Tag Archives: Free Time

Three Years of Running Data: 1,153km with Nike+ and Mind

In 2014 I did 56 runs, averaged 1:00 hours per run, and covered nearly 400 miles – enough to get me from central London to Aberdeen, Galway, Limouges, Frankfurt, Bremen, or deep deep deep under the North Sea.

I’ve been digging into the data – first for 2014, then all the way back to April 2012 when I first started using the Nike+ app – to see what the patterns are.

Here’s a chart showing km per month (bars) and km per run (line). Orange bars are for months in which I did a proper race event. For imperialists: 10km = 6.2 miles, 21.1km = half marathon (13.1 miles), 42.2km = full marathon (26.2 miles).

So, what does this data show?

  • Inconsistency: I haven’t run evenly across the years – the peaks around the orange bars show that I build up for the race events
  • Specific training schedules: In some cases you can actually see my training/resting schedule for the race months in the data – e.g. in October 2014 I did four half marathons (4 x 21.1km), and it’s clear from the total (84.4km) that I did absolutely no running in between – I needed the rest!
  • Recent sloth: I’ve pretty much taken a break for the past two months :)
  • One crazy month: I went nuts in February 2014 (two months prior to my first full marathon), and did 123km in one month

February 2014 is certainly an outlier. Doing 123km in a month meant an average run of 15km every 3 days. Just thinking about it makes my knees hurt.

What was my motivation for doing so much running that month?

There were three reasons:

  1. I enjoyed it
  2. I wanted the best possible marathon time
  3. The marathon helped to raise money for Mind

The first two reasons are easy to see in the overall numbers. 2014 was a big year: 1.5x more miles than 2013, and over 5x more than 2012. In 2014 I did my first marathon (Manchester, 6 April), and then the Monster Month – which comprised six half marathons on six consecutive weekends (1 training run, 4 half marathon races and 1 Tough Mudder, September-October).

Overall, since starting to track my running in 2012, I’ve done a total of 123 runs, covered 1,153km = 716 miles, and logged almost 100 hours on the road. That would get me to Barcelona, Bologna, or Oslo.

But while the running data is interesting, it’s not the full story. The charity element – reason number 3 for all that running back in February 2014 – is important too.

I combined the Nike+ data with the donations data. What is every mile on the road worth to Mind?

  • £24.03 donated per hour of running
  • £3.32 donated for every mile
  • £2.06 donated for every kilometre

That is unbelievably generous, especially when you scale it up to >1,100 kilometres, >700 miles, and almost 100 hours of running over the past three years.

Total donations to date stand at £2,379.20. Incredible. Thank you so much!

Medium-difficulty sporting events like mine have become a very popular way of raising money for charity. So here are a couple of notes on what I’ve learnt about fundraising:

  1. Ask and ye may receive – or rather, do not ask, and ye certainly shall not receive
  2. Share a personal story – I raise money for Mind because several people close to me suffer with mental health issues. Sharing that information not only laid plain the reason why I had chosen Mind, but also led to donations from long-lost friends – presumably because they know people with mental health problems too.
  3. No pain, no gain. After 7 days with zero donations, I received £150 within 6 hours of posting this photo:

If you’re planning an adventure like this – good luck. Keep track of what you’re doing and you’ll be surprised what you can learn.

And yep – that’s blood coming from my nipples. Don’t forgot your tape!

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And if you’re specifically interested in posts about running, the best one I’ve written so far is this: 10 Surprising Discoveries During My First Marathon.

21st-century job hunting

On Thursday I started a new job at King.com (woohoo!). I spent the last few weeks of last year looking for work and I want to share 5 things I found out about modern-day job hunting.

Maybe everything below only applies to finding mid-level media jobs in London, or is specific to me in some way, but I don’t think so.

1) It’s a job, not a career

You’re not looking for something to do for 50 years. So don’t worry about finding it. It’s like dating. Don’t worry about whether you’re going to marry the girl when you’re on your first date. Just find someone interesting for the time being and see what happens.

2) Crossing borders

I’ve moved out of TV and into games. I also spoke to companies in tech and in music. No-one ever asked why my TV experience would be useful. This was a surprise to me – but it was just assumed that transferring skills to a new industry won’t be a problem. So I don’t think there’s a need to fret about staying the same exact industry. Don’t restrict yourself to changing lanes if you want to crash through the central reservation (NB this analogy cannot be safely applied to driving).

3) Metcalfe’s Law

‘Networking’ is a horrible word and some people who are good at it actually suck at being people. But if you think about it as building a network, instead of spinelessly fawning over the most powerful person in the room, it’s much easier to digest.

