The following article was written for Cornwall Today..

This morning, I struggled to get through the barriers at the train station.

It had been a fraught and busy morning – my 9-year-old was fretting about the location of her football kit. We’re at peak school admin with a bake sale, multiple non-uniform days and mum’s night out all looming.

This was coupled with a work trip to Oxford and London, which is where I became unstuck – I’d accidentally booked a train ticket for the wrong day (yesterday), waving goodbye to £60.

The day was shaping up to be about 40% Awesome – Just About Holding It Together. I managed to deliver two clean children to school, gathered up my kit for my work trip, succeeded in catching the right train, but I’m not anticipating too much progress in the work productivity stakes.

Welcome to the world of Operating at 80% Awesome – a growing community of people seeking a bit more balance and forgiveness in their lives.

Together with my friend and collaborator Claire Eason-Bassett, we developed the idea of the Scale of Awesome.  Alongside our roles as mothers, partners, daughters, sisters, we’re also attempting to be our professional selves. We’ve come to realise that trying to be 100% perfect at all times is just not sustainable.

We came up with the concept whilst holidaying on the Isles of Scilly. For the last two years, we’ve taken four days in June for a child and partner-free break to calm down and take stock. There’s something incredibly nurturing about going away with another mum friend. We look after each other, can read each other’s needs, share books and reflect on where we’re at with life in general.

Back in the real world, we started sending each other WhatsApp messages updating each other on our day. For example: “I’m having a 90% awesome day today! Nailed the work presentation and managed to declutter the cupboard under the stairs”, or “Only rocking 35% awesome today. I’m knackered and everything seems to be going wrong.”

Then I spotted an opportunity to speak at a European conference about Agile – a project management methodology I use for work. The principles of Agile absolutely underpin the ethos of 80% Awesome. The conference organisers were looking for alternative approaches to Agile and how it’s helped people.

So we submitted a proposal and we were accepted! In October we headed to Vienna with a magical weekend, bringing our family with us.

At the conference, we presented a planning tool called the Lean Life Canvas. It’s a big piece of paper where you can map out where you are on the Scale of Awesome. You can think about what brings you joy and energy – to top up your awesome – and what to jettison from your life into the Zone of Zero Funks Given.

It’s fun, visual, practical, and we’re blown away with the positive feedback we’ve received so far. We have a Facebook group and an email sign up list where you can access resources.

So far, the concept is what we call “Minimum Viable Product”. It’s not perfect, but it’s clearly helping people.

PS – on that mistakenly purchased train ticket. I managed to get a refund! By taking a breather and chatting to train crew, he advised me I could get my money back. How awesome?

How to Operate at 80% Awesome

  • Think about where you are on the Scale of Awesome. 80% is your target – it’s possible to operate at 90-100% awesome for short bursts, but not for long or you could face burnout.
  • Plan for days that are just 20-50% awesome, or if they spring themselves on you, accept that. Take a deep breath.
  • Try and minimise your daily to-do list. Focus on three actions that will help you feel you are making progress. Once their done and if you have energy for more, add a couple more actions.
  • What can you jettison from your thoughts and possibly your life? We have a space on the Lean Life Canvas called the Zone of Zero Funks Given. The act of writing things down on paper or a post-it note has really therapeutic benefits. For example, ironing, caring what a certain person thinks, worrying about the number of the bathroom scales are all examples of things that are stealing your awesome.
  • What brings you joy and energy? How can you prioritise these activities in your life? For example, I like walking in the woods by running water, working out with friends, duvet days and playing in the sea with my children.


Join the 80% Awesome community on Facebook here.

Download the Lean Life Canvas here.

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