My life without morning routines, to-do lists, and getting things done

Photo by Lee Scott

I have achieved little, apparently.

And yet I am lucky to have done many things and seen many places and met many people.

I have three children. I was born in Africa, have lived in Europe and Asia, and worked or travelled for work in all of those plus the USA. I am married and own a house. (That’s ‘own’ in the sense of having bought one with the assistance of a bank. At some stage the bank will want me to sell it or find a sum of money to buy it again, this time from them. That time is not too far away.)

I have worked for what, at one time, was one of the biggest and best known companies in the world.

I have worked in IT. I have also worked as a petrol pump attendant, a civil servant, a bookseller, a farm hand (on a vineyard), a bicycle mechanic, a teacher, a TV scriptwriter, a copywriter, and a magazine columnist. Somewhere in there I also managed to go to university and study theology, if all too briefly.

In short, I haven’t had a career; I have had a series of accidental encounters with jobs and people and places.

I don’t run a startup. I haven’t invested in growth companies.

I have read a lot of books and I am good at general knowledge quizzes and Trivial Pursuit. I annoy my children by knowing the capitals of a great many countries. I can answer my fair share of questions on University Challenge, as long as they do not relate to obscure mathematical functions, cellular biology, or types of amino acid.

I am overweight and unfit. Not too overweight and not surprisingly unfit, considering my age. My hair is thinning and receding but I keep it short anyway. Not for me the comb-over or the splayed rug.

When I read the morning rituals and the task-handling techniques and the life-hacks of the desperate to succeed entrepreneur, I shy away, exhausted. And guilty. I feel I have let my family down. I have chosen a different life. Instead of Get Things Done, I have veered towards Let Things Slide.

Perhaps it comes down to a lack of ambition.

But is my failure so bad? Are the stalactites of my achievement so derisory? I haven’t written the novels I thought I would write: there are enough books out there. I have never found the energy to become proficient at gardening. Or DIY. But my kids use me to troubleshoot their computers and help them write CVs and application letters.

My daughters love me and my son appears to be warming to me more these days. My wife and I celebrate 25 years together this month. That is an achievement I can perhaps take little credit for. But we are a family and it makes me proud.

Just over seven years ago I stopped drinking. When your morning routine used to consist of retching, dry heaves, and cursing the fact that you were still alive, just getting out of bed and greeting the day with a grateful smile is routine enough for me now.