Tuscany; an experiment

 Like many people I could describe my usual days as hyper-productive. Always busy, phone ringing constantly, moving from task to task, always checking e-mail, organizing something, multi-tasking to keep both work and home juggled appropriately. 

I run my own successful business and have a number of roles including being President of the HR Society, a visiting professor as well as having an active social and family life.

I am not of the opinion that “staying busy” means you’re working hard and are going to be more successful. However in the last year I have observed my usual hectic schedule and seen a few episodes of mindless productivity, a constant need to be doing something and a tendency on occasion to waste time on pretty menial tasks.

I wondered if there were ways to achieve the same or better outcomes by doing things differently.

I spend quite a lot of time in Tuscany, I love the weather, the food the people and the quiet beauty of the Tuscan hills.

When packing to come home after my last short visit I mentioned to my partner that I would really like to spend a longer period of time not interrupted by the need to cram in so much activity into a few days (Notice the pattern here?)

Being a smart logical person he said “Why don’t you then?” Good question, and one that I had to consider in business terms.

My immediate concerns were about my personal delivery, the business in general and being away worrying about the mountain of work I would come back to.

Taking a more logical approach it was obvious that with the exception of some face to face delivery I could probably do most things from Italy. And so Project Tuscany was put into motion, and here’s the results.

I am writing this from a hilltop in Tuscany, the sun is shining I will definitely have a swim later but not before sometime in the garden with a good book and possibly a hill walk later. This trip has been punctuated by family and friends arriving at intervals with days on my own in between.

Work is approached via the great office set up I have here. This includes the essential full size monitor as detailed work is a little taxing on a small laptop screen. We have fantastic local broadband, a phone that works well when in the right place in the garden and a change in my working approach.

I now fit the work schedule into blocks of work maybe 2 or 3 hours at a time. Sometimes in the evening when I don’t have guests staying, sometimes early am. It all works! There is no definition between the days of the week weekends and Monday to Friday are interchangeable.

Although I am not doing the usual direct delivery I have been working on a few research projects for clients which I am pleased to say have all been delivered on time.  My associates are busy delivering solutions in a range of organisations across the UK and my coaching and delivery diary for September till next spring is pretty much booked up.

So what have I learnt in the last 6 weeks?

  • Having a lifestyle that fully incorporates all my favourite things, exercise meditation, reading, music friends and family is conducive to better business thinking and outcomes.
  • Being away from the distractions of usual life such as commuting, cars, TV, shopping, etc. is refreshing. Not to say I haven’t done a little of most of these here but not every day.
  • Being quiet is wonderful, sitting in the sunshine watching lizards play games and butterflies flit by is a joy and very different to my usual days which are filled with conversation, noise  and a range of interactions, all very enjoyable but it’s good to do something different.
  • I have had an opportunity to read around some of the business areas that interest me without having to stop to get off the tube, go to a meeting or deal with a phone call. It’s amazing how much information can be absorbed without distractions.
  • I have been able to fully think through and reach decisions on a range of business issues that have been on my mind for a while.
  • The best ideas have come whilst doing nothing to do with work. An open air Andrea Bocelli concert triggered some thoughts about employee productivity in open plan offices, and a late night dinner with the “Viking ladies “ ( My Swedish neighbours) got me planning a network event.
  • I am even more convinced that flexible working and much more freedom for employees in the way they work with the appropriate support is conductive to better outcomes all round.

So as I reach the end of the 6 weeks my only concerns are how on earth I will get used to wearing proper shoes again and how the next 3 months should probably have less vino and gelato as primary elements.

I am really looking forward to seeing the family and the great metropolis again and I’m looking forward to catching up with friends and business connections again.

I have learnt some important lessons this summer, not least the ability we have to look at our approach to work differently. I will be doing this again and will be incorporating a lot I have learnt here into my autumn in London.

Addio bella Toscana il suo stato intenso




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