Quantifying Nothing

December 31, 2008

The question is: what have I been doing? 

I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing: nothing!  

I know what you’re thinking: that sounds pretty good. 

You’re thinking: I might like to do nothing myself.

Well let me tell you, doing nothing is not as easy as it looks.  I have to be careful.

Because the idea of doing anything, could easily lead to doing something, that would cut into my nothing, and that would force me to have to drop everything.

– Jerry Seinfeld, in his return to stand-up on Letterman


“Don’t wait for great things to happen to you, or else you might be waiting a very long time.”

– Peter Hilary, in his eulogy (select chapter 4) to his dad 


I increasingly struggle to answer the question: “what do you do?”

While it has often felt like I’ve been doing nothing, 2008 has actually been an eventful year.

In the last 12 months …

I finished at Xero at the end of February, and have spent the rest of the year without a job as such.

I invested in three new early-stage companies. 

I now have small shareholdings in seven different ventures:

In addition to these I have another couple of possible investments that are still in process and may be added to that list soon.

Some of these are going well, some not so well.

As well as cash I’ve put unmeasured time into many of these, which has kept me pretty busy through the year, if not necessarily hugely productive.

I bought one Lotto ticket, but didn’t win (to be fair, lightning doesn’t usually strike in the same place twice).

Despite that, we have more-or-less as much at the end of the year as we had at the start – which given the recent turbulence in the markets is actually a pretty good result, I think. (that’s in NZ dollar terms… measured in US dollars we lost a truck load)

I did a lot of flying, with trips to the US, Australia and (most memorably) Nepal, as well as about 30 domestic flights.

I drove from San Francisco to LA, which is about 738 kms via the coast road – an excellent route if you have the time.

Back in NZ, I drove about 8,800 kms, cycled just over 3,000 kms and also did a lot of running and swimming.

I went to the gym 36 times.  I didn’t actually keep track of this, I asked them to look it up for me.  I actually wish I didn’t, because from that I can work out how much it cost per visit.  Still, I’d guess I went more often than the average member.

I completed another half Ironman in Tauranga in January in 6h 04m (2km swim, 90km cycle, 21km run) and a sprint-distance triathlon in Wellington in December in 1h 24m (750m swim, 20k cycle, 5km run).  

Both of those times were personal bests, but I was well behind most of the rest of the field.  Despite that (or maybe because of that) I’ve found that I’m increasingly comfortable racing myself.

I had my VO2Max level measured at Body Lab and between June and December I increased my peak levels from 46.46 ml/kg/min to 55.13 ml/kg/min, an improvement of nearly 19%.  

I am about half a kilo lighter than I was in January ’08, but a kilo heavier than I was in January ’07.

We went skiing in Queenstown (the first time on skis for our oldest) and water skiing in Taupo (last time I did that was about 20 years ago – I remember it being much easier then).

I did a bungy jump!

I took my family for their first flight in a helicoptor, and we landed in my in-law’s backyard, which was lots of fun.  Luckily they have a big backyard!

I attended two terms of Gymbaroo with our youngest.  This was great in hindsight, although at the time it was a bit weird as I was often the only male there over three years old.

We took 2,258 digital photos (actually that’s only counting the ones we’ve kept) and 211 videos.  If we set up a slide show rotating through a photo every 15 seconds it would take nearly 9 ½ hours to see them all!

I played 31 full rounds of golf (and a few more nines).  I generally enjoyed the walk (9.7 km around Miramar Golf Club in 3 hr 24 min, for example).  I averaged just under 92 shots per round.  My handicap fell from 19.6 to 16.6 (how does one say: I’m slightly less handicapped than I was at the start of the year?)

I read lots, but not nearly as much as I would have liked (and I’m not counting Dr Seuss or Thomas The Tank Engine here).

I sold a lot of the good books I’ve read, which was very cathartic (more are still for sale, if you’re interested).  But, it didn’t reduce my queue – right now I have 13 books sitting in the pile beside my bed waiting for some attention.

I switched to using an iPhone, and didn’t look back

I attended Foo Camp in Warkworth, Webstock in Wellington (where I interviewed Sam), ETech in San Diego and even a couple of Petcha Kucha evenings.  They were all excellent.

I got about 7,400 emails (not counting deleted messages and spam) and sent about 3,800.  

According to RescueTime I spent 1,554 hours using my laptop during the year, 358 hours of those on email (actually, even more than that as I only started using RescueTime in Jan).  That seems like too many.

(click for full size)

I declared blog bankrupcy in March.  Today I have exactly 100 RSS feeds that I follow in Google Reader, and am increasingly impressed by the quality of the stuff I find each day (lately I tend to read blogs mostly on my iPhone when I have a spare minute, so it doesn’t feel as much of a burden as it used to). 

I started using Delicious in April and since then I have bookmarked 391 interesting web pages.

I published 171 new blog posts – thanks to everybody who took some time to read them and perhaps even add a comment or two.

Included in this tally was the first guest post.  Hopefully there will be more of these in 2009 (drop me a line if you’re interested in writing one).

To balance all of that, I spent a whole week in May without checking email, blogging or reading feeds.  It was great.  I recommend it. 

I enjoyed the Olympics in HD in August, but faded a bit after the first week.

We saw some shows, and also made it out to see three movies on the big screen (Ironman, Dark Knight & Wall-E, since you asked).  We watched lots more on the still-big-but-not-as-big screen at home.

At home we used 10,750 kWh of electricity.  That seems like a lot.  It would be interesting to know exactly where it was all consumed around the house.  The last two points above contributed, I’m sure.

Last, but certainly not least, our extended family grew by two with the addition of a couple of cute nephews.  And, thankfully, all of us who started 2008 have made it to the end.

Did I forget anything?


At times during the year I’ve felt a bit down about how much I was achieving with my time.  But, when I read that list I find it very hard to complain!

I wonder what will be on the list this time next year?

Bring on 2009…