world.

During this week I found myself spending more time in silence, especially in the car.  When the particular podcast I listened to was complete, I couldn’t switch to the radio or news. Instead, I just shut it off.  It was strange at first, but as the days wore on, I found comfort in the absence of noise.

Silence is important.  It gave me time to think, process, and just let go of a few things.  As I was reflecting in silence, I remembered a book that I read by A. J. Jacobs, “The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment.”  A.J. takes on different experiments with his life and one that came to mind was when he decided to “unitask” (only doing one thing at a time) because in his words:

“I’m trying to do this because I realize I have a problem focusing.  My brain is all over the place.”  Chapter 8 – The Unitasker

I related to his words and the need to be less scattered and more focused.  And this challenge has helped bring some of that.  In my attempt to also be healthier this year, I have been trying to bring my lunch to work each day, and take 15 minutes or so to actually eat it.  This “lunch-time” has also been a great time to either watch a video on Ted.com or just read.  Coincidentally,  A.J Jacobs was on the front page this week and I watched his talk and he spoke about the importance of silence.  His talk appears below.

So far this week has felt less stressful, and the large sense of impending doom around the world seems to be slowly lifting away.  It is January and here in New Hampshire it is going to be sunny and 50 degrees today.  Let’s see what week two brings.

Collective Challenge Day 6 (My 50th Post!)

Two ceremonious events collide today:

1.  We are just about done with our first week of the challenge, and the comments (especially from yesterday’s post) and the phone call from a friend confirmed that we are doing something great together.  Sometimes I wonder if these ideas, questions, or challenges are just ramblings…and it is typically when I am doubting this blog or myself that one of you confirms the impact it has had on your actual life. It is this confirmation that helps us press on together.

2.  This is my 50th post!  This is a milestone.  As I shared with you before, I have not always been the type to sit down and set yearly goals.  Last year I did.  One of those goals was to actually write on a regular basis.  I was inspired by a friend who helped me realize that I didn’t have to write an entire book in a weekend, but could begin by regularly disciplining myself to write.  

Remember part of this challenge is to Dream Big.  Sometimes once you identify that dream, trying to figure out how to accomplish it can be overwhelming.  But the first step is making a decision to start towards that dream.

It was gaining the understanding that a small decision made every day could really change your life that helped me know where to begin.  I didn’t have to do it all at once, and neither do you.  This blog is the result of a small scary decision made on a regular basis!

I know I say this a lot, but thanks again for being part of this journey together.

Collective Challenge Day 4

We are half way to our first whole week in our collective challenge for 2012.  Do I know how the stock market did yesterday?  Nope.  Have I heard the latest poll about who knows what? Again, no.  Have I endured the latest reason why I am not doing that thing that I should be doing or how the world is ending or how the globalization of mechanized currency exchange has led to the most significant depressing under-unemployment for demographics less than my current state?  NO!

This is what I do know.  I went to work yesterday after being away on vacation and connected with co-workers and realized I missed their faces.  I had a productive day at work and earned my pay.  I came home and ate dinner with my amazing wife and kids (the meatloaf was awesome).  After dinner I played war (the card game) with my youngest daughter and she totally crushed me.

The evening ended with tucking the kids into bed and reading them a story.  My world may be a little smaller, a little less informed, a little less global.   But my world is beginning to feel more connected and more important.

Thank you again for being part of this journey together.  Maybe we really can change the world.