Monthly Archives: February 2015

Time Trials #3 – the three day weekend

HourglassFor all the talk about flexible working we still seem to be incredible wedded to the Monday to Friday working week with the weekend giving us barely enough time to unwind before we get that Monday morning feeling (from early Sunday evening, or worse).

And there’s also still an emphasis on payment for hours put in, rather than work done. Many years ago I was in a job where I could get the work done in four days a week, I was advised to take off the ‘extra day’ unofficially, because the system couldn’t cope with the idea of someone doing a full time job in 4 days!

Which got me thinking…

What if everyone in the country had a three-day weekend? Individuals would agree with their employers whether the extra day was Monday or Friday, so the business could operate the full five days. What might happen?

Personal productivity would probably go up following the increased rest time over the weekend. I could argue that people would do the same amount of work in the four days and should therefore be paid their full salary – but I know this is unthinkable for many employers and I have no evidence to back up my argument.

The leisure industry would effectively have a four day weekend – Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday – with a great boost to that part of the economy and, in most cases, benefits to our personal health and wellbeing. I bet absenteeism and sick leave would go down.

That’s it – simple – what’s not to like?

I haven’t really given it a second thought but other, wiser, people have looked at the advantages and disadvantages of a shorter working week. For starters, try (on one company’s experience) and (looking at national/ global implications)

See also,,

Time Trials  #2 – precise time

HourglassMy dear old dad used to say he was baffled by people who spent good money on a watch that would be ‘accurate to within a 1,000th second over 100 years’ (or whatever the claim) because no one needs that accuracy.

True – but time and some precision is surprisingly prevalent (some would say dominant) in much of our lives. The other Saturday I made a day trip to York. To summarise my day in terms of times …

5.15am Rude alarm awakening

5.59 Three trains to arrive in York (on time) at 8.31

9am parkrun time 23.32 (9 seconds off my personal best for York)

11.30am and 1.00pm – Two meetings

3.00pm  York City vs Tranmere Rovers (my team) – 90 minutes + 9 minutes extra time

18.31 Two return trains arriving (4 minutes later than advertised) 21.11

The first blog in this pair on the theme of time [] shows how the importance of time depends on the context.

At The Repair Shed – our burgeoning social enterprise in Hemel Hempstead – we’re enjoying funding support from the Innovation in Waste Prevention Fund. The implication of this is that we have to account for our spending (how much) and demonstrate our achievements (how well) in a time-limited period that ends on 30 November 2015.

I’m the first to say that, when spending someone else’s money (and even when we’re not -see we should be accountable, but the clocking is ticking. We now have to try to realise the plan of action we submitted to the funders according to the timetable we presented with our bid for their support.

But where ‘innovation’ is concerned there’s inherent risk that things will not happen when/how it was intended – assuming the innovation is real. And we’re working with volunteers who can simply walk away, so there’s no guarantee of having feet on the ground and hands on deck to make it happen at all!

So the time pressure is real and I’m reminded once again of Olive Quinton‘s insight around starting a business (she created social enterprise Lofty Heights) – be patient; other people’s timetables will be different from yours.

I’ll try to be patient Olive, but it won’t be easy.

PS Here’s a tip when organising meetings. If you advertise an unusual start time – 2.13pm say – people are more likely to remember it and turn up on time!


Time Trials # 1 – precious time

HourglassImagine a bank that credits your account each morning with £86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening the bank deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day.

What would you do? Draw out all of it of course!

Each of us has such a bank – its name is TIME.

Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to a good purpose.

It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account for you.

Each night it burns the remains of the day. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours.

There is no drawing against ‘tomorrow’. You must live in the present on today’s deposits.

Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness and success.

The clock is running. Make the most of today.
To realise the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade.

To realise the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who has given birth to a premature baby.

To realise the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.

To realise the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.

To realise the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who just missed a train.

To realise the value of ONE SECOND, ask someone who just avoided an accident.

To realise the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who won a silver medal at the Olympics.

Source unknown

Coming soon – Time  Trials #2

A passion for pallets

???????????????????????????????Creative flair, a willingness to roll up sleeves and ‘have a go’, to experiment and being prepared to fail, all make Dawn Taylor well suited to a recent, perhaps surprising, career development. Dawn is founder of York-based enterprise Purepallets which does what it says on the tin (or should that be timber?) turning pallets into crafted items fit to grace any home.

From wine racks and candle holders to what can only be described as ‘letter wall shelving’ (B anyone?) pallet product design and creation clearly excites Dawn.

But perhaps the new career move is not so surprising, as Dawn explains… “When I was young I was a tomboy. My dad was a plumber and built our extension by himself, and I helped him. I learnt how to mix cement and lay bricks, so from an early age I’ve not been scared to try new things.” 

So, practical from an early age and Dawn’s creativity – probably also rooted in her past – has been honed through a career in retailing, including 14 years as a visual merchandiser with a major UK high street store.

