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What's a Big Day?

To knock off anything ambitious you generally need two things: unbroken time and sustained focus. But nobody has the first, and we’ve lost the muscle for the second. The solution – one solution, my solution – is Big Days. I’m suggesting you carve out one 24-hour block of time per month and devote it to a single task. When you clock back into your life the next day you’ll have put something significant in the books – be it soul work or work work. And no one will even know you’ve been gone.

One Big Days

Read Your First Real Novel

Nine-year-old Lila hadn’t planned to blitz through her first actual, no-pictures novel in a single day. It just kind of happened. It was where it happened that proved a bit awkward. Late July. Thetis Island  — a stupefyingly tranquil haven in the British Columbia’s Gulf Islands. A perfect place to read. Except that, when you’ve…

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One-Room Makeover

  The mission: transform a bedroom from a disaster zone to a handsome and ridiculously functional teen cave. The plan: A three-stage process. First, the purge. Then the deep clean. And finally, as Alex Trebek used to tell Jeopardy contestants who crashed to zero, we “start building.” New paint, new furnishings, new mojo. The reveal…

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Wish Your Country a Happy Birthday

As Americans celebrate their country’s 241st birthday today, in Canada we’re still mopping the streets from our own shindig three days ago. This one meant a lot because it was a big round number. We turned 150. Some of us aren’t likely to be above ground come the bicentennial, so this was definitely the year…

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Stage a Marathon Jam Session

They knew it was a big bite — as big as the bacon-and-egg breakfasts they were enjoying in a London pub as they hatched the plan five years ago. But then, big bites are the whole point of fundraisers — as the three friends well understood. “We wanted the project to be mad in its…

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Be an Art Pilgrim: A Day at The Lightning Field

As I watched the caretaker’s truck disappear in a cloud of dust, headed back to the nearest town — Quemado, New Mexico — it dawned on me that there was a certain amount of blind trust involved here. Watch out for rattlesnakes, she’d warned. Eat the food in the fridge, sleep in whichever bed you…

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Two Dresses for Two Daughters

  Cher Primeau’s mother taught her to sew ten years ago, when Cher was pregnant with her oldest daughter, Meghan. “Mom’s an amazing sewer,” Cher says. “I’d have these visions in my head like, I need this special baby bib, and I’d explain it to Mom and she’d make it. Or she’d touch up clothes.…

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Invent Something

You know that list you’re keeping in the back of the sock drawer, the one with the great ideas you always intended to develop when life got less crazy? Well, push pause on crazy and bring that list out. One recent Saturday, I went into Shark Tank mode. What does the world need that I might…

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Visit Your Mom

    Should be beyond debate, right? Of all the things you can legitimately claim you are too busy to do, visiting your mother isn’t one of them. Even if you can only spare a single day. Even if she lives a plane trip away. Even if she can be prickly, and kinda draining. She’s…

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24-Hour Technology Fast

After the US presidential election, a fair number of people went on a digital fast, apparently. It wasn’t so much a choice as a reflex: they recoiled from the social media had helped get Trump elected. Whether that validates or undercuts our own decision to do something similar as a family I’m not sure. We…

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Paint-the-House Fail: my first botched Big Day

A coroner’s report would likely chalk up the spectacular collapse of Big Day #6 to overreach and underplanning – a deadly combo. The goal was to paint the house. Inside, not out. And just the main floor, if time got tight. How hard could it be? Originally I’d sold this as a summer family event…

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Listen to a Great Book

  If you’ve ever read a novel in one sitting, you know it’s a very different experience than nibbling your way through one over weeks or months or years. You’re dialed in. The characters are in your head—there’s no paging back to try to remember who’s who and where you are. The story is running…

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Walk the Longest Street in Town

Toronto’s Yonge Street isn’t just a long street. At 86 km, it’s the longest street in Canada, and one of the longest streets in the world. That makes what Kyle Park and Michael Carnevale did this past May long weekend pretty impressive. At twelve midnight on Saturday the two friends set out from the TorStar…