A couple of days ago I read about Metcalfe’s Law: the basic idea is that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users in the system. If you have two telephones, there’s one connection. But five telephones make 10 connections. And 12 telephones can make 66 connections.

So the value of the network increases as the number of people in it goes up. The same could be said of email or Facebook. And it could also be said of your personal network, because each person you know and trust has another set of people that they know and trust. I don’t have a huge network. But 80% of the jobs I considered came to me through it.

4) DIY track record

The most interesting projects / skills / experiences are the ones you developed in your own time. With free tools and free publishing you can build a DIY track record (see Start a project now – here are 5 tips). Back in the old days this would have been hard; now it’s easy. Most people don’t do this, but luckily I’ve done a few spare-time projects over the past few years so even though most of them were dumb, I think I got some marks for persistence.

5) One Direction

Last year when I was looking for a new job I went around asking for advice. That worked ok but it didn’t produce a lot of job opportunities. This year it’s been different – at the outset I chose a small number of directions to explore. That made my discussions 10x more productive, because I was asking about specifics rather than general stuff. And that makes it much easier for people to help you out.

I hope this post helps you out. Good luck!

 

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Your New Year’s resolutions won’t work, so try this instead!

Your New Year’s resolutions won’t work, so don’t stress about keeping them!

Instead follow James Altucher and decide on a theme – something to tend towards, instead of an absolute promise that you’re unlikely to keep and will feel bad when you break.

So I have no resolutions at all for this year. Only one theme.

I’m sticking to one but there are lots to choose from. It could mean less email or less TV or less booze. Not ‘no email’ or ‘no TV’ or ‘no booze’ – those are specific resolutions and they’re almost impossible to keep. A theme like ‘less email’ is much more manageable: it would encourage me not to check my email so often when I get up or last thing at night, not to be reading emails on the journey to or from work, not to be tapping away on my phone when I’m on the loo (I know you do that too).

But for me in 2013 ‘do less’ that means less projects. Less new ones. Less old ones. Less continuing with projects I’ve lost interest in. Less less less.

So today I’m killing off two projects.

1. toddmgreen time machine

This is a collection of things I find interesting, beautiful, or inspiring. The aim is to record specific things I think are cool, along with the date when I discovered them – like a time machine for interests. A new post has appeared every Tuesday at 10pm UK time since September 2011 – 79 in all. I posted today’s just now though and it’s the last post.

2. Advice for Media Students

This is a project I made for the undergraduate class I was teaching. I figured it would be easier to teach the students how to make a web project if I did one too. So I made a site (18 posts in all) offering practical advice on how to get a media job. I’m done with teaching for now, so although I think there’s a gap here for something like AFMS, I’m done with this project too.

Two dead projects. Less less less.

So why do less?

To make room for more.

More time for getting good at my new job.

More time to help plan mine and Emma’s wedding.

More time to write!

Themes not resolutions. Less is more. Happy new year.

 

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If you liked this post, try I just shot my project in the head.

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So I applied to be an astronaut

My life’s ambition is to go into space, so a few years ago I applied to be an astronaut.

At the time anyone could apply to ESA (the European Space Agency), so I went to the doc and to the hospital, had a bunch of tests done, filled out the application form and sent it off.

There was little chance I would succeed. But it made perfect logical sense to try.

There are two ways of getting into space: (1) become a billionaire, or (2) get hired as a professional astronaut. Maybe one day I’ll be a billionaire but I don’t want to count on it. So I just applied.

Actually, all my best decisions are made when I ignore the chances of failure and just do it.

  • Want to learn how to code? Ok, build a website.
  • Want to try building a business? Ok, start one now.
  • Want to find out if teaching would be a good career move? Ok, do it part-time and see whether it’s fun.
  • Like that girl a lot? Ok, ask her out.

These simple decisions are the best.

A) You can’t regret them

If it doesn’t work out, no big deal. You did the logical thing and tried. Your mind is at rest. Ssshh now little brain.

B) You know exactly why you made them

It’s a simple formula. You won’t get confused about your motives. Want something? Ok, have a go.

C) You always gain something unexpected

Building a website taught me how the internet works. Starting a business taught me a million things that I put into a recent post (How I lost £1,500 when I was 23). Teaching part-time right now is making me 10x better at explaining stuff and speaking in public. And the last girl I asked out is going to become my wife next summer, so that one worked out pretty well too.

Worrying about failure kills good decisions. Whenever I worry I lose the magic power to make simple logical decisions and I waste my life fretting. I’m glad that didn’t happen with applying to be an astronaut.