And what could be more creative than turning a much-maligned product – the humble pallet which many of Dawn’s friends think is only good for firewood – into a thing with real appeal, each one unique? Having “fallen into making pallet products by accident” – an unexpected commission to make a wine rack – Dawn was soon bitten by the upcycling bug. She has just started experimenting with paint effects but still delights in the beauty of the ‘pure pallet’ finish which, when embossed with the original owners logo adds to the story behind the product.


Now taking a service break with her current employer, Dawn has nine months to see if she can ‘give birth’ to a financially viable business. The product range is developing nicely – mainly through commissions from a rapidly widening customer base that values the bespoke nature of each item. With low overheads to date – pallets are sourced locally at low/no cost, the workshop is a garage at home, social media and word-of-mouth are the main marketing tools – there may be a temptation to under-value the finished product.

But Dawn believes her promotional offer – quality and uniqueness at affordable prices – could create a sustainable business model. While pallets grow on trees (well, sort of…) Dawn’s talents do not. With these she may just be able to differentiate Purepallets’ product range from others and have champagne corks popping.

See Purepallets products at


Small Society

A Little Free Library in the USA

A Little Free Library in the USA

Remember the Big Society’? It was David Cameron’s Big Idea trumpeted by the Prime Minister in July 2010 as the “biggest redistribution of power from elites in Whitehall to the man and woman on the street”. Keen to present alternatives to talk about cuts, the Tory leader went on to talk about the liberation of volunteers and activists to help their own communities.

Fast forward four and a half years and, in a short article on the theory and practice of the Big Society concept, Rodney Schwartz, CEO of social investors Clearly So, suggests that it was pubic suspicion that the Big Society was itself a smokescreen for budget cuts that made it difficult to have a debate free from the politics.

If Big Society is dead, what about ‘Small Society’?

The phrase – small society – comes from a recent piece on BBC Radio 4 in which writer Martin Wroe talked about getting his news from the local shop – not in print, but in person from the shop owner. As Wroe observed “the best kind [of local shop owners] show how the small society is often more significant than the big society, adding value to a community that can never be measured.”

Amid the clutter of social media – I’m a late convert to Twitter, Facebook and, er, blogging – I realise that my ‘small society’ is what goes on in our road (a narrow but relatively busy bus route across town) when I’m washing the car.

Surprisingly often, a fellow choir member will drive past in her bus – she’s the driver not the owner – with a smile and the odd comment as she carefully manoeuvres her 12-ton machine past the parked cars (including mine!) I say ‘hello’ to neighbours coming in and out on both sides of the house and over the road – they’re an active lot. I even got an offer of two pallets from the ridiculously-young-looking-couple two doors up who are completely gutting their house!

Talking of pallets, my Small Society Spring Project is to make a Little Free Library from reclaimed wood to go outside our house. We’re on the route to the station for trains into London and Cambridge. Passengers walk by in good numbers and offering them a free and changing supply of books is an alternative to taking them (the books, not the passengers) to the charity shops and it will hardly threaten our wonderful local library.

If all goes to plan, I’m also hoping we’ll be making pallet-wood Little Free Libraries for others at The Repair Shed where I work. If you fancy the idea, keep an eye out at or drop me a line – we’d be happy to make one for you!

Further information

Rodney Schwartz blog –

Little Free Libraries –

When high demand doesn’t mean success

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????A recent Enterprise Essentials blog alluded to the problems of success for parkruns around the country – concern about deterioration of courses, pressure on facilities, and conflicts with other users of the open spaces.

A 5K run on a Saturday morning is, of course, not a matter of life and death, but wear and tear on the NHS can, indeed, be life-threatening.

When the NHS was established in 1948, apparently it was envisaged that as the nation’s health improved demand for the national service would go down. We now know, of course, that prediction was very wrong; unlike in business, increased demand is not a sign of success!

M.D. (aka Dr Phil Hammond) writing in Private Eye magazine recently, reminded readers of this difference between the NHS and businesses. “If the NHS were just a large collection of independent businesses, emergency departments would be welcoming customers with open arms rather than begging them to shop elsewhere. If money truly did follow patients, the unprecedented demand that did for Circle [the private sector provider running Hinchingbrooke Hospital] would have saved it.

In the less pressured world of Men’s Sheds, there’s been an impressive growth in the number of sheds being set up across the UK. During 2014, the number of Sheds in the UKMSA network doubled to 127 and a further 58 are currently in development. It’s not unrealistic to think that number will double again in 2015.

The link with the NHS is relevant here, as sheds have been achieving great things in keeping older men out of the health system in other parts of the world (see and similar health benefits are now being reported closer to home.

At The Repair Shed in Hemel, we’re expecting a local surge in interest as our promotion kicks in and word of mouth spreads (we’ve already had three people recommending their fathers for membership). Like A&E departments around the country, albeit without serious risk to health, we may have to learn how to turn people away – a difficult lesson.

See  parkrun blog at