Getting from A to B: The Work Project 2.0

The Work Project has reached the point where it has to iterate. It needs to be turned up to eleven. There are some major changes coming and it’s time to share them.

At the start of 2015, like others I know I decided that this year would be about making ideas a reality. It’s the year of doing.

The Work Project has reached the point where it has to iterate. It needs to be turned up to eleven. There are some major changes coming, sparked by my thoughts a few weeks ago and it’s time to share them…

This experiment set out with two aims:

  1. Find an alternative way to make a living, outside the usual structures of work (i.e. a job).

    Someone told me that ‘most people hate their jobs.’ I wanted to experiment with ways to make a living so that people who do hate their jobs can see they have an alternative.

  2. Give everyone an opportunity to rethink their relationship with work.

    We’re taught in school what a career path should look like and once we find the security of a pay packet, many of us don’t think twice about it. I wanted to play with work in a way that could help people think about it in a completely different way.

The aims seem to have a widespread resonance. Although a couple of years old now, Gallup’s Employee Engagement statistics showed that 87% of global employees feel disengaged with their work. It’s a sad scenario that says a lot about both the resigned misery in which many workers live and the potential benefits in productivity and participation their employers are missing out on.

Effectively, The Work Project is about taking control of your relationship with work, whatever level of traditional career you’re at. It worked for me and I now feel in a position to share the useful insight I’ve gained, but I’m not sure that’s enough.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve started feeling that the tips I’m providing and reach I have isn’t enough to make an impact on the issues I’ve discovered. I’ve been thinking about the aims of The Work Project and how to manifest the project in a way that offers something greater, more useful and more universal.

Whatever happens, The Work Project will always be about those two aims. Right now though, I feel that in its original guise, I’ve taken it as far as it can go. It’s all been based on me and my search for insight… it’s time to make it into something detached from me that can benefit anyone and everyone.

I’ve created an action plan for the future of The Work Project.

Step 1: The Closure Project.

I mentioned this recently. I see a great way to bring the original project full circle and create a unique piece of work that offers a unique

I’m going to write about it in its own right imminently, but for now here’s an overview:

Creating a digital-physical crossover piece of art that allows a wide audience a reframed view of ‘work’ and represents the evolution of work from analogue to digital. The culmination of a year spent experimenting personally, socially and artistically across written and visual mediums with The Work Project. Interviewing the individual who inspired the original project (and the character Production Manager John), then breaking it into samples and composing a piece of music around it. Producing a limited edition 7” vinyl with gatefold sleeve and accompanying booklet featuring commissioned concept photography and written explorations. Accompanying extended digital download content.

I’ve just submitted an application to The Arts Council for half of the funding we need (I lifted the above description directly from the application). If successful with that, we’ll be launching a Kickstarter campaign to get the project into orbit. I use the word ‘we’ as I’m really excited to be working with some very talented (and award winning!) artists who I last worked with a decade ago.

A lot more on this to follow!


Step 2: The Work Project Not for Profit.

The Closure Project will also be the platform to launch a new vision for The Work Project. I’d like to create a not for profit organisation that delivers the project’s aims through two areas:

  • Commissioning and supporting creative projects that challenge and inspire people to reframe their view of ‘work’.
    Much of The Work Project to date has been about small creative projects. #6WordWork to What is Work, the spoken word version of John and more, have contributed to the project’s value as much as any of the more methodical exploration. There’s a definite value in creating alternative perspectives on work and developing ideas that encourage everyone to think about their own relationship in a different way.
  • Delivering free and universally accessible employability education and support.
    This will come via a technology platform, content development, online courses, support and commercialised sister ventures that generate revenue to be reinvested in further developing The Work Project. This is based on the belief that everyone should have access to the tools they need to go out and get the right work.

