fitness · holidays

Radical incrementalism and micro-adventures

As we’re heading into spring (slowly) here in my part of Canada, many of my friends, neighbours, and colleagues are talking about summer vacation plans.

I may be an academic (we’re notorious for not really vacationing and reading and writing while doing so) but I’ve always taken holidays seriously. That is, I take time off work and deliberately get away from my job. I don’t make rules about not reading philosophy or working on papers, and I do do some of that, I do it at my pace and sometimes don’t do it all.

Canadians aren’t Europeans. We don’t tend to take big chunks of time off work. But we aren’t Americans either. We do tend to take some time off during the summer.

That said, this year will be different for me. Spring will begin with 6-12 weeks of medical leave while I recover from knee replacement surgery. I don’t think I’ll feel like vacation right after that. And I’ll have physio twice a week all summer. I don’t think I’ll want to stray too far away from town that often. So this has my mind turning once again to small adventures.

I also enjoyed reading this: Taking Small Adventures Might Make You Just as Happy as Climbing Everest.

“In his book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, Oliver Burkeman briefly references the concept of radical incrementalism. Burkeman writes about psychology professor Robert Boice, who studied writing habits of other academic professionals. Boice found that PhD students who wrote a little bit per day—even as little as 10 minutes—were more productive and less anxious than those who tried to write in big chunks (which they often procrastinated on until they had a deadline coming up).

Radical incrementalism has been mostly embraced in academia, policymaking, and even self-improvement. But I think it’s also an interesting way to look at having more fun: Instead of wishing I had the money and time to take a month or several to do some sort of very notable human-powered adventure to the top of a mountain or across a country, how about doing some less-notable stuff near where I live every week, or every month?” 

I’ve written about this a bit before…

I love the idea of treating weekends like a vacation. So while I don’t plan to take a lot of time off this summer, I’m thinking I will plan lots of long weekends–biking, sailing, swimming, boating, camping…

But I am also thinking some weeknight evening drives to the beach might be in order too. Each summer, at the end, I regret that I didn’t go swimming more often and spend more time at the beach.

Even at work it feels especially summery when I take my lunch outside and chat with friends, or read fiction.

What kind of micro-adventures do you think you might get up this summer?

Water, photo by Nikhil Mitra on Unsplash

Sam’s Birthday Adventures

54 is just fine so far. I turned 54 last Friday and spent the weekend celebrating. See Happy 54! Celebrate Sam’s Birthday Season. There was a lot of cake but also a lot of friends and family and adventures. Thanks to everyone who took part and helped organize!

On Sunday fifteen friends and family members went rafting on the Grand River with me. Here’s a review of the activity, note though that we were on the shorter, faster section, from Edon Mills to Paris. So much fun. I’d definitely do it again. You can hang with people or go off on your own. Definitely though bring lots of snacks, sunscreen, and things to drink. It wasn’t all about floating leisurely down river. We had a headwind and in some sections if you didn’t paddle you went backwards. My sub-group didn’t paddle much. We were committed mostly to not paddling. It took us the full 5 hours.

Often we rafted up and appointed the people at the edges the chore of paddling.

At one point I landed up in super shallow water and could neither paddle nor float. I got up out of the boat and tried to walk it downstream but nearly lost my boat, paddles, and pfd in the water. Luckily Sarah rescued me! Thanks Sarah!

You can rent kayaks, canoes, large rafts for groups of people, or individual rafts like the one below. Despite the paddles they aren’t actually that maneuverable. And they’re definitely not speed machines.

But they are a lot of fun, especially through the fast sections.

Here’s Jeff’s account of the day.

On Saturday, a group of us rode our bikes 54 km to celebrate my 54th birthday. We chose the country roads east and south of the university being careful to avoid campus because it was move in day. In the end it turned out to be 52 km due to detours but I pedaled around the block a few times to make it an even 54.

Kim didn’t join us for the ride but came along for cake.

Best of all, my former PhD student Mark stopped by with his daughter who is starting university at Guelph and his son who was along for the ride. The teenagers gave us flossing lessons. No video though!

All in all, a happy birthday weekend full of friends, family, cake, and birthday adventures.