Finding my Balance: James Wallman

The author of 'Stuffocationand 'Time and How to Spend it' on how he finds calm in a busy life.


How much do you think you have your work life balance sorted? 

Not bad. I have two children and a wife who's recently become an actress, so I have to work...  but I almost never work weekends, and since I work for myself, if my brain has run out of energy, I just take a break. Plus, I take a long break in the summer.

You have written a book about using free time wisely – where are most people going wrong in your opinion?

We didn't use to know what sort of foods to eat. But there's a ton of research and talk about foods that are healthy and ones that aren't. Just as there are junk foods and empty calories that are bad for your skin, health, happiness – so there are junk and empty experiences. Just as there are super foods – ones rich in goodness that help our skin glow, our eyes shine and give us good energy - so there are super experiences.  Most people are going wrong because they've got a sense of this, but they're not sure what to look for, and so they're just stumbling through the dark, like someone eating whatever food comes their way.

What prompted you to write the book? 

My first book, Stuffocation, was about how we're shifting from materialism to experientialism, and how if you want to be happier, spend less on stuff, more on experiences. People would ask me: so, what kind of experiences? I had an opinion, but I didn't know the answer. So I went and read a ton of science papers and talked with psychologists and anthropologists and distilled all their learnings into a 7-point checklist for better, happier, more successful living. 

What are the main things you have changed about your daily routine since researching and writing your new book?

Before deciding on what to do with my time, I refer to the checklist I created in the book. The checklist, by the way, is ‘STORIES’: standing for story, transformation, outside & offline, relationships, intensity, extraordinary, status and significance. I try to make sure I get as many of those elements into my life as possible. 

How easy do you find it to switch off and how do you relax? 

I work hard, I run one business, I'm launching my next start-up, I'm relatively present for my two kids - I take them to school and often put them to bed - so I'm busy – and I find it hard to switch off. I use the STORIES principles in the book to relax: in particular, I cycle, go bouldering during the week, go camping some weekends, climb trees in the park with my kids, and I read and hang out with friends.

How much do you look after your diet? 

A lot. We buy big bags of nuts so I handle cravings with a handful of cashew nuts. We have red meat about 1-2x per month. Oats in the morning. Lots of fish, chicken, vegetables. I'm 45... it's time to look after myself.

Do you get a good night's sleep and what helps ensure a good night's sleep?

Yes, 98 times out of 100. I exercise, read to my kids, light the fire in autumn/winter, allow myself 1-2 hours of ‘not-work’ to wind down before going to bed. Sex too. My wife's hot.

Are you into alternative remedies/botanicals at all? 

Yes to alternative remedies. Our first port of call in most situations is: what natural thing solves this problem? We do all we can to avoid things like antibiotics. Though I like the joke: what do you call alternative medicine that works? Medicine! I’ve never tried CBD oil but I've heard good things. 

Where do you feel most calm? 

Outside and offline: swimming, especially underwater, in the Mediterranean. Camping in the English countryside. Being by the sea.

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