It’s essential that none of this depends upon me. The original project was an experiment with me as the subject and while I want to be involved here, I don’t want to be a figurehead or ‘in charge’ – I just want to start the ball rolling. I’d like this to be independent of any one person. That’s why I intend to create a manifesto for The Work Project and then build an advisory board of 10 individuals who bring relevant knowledge to guide it:

  • Business
  • Marketing/ PR
  • Creative/ Artistic
  • Tech
  • Education/ Training/ Learning
  • Content
  • Not for Profit
  • Founder
  • Worker Perspective
  • Alternative Perspective

The idea is that all of this is built and operated out loud – complete transparency on all matters from financial to operation. Everything in the public domain.

With that in mind, I’ll need to build an initial team who as people bring the balance of understanding and capability along these lines:

  • Admin/ Office Management
  • Social Media
  • PR/ Marketing
  • Business Development/ Sponsorship/ Fundraising
  • Tech Platform Development

These won’t necessarily be directly employed people – the essential part is that this is a team. We’ll look at the options as we go and build appropriately.

To achieve this, we’ll need to raise £100k+ before we can even get this off the ground – to cover building the tech platform and operating for the first year. The more we can raise, the more impact we can create.

Funding will come primarily from corporate sponsorship and donations, with applications for government and lottery funding providing secondary income to support our work. Then, once we’re running, the project’s own revenue streams will contribute and it will transition to self-funding.

I have no idea how long it will take to make all of this a reality, just that it feels like the right direction to take. I’ll write much more on this plan over the coming months as it develops and I’m completely open to comment and conversation along the way.

Right now though, the main focus is on The Closure Project and –hopefully- being ready to launch a Kickstarter campaign in late October!

There will be a few changes to the website coming soon to reflect all this. The We Are the Work Project newsletter will contain the latest updates, all of which will be published at

The Work Project now has its own dedicated Twitter account (@The_WorkProject), where everything will be shared too. Please follow!


I Need Your Help!

If you’ve been kind enough to read this far, please now take one minute to help The Work Project by doing these few things:

  • Share the article as far and wide as you can on social media.
  • Follow The Work Project on Twitter and encourage many others to do the same.
  • Sign up to We Are The Work Project to stay in the loop without having your inbox spammed to death.

Thanks for your support. People will make this possible…

Watch this space!

New Brand You.

What’s the difference between running a business and taking responsibility for your own career? Very little! It’s a question of perspective.

It’s time to stop coaching people on traditional views of a career (get job, keep job, get promoted/ headhunted, repeat to fade) and start taking a more proactive look at what we all need to do to make our way in the world. There’s so much written about the future of work, but the truth is we don’t yet know it.  The only constant in our working life is ourselves – it’s our own responsibility to do the right thing at the right time, in the right way to make things happen.

We live in times where the options are abundant, as are the opportunities. In fact, if none of the standard ways fit, we can create our own with little more than a smartphone and internet access.

If you were told to run a business, you’d immediately assume certain responsibilities – sales, marketing, accounts, operations, yet with our own careers many of us still bash out a dry CV in Microsoft Word, apply to jobs we think we could do, then hope for the best. We need to start looking at ourselves as mini businesses and adopting exactly the same techniques as organisations to create success.

Here are three things to think about to get started:

  1. Know What You Want to Do.

    When I started The Work Project, I was asked many times by many people what I actually do. It took me nearly eight months to work that out and how to connect it with my working life to make a living. I could have saved a lot of uncertainty and effort if I’d been clear on that in the beginning. Although a massive part of me still thinks it should be about who I am and what I could do, the world wants us in boxes and until I can find a way to change that, to get our foot in the door we need to allow ourselves to be categorised.

    Before you start applying for jobs, work out exactly what it is you do, make sure your branding (see below) shouts that you’re great at it, then target opportunities that match.

  2. Building Your Brand.

    For some reason, the CV just won’t go away. You’ll probably need that document, but in truth it does less for you than your social media profiles and should be an introductory point of reference that catches the eye and encourages further reading on you as a subject. Keep it simple, keep to the message – make a version tailored to every job/ organisation you apply to. Don’t be afraid to be visual, use colour and experiment with layout.