The physical tests and most of the application form were ok, though I couldn’t really disguise my lack of a PhD in astrophysics or biology. The weakest bit though was when I had to describe my experience in radio communications:

I did hospital radio for two years when I was at school. I was a presenter and had my own weekly show.

But since I haven’t actually heard back from ESA, I assume they’ve got me on the reserve list.

Hopefully someone will drop out soon.

 

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LAUNCH: Advice for Media Students

I’m teaching my class how to build a web project, so I thought I should build one too.

I’m a method teacher, the De Niro of the classroom.

So I just launched a site called Advice for Media Students – three posts a week with practical advice to help my class and their peers get a job.

It’s rather ironic that I’m doing this at the same time as being made redundant from my own media job.

But I’m going to ignore that and let people decide for themselves whether my wisdom is to be trusted. Am I King Solomon or Stacey Solomon?

Head over to the site and decide for yourself.

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The hard yards

The hard yards are actually the easiest to cover.

But in order to cover them, you have to stay put.

You do the hard yards by sticking at it, by staying focused – when you want to get up from the desk, open Facebook or Twitter or email, put the TV on, do the washing up – anything to avoid what you know you should be doing.

Those are the hard yards.

Few people can stare down the hard yards. Often I can’t.

But I’m pretty sure they’re the ones that make a difference.

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I just shot my project in the head

Chuk-chuk – BOOM! Today I killed my latest project.

After much begging and pleading about how it had so much more to give, about how we could do great things together, and how it might give birth to a thousand beautiful children, I made it kneel down and put a bullet in its brain.

So RIP Today’s Tennis Tip, born 29 April 2012, departed this life 18 June 2012.

The idea was to provide one tennis tip a day, along with a video illustrating the tip, to help people improve their tennis. I’ve been pumping out tips for just under two months, about 50 in total.

I started with a stand-alone site that auto-published to a range of social platforms, then shifted all activity to the Facebook page because I felt that would cut down the workload while focusing on the most promising platform.

Facebook was most promising because the ability to Like the page gave me permission to send tips to the Liker forever. I spent £25 on Facebook ads and gained 50 Likes, at a cost per acquisition of £0.50.

The content – primarily videos of pros hitting the same shot over and over in practice, which I’ve been grabbing from YouTube – is decent quality, and not a single person has unliked the page in two months.

But it has pretty much zero virality – only two people have Liked since my ad campaign four weeks ago. And there is so little engagement with the posts (Likes / comments) that my reach has crashed: Facebook’s algorithm punishes pages whose content is unengaging, so on average my posts now reach just 16 of the 59 people who have Liked the page.

The ultimate aim has been to use instructional content to build a big enough community of people interested in improving their tennis that I could sell products and services that help them do so. I reckon I’d need an audience of at least 1000, and probably more like 10,000, to make that work. At £0.50 CPA, and (boldly) assuming zero churn, I’d need to spend £500 to get to 1000 and £5,000 to get to 10,000.

I could bring those acquisition costs down by hustling. By doing contra deals (e.g. I help someone and they help promote TTT in return), by flyering at tennis clubs (I play a lot of matches around west London), by finding willing evangelists to spread the word…

But the real problem, beyond the time and the money, is that I just don’t want to do it.

It’s hard to be honest about this, especially when I’ve been telling friends and family about this cool tennis tips idea I had. But I also have to be honest with myself. And I don’t want to fight to make this particular idea work.

I think there is still some merit to the idea. First, because no-one remembers more than one or two things from any tennis lesson (or any lesson about anything). Fuzzy Yellow Balls is the top online video coaching site, but the intro video they send when you sign up is 39 minutes long – wtf?! I wonder how many people ever watch even that first video.

Second, sharing tips like this (posted to Facebook, could add Twitter) means that they match modern patterns of information consumption. People today parse huge amounts of info that flows through their feeds every day, so pushing tips like this means they are easy to receive (they’re using Fb and Twitter anyway) and that it’s easy just to pick out the tips that are most relevant to you.

I might use this model again on a future project. And maybe someone will make it work for tennis tips.

I really like tennis too – I used to be a coach, and today my face hurts from sunburn after yesterday’s four-hour match. But I refuse to get stuck working on something I’m not excited about.

I’ve done that before – feeling a nagging sense of obligation to myself, and to others, and to the hours of work I had put in before – as if there’s a relationship between the amount of work done so far and the length of time you should stick with a project even after your passion has gone.

That’s not going to happen this time. I would be delighted if someone reading wants to pick up the idea (this happened recently on another ex-project) – do get in touch if so.

But for now, for me, it’s over: game, set, match, and headshot.

And if you don’t care enough about whatever spare-time project you’re working on, you should kill that too.