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

College Scouting Trip

The life of every parent is shot through with an awareness that the kids will one day fly the coop. And you’ll be left rattling around in an empty nest held together with pride, melancholy and regret about how you bungled the little stuff. (All those “petty treasons we commit against the ones we love,”…

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E-BUG for a Day

Most days pass so unremarkably that one blends into the next in the compost of memory until they’re just gone. But very occasionally comes a day you never forget. Because it’s a day you’ve been dreaming of since you were a little kid. Around 6pm on October 15, Alex Bishop — a 24-year-old U of…

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Emily Carr Pilgrimage

Deep bow to the artists who were ahead of their time, whose talents were overlooked in their day but whom the zeitgeist is now rounding up. Like: come back, right now. We need you. Emily Carr is so overdue for a second run. I’ve come to think of her as the first real Canadian whose…

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Brian Doyle Day

Since we last spoke, I’ve tried angel dust. Or whatever it is that Brian Doyle sprinkled into his short essays about the natural world. I’m late to the party on this writer, who died of brain cancer in 2017 at age 60. My initiation came this past weekend. I’d stumbled on his hummingbird story while,…

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Sight Singing for Dummies

The best answer I’ve heard to the question “What is one skill we should all learn in quarantine?” was this from the writer Jia Tolentino: How to make someone feel loved from a distance. But here’s a pretty close second: singing. Yes! Who wasn’t inspired by all the Italians belting it out from their apartment…

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Back-Pocket Day

“I thought I was a hoarder. Turns out I’m a prepper.” That New Yorker cartoon captures the spirit of the last three months. Everybody holed up, thinking long thoughts, mentally bracing for what might be coming — while at the same time rueing that we didn’t snap into prep mode sooner. (It’s not like we…

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Stuck in the Airport

Edited Jan 14, 2020 On August 28, 1998, Merhan Nasseri’s plane touched down at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, and the Iranian refugee strode into Terminal One. In the departure lounge he found a seat. And there he remained until July of 2006, when he took ill and had to be hospitalized. For 18 years,…

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Make a Killer Halloween Costume

Halloween is like Ocean’s 11: You’re in you’re out, right now. “Half-in” doesn’t really fly. Like wearing sweatpants in public, making a lame last-minute costume broadcasts a depressing lack of both imagination and initiative. Why bother? On the other hand, we’ve all had the experience of going all-in on a great costume that ended up…

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The 10,000 Steps of Leopold Bloom

Lisa Simpson: “Oh, it must be Bloomsday. Every June 16, lovers of James Joyce follow the route traveled by Leopold Bloom in the novel Ulysses.” Bart Simpson: “What you’re saying is, we’ve run out of fun things to do.” … Even if the Irish family vacation planned by that other Homer, the dim one, failed…

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In ‘N Out Surgery

“Count backwards from ten…” The Uber driver rolled to a stop at the co-ordinates he’d been given. It was a strip mall in the Maples district, a subdivision in the north end of Winnipeg, Manitoba. A realtor might charitably describe the neighbourhood as “emerging.” Wait, thought Ron Robinson. Can this be right? He and his…

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Construct a Perfect Day

Is such a thing even possible? Lou Reed thought so, though sinking into a heroin fog probably isn’t the soundest strategy for long-term fulfillment – or even short-term happiness, if remembering what you were happy about is part of the deal. Not long ago, Melbourne-based writer Madeleine Dore wondered if you could construct a Perfect Day by…

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Raise a Ruckus

Certain unwritten rules have governed the Internet. One of them — which the Obama administration actually made a written rule – is Net Neutrality. It means that the Internet should be free. Everyone should have equal access. Think of the Internet as a public good, like clean water. The faucet is your web browser. What…

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Apply for a Grant

Thunk! Her final arrow pierced the foam target across the gym, and my 11-year-old daughter smiled the smile of the just. Then she thanked the member of the local archery club who’d been giving her instruction. This was the end of her free lessons. It was time to join the club. I didn’t know how…

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Assemble a Barbecue

One Saturday morning not long ago, I popped down to Canadian Tire to buy a barbecue. There they all were, out on the floor, in their gleaming stainless steel hoods. I found one that looked pretty good. The cooking surface was huge – like the deck of an aircraft carrier. And the price was right. I thought,…

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Be a Movie Extra

There are a lot of rabid fans of The X Files. They’re probably called X-Files-philes. Jill Gardiner isn’t one of them. Okay, she wouldn’t kick David Duchovny off the pick-up soccer team for removing his shirt. But neither the show nor its star was the big draw on this particular day in September. Jill was…

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Harry Potter Marathon

Imagine you entered a pie-eating contest where each pie is richer and more delicious than the previous one. The last pie is baked by Julia Child. Trouble is, at that point you can’t appreciate the subtleties of the crust. You’re just trying to keep the thing down. This seemed to be what the girls and…

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Ride the Nearest Bone-Rattler

Sometimes we all need a good shakeup. You might argue that life itself does that job quite well on a regular basis, thanks very much. So let’s try again: Sometimes what we need is a controlled shakeup – one we know is coming, can prepare for, and be certain the whole deal will be over…

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Create Your Own “Fearless Challenge”

photo: Ryan Pfeiffer/Metroland THE CHALLENGE If you’d asked Franco Scanga five years ago what his number one fear was, he’d have given you the number one answer: speaking in front of strangers. But that was before he watched his father get cancer for the third time. It was a terrifying ordeal, one that put his…

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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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One Big Day Journal

Inspired Lunacy

Adbusters magazine is no stranger to high-concept one-day actions. Call them provocations, call them statements. Call them invitations to live with greater depth, meaning and resistance. The calling-card example is Buy Nothing Day, an international protest against runamok consumerism held, not coincidentally, on Nov. 29 — “Black Friday”— one of the biggest shopping days of…

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“Destination” Big Days, Global Warming and the Race Against Time

The Elfstedentocht needs no explanation — at least if you’re from the Netherlands. It’s part of the Dutch DNA. For the rest of us: the Elfstedentocht is an open-air speed skating race, by some measures the world’s largest ice-sport event. It’s definitely one of the great physical accomplishments that regular people – albeit fit, gritty…

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Extreme Language Learning: a hyperglot in overdrive

  There are certain endeavours that would seem to be unattackable in anything but a million little duck bites — they’re just too big and complicated. And anyone who claims to have mastered such tasks in a single day immediately sets off the charlatan alarm. Scott Adams comes to mind. The creator of the cartoon…

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24 Hours with the Stanley Cup

With hockey season finally about to resume – it was a looong summer for those of us whose teams were mathematically eliminated in April – it seems apt to do a post on one of the coolest traditions in sports. Remember how in school some lucky kid got to take the hamster home overnight? The…

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Maarten van der Weijden’s Big Swim Day

On March 1, Dutchman Maarten van der Weijden climbed into a swimming pool in Oosterhout, wearing special swim goggles fitted with lights to combat drowsiness, and when he climbed out the next day, he’d put 102.8km (63.87 miles) behind him. That’s the farthest anyone has ever swum in 24 hours. It beats a mark that…

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One Big Day

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