    If you don’t feel up to the creative side, try and ask someone else to create a layout, or provide some illustrations for you. Your CV is a sales document, look on it as your brand’s pitch presentation and aim to make the statement that hooks your customers in.

    Refer to your social media profiles and make sure they’re up to scratch. Have some consistency in your profile photos, keep them human and make sure the photos of you vomiting in the street in Magaluf aren’t shared as public. Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date, think what you tweet and remember, social media is your brand and its content marketing efforts – use it to your advantage.

  3. Find and Target Prospects.

    Every business needs customers and they start as prospects. Identifying those most relevant to convert and then building a relationship with them to create a working relationship. Your potential employer is a customer of your personal business – you need to create a relationship with them that makes them want to buy your services.

    Start with a simple checklist of what you want to do, where you want to be or travel to geographically and research potential employers that fit this. A LinkedIn advanced search is great for this, although Google works too (Insurance Companies in Bristol or whatever fits).

    As you build a target list, filter and funnel them by factors like organisational culture, values, working hours, or whatever helps you narrow down your top 10 prospects. Then follow them on Social Media, get to know them, call and speak to them about opportunities – make sure that when the chance arises, you’re in position to seal the deal and bring home that customer!

We all spend a lot of our lives at work, so we should be prepared to work on our careers as if they are a business we need to keep afloat. I’m not convinced that traditional job seeker support allows for this, but it’s essential for everyone.

It might be something The Work Project could help with and I’m starting to think about a not for profit way to deliver real, effective education and support to help everyone rethink and take control of their work life – which naturally starts with their personal ‘business’. I’ll keep you posted as I work on that, but if you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

In the meantime, for starters, take a look at The Work Canvas – the first tool that came from The Work Project.

#6WordWork – A Creative Project for Us All!

Launching a new creative project where everyone can play a part.

Earlier in the year, I asked a selection of people a question (what is work?) and filmed their responses. It was really insightful and although some clear patterns emerged, everyone had their own personal definition of ‘work’.

To take that spirit and open it up into a new creative challenge, I’m starting #6WordWork and I’d love you to be involved.

Let’s create a collection of short perspectives on work, consisting of six words.

It’s inspired by Six Word Stories, which itself was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s ‘best work’.

#6WordWork will run on Twitter and will include contributions from anyone who would like to get involved. All you need to do is create a six word perspective on work and share it on Twitter, including #6WordWork in your tweet.

You can make it as creative, or personal as you like and it doesn’t just have to be text. Why not overlay your words onto an image to add an extra dimension? Just make sure you use the hashtag, so everyone gets to see it and we can share it more widely for you.

Please share this post and get everyone you know to contribute. Everyone in the world has a perspective on work and I’d love to capture as many as possible.

Remember to use #6WordWork

I can’t wait to see what you come up with!


Huge thanks to Richard Martin for introducing me to #6WordStory, providing, shaping and sparking my inspiration for #6WordWork.

The 5 Action Rule: There’s No Substitute for Doing.

It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by a workload and end up weighed down by stress, seemingly swimming through mud and being very busy but achieving nothing. It happens to us all at some point.

With a list of projects as long as my arm, I found myself in that position at the start of last week. In fact, as I became overwhelmed by everything, I managed to get nothing done. The half-written articles that should have provided last week’s newsletter weren’t finished and every bit of momentum I had grounded to a halt as I clicked from window to window on the screen in front of me, essentially shuffling papers. Scribbled notes were added to scribbled notes and I ended up with notepad pages full of nothing I could do anything with.

After a Monday spent winding myself up in this way, I decided by late afternoon that the only thing to do was to walk away. My instincts were telling me to sit with it all until I actually managed to get something done, but for once I stood up, left it all and did something else.

First thing on Tuesday morning, relaxed and with a refreshed perspective I created a list of 5 things to do that day. The list contained the most important things that I could do to move forward with my work. It was clear and I knew exactly what to do – everything else faded to background.