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Learn a Skill: Jack Williams Cracks Rubik’s Cube

One Saturday morning in January when he was eight years old, Jack Williams was seized with a strong notion to solve his Rubik’s cube. The cube had been a Christmas present — two Christmases ago. He’d noodled around with it for awhile and then, as small kids who get Rubik’s cubes for Christmas tend to…

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Undertake an Epic Family Quest

The Hero’s Journey is, mythologically speaking, a solitary venture. When you’re out there alone against nature and time and fate, you really have to double down on your courage to get back home to Troy. But who says one can’t have a great quest en famille? Imagine if you stumbled on an adventure so perfectly…

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Prepare a Speech

  What do you do if you have a big speech to give and you haven’t even finished writing it, let alone memorizing it? Take a Big Day. Go somewhere quiet and inspiring. And get ‘er done. Huge thanks to my pals Nancy and Iain for making available their cabin in Whistler for this, my…

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Make a Home Movie

My second Big Day could not be simpler. I will make a movie. Not a scripted movie with commercial aspirations. No, just what we used to call, back in the day of Super-8 film and those big banks of lights Dad schlepped around, a “home movie.” Digital media has made movie-making ultra-convenient; but the downside…

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Write and Record a Song — Curtis Galbraith Rediscovers the Old Mojo

  Curtis Galbraith was a songwriter, vocalist and bass player for a number of indie bands of some repute. Then he became a suburban dad. The music’s still in him — it’s just buried under ten pounds of laundry. So Curtis took the Big Day challenge. He retreated to his basement studio – complete with…

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Create a “Theme Day”

Not long ago I found myself in the Chicago area with a day to … I almost said “a day to kill.” Days are not cockroaches — don’t even think about “killing” them. Look upon a day, instead, as a pile of Lincoln Logs. You’re going to build something. The possibilities are endless, but odds…

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Bruce bikes to Seattle

Go as Far as You Can Under Your Own Power

Failure is an option — but it’s obviously not Plan A. There’s no avoiding the brute truth: this, for me, is a ridiculously big bite. I haven’t done anything like it since I paddled a kayak across the Georgia Strait, through the shipping lanes, from Victoria to Vancouver. That was 25 years ago. Another lifetime.…

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Set a World Record: John McAvoy’s remarkable row to freedom

    Feb 16, 2011: Lowden Grange prison, Nottinghamshire, England.   The first question John McAvoy had was, What time to start the clock? When you’re about to bear down for 24 hours straight on an endurance record, timing matters. “If you start in the morning, you’re going to finish in the morning,” said Darren…

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One Big Day Journal

Our Big Flag Day

The government of Canada is giving us a flag. Not just a flag — the flag. The one that flies atop the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. The one on the twenty-dollar bill. That flag. Giving it to us. Just for being us. Turns out — we learned yesterday from a tour guide…

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In a world run by Hedgehogs, the case for the Fox

Consider the journalist with a narrowly defined “beat.” He covers baseball, or film, or federal politics. He gets to know that little patch of turf very well. He cultivates a pool of sources and develops a set of firm ideas. Eventually he becomes as expert as the people he’s writing about. That expertise is his…

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Have a Storyworthy Day

One day last year, a man from Bangalore, India — a place of both high-tech riches and grinding poverty — was overtaken by a nagging question: How do the beggars in this city of eight million spend their nights? What must it be like? He decided to find out. The next morning he took a bed…

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Alex Honnold’s Moonshot

Six days ago, the American climber Alex Honnold pulled off the unimaginable. Among physical tests a human could rise to in a single day, this must — in terms of the sheer brute jeopardy of it — be considered the Big Day to beat all Big Days. The 31-year-old “free soloed” the granite face of…

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The Marathon Paradox: Is Too Much of a Good Thing a Bad Thing?

A few years ago the writer and podcaster Tim Ferriss did the New York City Marathon. But not in the usual way. His was a “food marathon.” Instead of knocking off 26.2 road miles, Ferriss undertook to knock off 26.2 dishes, made by some of New York’s best cooks. He’d got the idea from a…

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