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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

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

The Four Quadrants Theory

Since I’ve started this Big Day experiment, I’ve come to realize the whole thing has a side benefit I hadn’t expected. It’s a kind of therapy. It’s a valuable diagnostic tool even if you never actually do a Big Day. Just thinking about what you might do, if you were magically handed a free 24…

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A Broken Elevator and a Lightbulb Moment

I stepped into the elevator on the 25th floor to start my journey home at the end of a downtown workday. The only other passenger got off. The elevator descended, then eased to a stop. A voice said: “This elevator is now out of service.” The Open Door button didn’t work. None of the buttons…

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A Day in the Life — and the unseen energy it took to make it.

“The family are having a leisurely afternoon, but our cyclists are paying for it, big-time.”   Here’s a story of a single day experienced very differently by two groups on either side of it. It’s part of a wacky demonstration cooked up by a British documentary film crew. I dare say that, as we creep…

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No one under 50 unless accompanied by a senior

Lee Haber remembers watching his grandfather bundle himself up against the Winnipeg winter wind and head out to the library to study. He had decided, deep into retirement, to pursue a degree in economics. He graduated at age 74. “Did it serve what we might call any ‘real purpose’?” Lee asks. “Not really. But that’s…

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Time is on your side

In the early days of the Rolling Stones, when the band was playing small pubs in Richmond, Mick Jagger had very little room to move on those tiny stages. He was forced to improvise dance moves he could perform on the spot. These became a quirky signature, part of the band’s appeal as the Stones…

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One Big Day

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