Being that direct in a course of action, I stayed on each task until it was complete – the jumping from task to task stopped. As you’ve probably guessed, I’d completed the list by lunchtime, making some really positive progress in that short time.

This is something I’ve encountered before in The Work Project adventure. Taking action forms part of The Work Canvas tool, designed to help work and career progress. To get where you want to be, there’s no substitute for direct action.

The problem is remembering that and keeping it simple enough to allow real progress. I’m calling it the 5 Action Rule.

The 5 Action Rule.

First thing each day, sit down to consider the most important things you need to do today. Do it that morning when you’re not pre-judging through yesterday’s perceptions.

  • Make a list of the 5 actions you can take today that will create progress towards a goal.
  • Order the list from 1-5.
  • Work through the actions in that order.

Focus on one action at a time and don’t deviate until that task is complete.

By all means answer your phone during that time, but any resulting task must be scheduled for after you’ve completed your 5 important daily actions. Don’t check email or social media while you’re taking your 5 actions – they will distract you.

Once you’ve completed your 5 actions, you’ll get a boost of positivity, safe in the knowledge that today you’ve made progress. You’ll also have plenty of time left in the day to do other things…

Let me know how you get on!

I Need Your Help! First Thoughts on Closure…

Almost a year since I started The Work Project, I’m thinking about closure.

The only aim when this all kicked off was to discover whether, in twelve months, I could remove myself from all of the usual structures of work and find a living. It proved itself possible. In a great way, that has left me open and out there to continue with my re-evaluated relationship with work.

But what about the people I started this to help? At the moment is the project doing enough to provide something useful?

Recently, I was sharing a beer with someone whose opinion I regard highly. She suggested that I ought to do something to mark the end of the original year. It’s an exciting idea and, as I’m also looking at how I can do more with all the insight I’ve gained while involving more people in The Work Project, I thought I’d share some ideas here, in the spirit of working out loud.

Here’s what I’m thinking… I’d really appreciate your feedback:

  1. The Way Forward: Opening The Work Project to Everyone
    We all work and we all have different ideas, experiences and insight to share. In fact ‘work’ means something different to each of us, as I discovered when I did a short video project earlier in the year. There have been some ideas bubbling under, but I think that after twelve months The Work Project should continue to share resources and insight I’ve gained, but encourage contribution and participation from others far more widely – and in more interesting ways.I’ll separate out the project from myself, give it its own Twitter Account and Facebook page, focussing on promoting more widely the free resources it can share to help anyone and everyone rethink their relationship with work in a positive way. Things like The Work Canvas. Finally, I’ll launch the t-shirts I’ve been threatening for months and support The Amber Foundation with every sale.I’ll then launch the creative submissions pieces based around creative writing, personal insight, photography and other insightful and artistic projects. More on that to follow, but the aim would be to use creativity to help everyone change their perspective on ‘work’ and understand what it actually means to them.

    There will be admin costs around all of this, but I’ll find creative approaches to meet these, which will further the project’s insights. Things like Patreon.

  2. Closing the First 12 Months in Style
    For a while I’ve been mulling over a creative project that crosses over digital and physical art forms, combining formal with creative. I think The Work Project would provide a really interesting platform to try this out.The Work Project was started when I met a man named John at a barbecue and was taken aback by some statements he made around his work and the reasons why people work. He became a cardboard cut-out character that illustrated the plight of the faceless worker.John -Faceless Worker FootballI’m thinking about tracking down the real John.

    Interviewing him over a beer –about his views on work, the project he inspired (which I don’t think he knows exists) and how he could rethink his work- I’ll record the conversation. The recording will be edited and I’ll write piece of music to set it to. I’ve been inspired by Public Service Broadcasting’s work with NASA’s Mission Control Recordings for this.

    I’ll have the recording pressed onto a 7” vinyl and put together a collection of faceless worker photographs and a booklet providing a written perspective on ‘work’ that will complete the package. I’ll also create digital versions of the music, the full interview and other additional content, which will be downloadable via a code that comes with the vinyl. This will all be strictly limited edition and only ever pressed once.

    This would be an amazing way to bring the year full circle, while continuing to explore work in new ways. I’m currently working out how to fund this – I’m leaning towards Kickstarter, but would appreciate any thoughts and feedback you might have.

When I set out on this journey, I quickly realised that to get anywhere I’d need the help of others. Your feedback now represents just that!

Whatever happens, I’ll be sharing everything with The Work Project newsletter subscribers first, so make sure you sign up for nothing more than a single weekly update, sent out on a Monday to give you food for thought for the week ahead. You can do that here!

The Impact of Experimentation

First thoughts on how randomly connecting with 100 others can change your life…

It’s the ripples of influence that everyone and anyone we meet can have that helps us get to where we’re going…

Ten months ago I wrote a Medium post that connected 101 complete strangers. In the intervening time, although the project splintered and trickled, I’ve come to realise the major impact these people have had on my life, even where they don’t know it.

This week, a novel called What Pretty Girls Are Made Of was published by Simon and Schuster. I downloaded the Kindle version this morning (you can do the same here in the UK and here in the US) and just knowing it exists makes me smile.

What Pretty Girls… is written by Lindsay Roth, one of the #100Connections. We chatted on Skype in the first week of the project and quickly became firm friends. In the intervening time we’ve been in regular contact and even managed to meet for breakfast on the 30th floor of The Shard in London — where bizarrely I took a photo of the view from the toilet, yet failed to get a shot to remember the meeting by.

As I read the acknowledgments section at the front of Lindsay’s novel, I was struck by this sentence:

It’s true that it takes a village to write a book, and each of you has shared your knowledge, observations, advice, and friendship with me…

That’s the exact truth that the impact of #100Connections has been built on. The pools of people, the ripples they create, the connections they make radiate outwards. Lindsay’s drive to write her novel led her to her Literary Agent Lucinda. Lindsay connected me with Lucinda, who has been unbelievably giving of her time and effort in reading over my book idea for Simple. Better. Human. Even if the book never sees the light of day, these interactions have contributed to making me a better writer and more thorough researcher.

And so it goes…

Another #100Connection Ingrid Green created the women’s soccer podcast Cut 2 The Chase and continues to do all kinds of amazing work. Her intensity and dedication blows my mind and I’ve enjoyed the few times we’ve been able to chat on Skype, or exchange thoughts via voice notes and Glip — particularly where Ingrid has challenged me and my ideas. Because of Ingrid’s drive, a Slack channel was born for #100Connections and some cool ideas started to bubble up. More than anyone else, Ingrid made me really consider what the project was all about, why I did it and overall, taught me a lot about myself.

A month or so ago, Sherri Spellic was in London, taking a course. Ever since the project started she’s been kind, supportive and shared interesting articles with myself and the others. In the very early days she very kindly offered me some coaching, which I never got around to taking as I became swamped in work and life. It’s a genuine regret for me and so it was nice to be able to meet up and talk over dinner.


Sherri’s on an interesting journey considering her work and that’s something I can really relate to. She quickly (and accurately) pinpointed me as an in for a penny in for a pound kind of person. We had a great conversation, with the level of connection that the project had given us providing friendship over acquaintance. This time I even remembered to take a photo!

There are many others. Some remain actively connected and in touch (Chaz — now that you’re settled in London we will have that drink, oh and I love this!), others make contact occasionally and others I ought to catch up with. Therein lies the fatal flaw with the #100Connections idea — It had no natural platform and Twitter alone could not sustain the initial, exciting, momentum. As a result, there are many of the 100 who I failed to offer adequate help with the initial question of what can I do to support you? I definitely owe some of them.

Jim sent me a small video camera to take some footage and get it to him. I took the footage and was adding it to Dropbox when my internet connection crashed. I then got cold feet and decided what I had was too terrible to send. The plan was to record more and get it to Jim, but that still remains nothing more than a plan.

Jim, if you’re reading this, I owe you and I’m determined to do something worthwhile for you. Let’s think of a project for the camera…

The #100Connections adventure has run parallel to my experiments with work and life over the last year. Both have contributed heavily to who I am and what I’m doing today. As I work increasingly with complex and dispersed global organisations, I’ve started to understand the value that random connections across geographic locations can create in terms of perspective, creativity, idea generation and support.

As I reflect on the impact, I realise there are some involved for whom the project barely registered — that’s expected in any gathering. That’s also the excitement — the ebb and flow of who, where, what, why and how, all of us loosely bound by a hashtag that unleashes unlimited possibility.

Which is why as Lindsay comes to launch her novel, Ingrid next crowdfunds a project, or any of the others need support, there remains something they each have in common with 100 other people spread across five continents. We were all part of this and whether we’ve been impacted by or helped impact individuals or the group more widely, there is the basis of an identity, a network that was built around the question what can I do to support you?

That’s a powerful thing.

PS — In case you’re wondering…


By Andy Swann on August 3, 2015
Exported from Medium on July 15, 2016

Shutting Down.

One of the biggest problems with integrating work and life more closely is the balance.

As nice as it is to blur the lines and reconsider when ‘work’ time actually happens, allowing more flexibility for ‘home’ time, it’s easy to never stop. When you enjoy what you do, work is as much of a hobby as anything, so taking time away from it seems an alien concept.

Mindfulness and meditation are very much the buzz words of our time. My interpretation of their rise, is that it’s important to switch off –fully- sometimes. It’s something I’ve always struggled to do.

Through The Work Project I’ve managed to create a new balance – spending more time with my family, while working more. My recent experiment in being nocturnal worked really well to finish a piece of work I needed to finish, but this week it’s gone to a new level.

I’m currently camping in the Cotswolds with my extended family. My brother and his wife are back from Thailand for a few weeks and we’ve all taken the opportunity to get out and sty out for a few days. I’m writing this from The Ram Inn, Woodchester enjoying a pint of Old Rosie Cider. My kids are running around, my sister’s boyfriend is reading the paper and my brother is writing emails to prospective visitors to his guest house.

What is relaxing?

Traditional wisdom would dictate that by sitting here writing my weekly update I’m not present. But I am and for me, this is as much leisure as work – I don’t feel that I’m relaxing any less than James who is sat beside me with The Times. We walked this morning, cooked on an open fire, found enough signal to reply to a few emails and now we’ve come out for an afternoon drink. We’ll be sitting round an open fire at midnight.

Does the fact that I’m willingly doing this detract from my ability to relax and recharge or even switch off? I’m unsure. This is the first holiday or prolonged period of time off I’ve taken in over a year and it’s great, but my work and life are balanced differently to most. I know I’m prone to suffer anxiety and occasionally exhaustion, but where to draw the line?

My friend Doug is approaching 200 consecutive days of meditation and half of me thinks I really need to follow his lead and learn to switch off completely. It’s such a hard thing to do and I have the utmost respect for his achievements. So, as I sit here officially on holiday, I’ll attempt to work out what represents “switching off”.

Here are the questions to ask ourselves:

  1. Am I working out of duty or because I want to?
  2. Is what I’m doing preventing me from being present, or interacting with my family?
  3. Do I have enough time in the day to just sit and take in everything around me?
  4. Do I feel stressed, or relaxed?
  5. Is there time to play?

Your answers should tell you everything you need to know about whether you need to stop, walk away and take time completely away from work to recharge, or if there’s enough balance between work and life to make sure that you don’t burn out and also give enough time to the right things on holiday.

Five Essential Things for Mobile Workers.

I recently decided to invest in a new work bag.

For the last year I’ve had a bag that just about fits my tablet, charging lead, wallet and, at push, my phone. There have been times where I’ve been caught out, unable to charge or unable to work for another reason – full of ideas and unable to output.

Here are the 5 things I’ve come to realise are essentials for mobile working.

  1. The Right Bag 
    After much time struggling with a bag that’s too small to be useful, I’ve invested in a Timbukt2 Messenger Bag. It comes with enough room and enough pockets for everything. Laptops, leads, accessories, pads – you could probably carry all of that plus enough for an overnight stay.

  3. An External Battery 
    I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been caught out – unable to find a charging point as my phone gives up the ghost. Although it takes up to 21 hours to soak up a full charge, the Swees USB holds enough to power laptops, tablets and phones for multiple charges. I got change from £25 too.

  5. Multi USB Cable 
    A small lead that has every possible USB end allows you to charge your own devices and anyone else’s – without having to carry a whole array of leads. The best part of this one is that you can usually pick these up a freebies at conferences.

  7. A Voice Recorder 
    You can probably do this with your phone, but after embarking on a music project recently, I invested in a Zoom H1 which gives great quality, instant recording. Once I had it, it quickly became invaluable for keeping voice notes, recording interviews, remembering ideas and more.

  9. The Right Devices
    I’ve been a Windows devotee for some time (controversial, I know!) but having a Microsoft Surface Pro and Lumia 930 phone has been a great combination for me. Whatever works for you, a phone and tablet or laptop is essential for the remote worker. Make sure that you have a data bundle with your phone that allows you to piggy back your other device onto it and use it as a wifi hotspot.

This could go on forever and I’d certainly make sure that things like headphones are in my bag at all times… I’d love to hear about any essential items you’ve found.

Chasing The Bucket List: Using The Work Canvas to Make Things Happen.

As I tried to understand what The Work Project has meant for my work and what insight it could give to others, I created The Work Canvas. In the spirit of working out loud, I’m starting to work through mine and thought I’d share my work bucket list as it stands.

As I tried to understand what The Work Project has meant for my work and what insight it could give to others, I created The Work Canvas. In the spirit of working out loud, I’m starting to work through mine and thought I’d share my work bucket list as it stands.

The Work Canvas

As with all these things, this isn’t a final list and will evolve forever, but for now, here are 5 things I really want to try. I’m also sharing what I’m going to do to make the first one happen, following the Work Canvas – partly to put it out there and partly to show you how it works. I’ve chosen the more abstract things, that are disconnected from my main network – the things I’ll have to think differently to make happen.

Bucket List

  • Present a show on BBC 6 Music.
  • Write a book and have it published.
  • Record an album and release it on vinyl.
  • Run a pub.
  • Contribute something significant to other people.

The idea is that once you know your ambitions and have created your list, you work through a cycle to plan:

Starting Point – What to do first.

Positive Actions – What to do next.

Positive Connections – Who to ask for help.

Why? – The reasons you will succeed.

These items are cyclical and in the spirit of design thinking, you can work through them in different orders, revisit or continue to cycle through them as you refine your drive to reach the goal.

Here’s what I’m going to do about item 1 on my list..

Present a Show on BBC 6 Music

6 Music is my favourite radio station. I used to present a music show on student radio when I was at University, but never followed up on it. After I graduated, I created a music magazine The V- oid and I’d love to bring the independent spirit of the magazine to the airwaves.

Starting Point – Make contact with 6 Music, keep trying until I can open a conversation.

Positive Actions – This one’s all about conversation until I can convince someone to let me present a show, even as a one-off – maybe as cover for someone. I’ll go anywhere, anytime to meet with anyone who can help me progress my cause. I’m also planning ideas for a show around the independent spirit of The V- oid and The Work Project.

Positive ConnectionsChris Hawkins of 6 Music seems like an affable man. I like his early morning show and he’s favourited a tweet or two of mine in the past. I’ll start by tweeting this article and dropping his studio email address a line. Maybe he’ll be able to advise or make an introduction. I’ll also search LinkedIn and see if I have any second level connections at 6 Music.

Why? – I’m by no means the most qualified radio presenter, but I have a little experience and some good ideas. I’m prepared to knock on doors until one opens.

That’s how this part of The Work Canvas works. It’s quite fun looking at work in this way and whether you’re after your leftfield bucket list, dream job or building a more traditional career, it helps to map out what you’re going to do to make it happen.

It also helps to talk about it… you never know who’s listening.

If you’d like to try The Work Canvas, read about it and download a printable PDF here. Please feel free to share it too, I created it so it could help people!

We’re All Digital Nomads in Our Own Way.

We can’t all work from a beach, but we can unleash our work in different ways.

Digital nomads are everywhere. Articles by outlets from The Guardian to Forbes and other such outlets go around and around, trending on social media and attracting envious comments… I wish I could. These are people who work anywhere and fit work around travelling the world. Essentially, they make their living whilst on perpetual holiday. Usually, the articles are accompanied by photos of Indonesian beaches and panoramic mountain tops. It’s the dream – these people are working the dream.

The problem is, this kind of work only suits a certain people. If the ability to work in an endless stream of coffee shops is limited to those whose work does not tie them to a single place at a specific time, the Digital Nomad life is even more niche – it requires no personal ties to a place, or responsibilities. So many people who would hanker after the life of a digital nomad would, in practice, be unable to sever the ties necessary to do it.

Kids can be taken on global adventures [after hearing Benjamin Southworth speak at Silicon Beach 2014 I’d question how good constant travel is for them, although Simon Gough is making a great job of combining parenting with an alternative work-life abroad], but elderly parents can’t. Freelance graphic designers can work from any sunkissed paradise with internet access, carers, manufacturers and police officers can’t.

We can’t all be digital nomads, but we can unleash our work in different ways.

For me, the school summer holidays have just started. My kids are running riot around the house. Much of my work over the next two months is from home, which is a double-edged sword. I want to spend time with my family, but I also need to concentrate at a time when I’m particularly swamped. I can’t just go away for the summer (it would end in divorce), but neither can I expect to be hugely productive between 8am and 8pm.

Over the weekend, my wife and I discussed it. Instead of starting with restrictions and attempting to impose a 9-5 day on a situation that just wouldn’t support it, we took freedom as our starting point and built parameters into it.

It looked a bit like this:


  • 24 Hours in a Day
  • Work Anytime
  • Work Anywhere


  • Need 6.5 hours sleep
  • Need to be present for the family
  • Need to get the work done

As a result of looking at things this way, we decided I should go semi-nocturnal. The house is quiet from 8pm. If I were to put the kids to bed and start work then, I could get a full 8 hours in, uninterrupted by the usual work day distractions and noises of the home. Highly productive time.

If I worked until 4am then went to bed, Sarah, my wife, would get up with the kids. I could sleep in until 10:30, before getting up and spending my day on family time and doing the things I need to do during ‘standard’ working hours.

It’s working perfectly. On days where I have to go out, I adjust the sleep times accordingly, but as a basis we’ve started with freedom and used the immovable parameters of our situation to rethink my working time. As a result, I’m finding myself extremely focussed and productive, more relaxed and nicer to be around. I’m also able to mess around outside without feeling guilty.

Messing Around | The Work Project

It’s anecdotal, but it’s the same principle that creates the far more aspirational lifestyles of the digital nomads. Start with freedom, then add the basic parameters you just can’t avoid and build your relationship with work that way. Mine is a product of my specific circumstance, but we all have an opportunity to consider our work in this context.

Freedom within parameters – it’s the same for the globe trotters as the home working parents. The important thing is that the relationship with work is on the workers’ terms, rather than the terms of the work itself. Traditionally, work dictates where we are and when… the opportunity now exists for a rethink.

Freedom Within Parameters

And for anyone who suggests that it’s impossible to rethink, it may be that their employer needs to do the same:

  • Start with 100% Freedom.
  • Add the Parameters that are absolutely immovable.
  • Create the answer where you unleash your work with maximum freedom, within parameters.

I’d love to hear how you get on!