Almanac Life: The penny is dropping


Twelve years ago Dips O’Donnell wrote about some wonderful words of advice his father gave to him about the importance of ‘think’ time. 


by Damian O’Donnell


My old man, now long retired, advised me to spend an hour each day just looking out the window. He told me he used to do his best work whilst engaged in this inactivity. It’s taken me a long time to really appreciate what he meant but I think the penny is dropping. I’ve come to understand that this “Think” time is as precious as any resource. It’s so valuable that they’ll probably figure out a way to tax it one day.


This was highlighted to me recently. My daughter asked me to bring home a copy of Monday’s Age newspaper; she wanted the Tertiary Planner liftout as she’s going through the horrible process of planning out the rest of her life. Dutifully I brought the paper home whereupon she took out of it what she wanted and placed the rest of it in the recycling box.


Staring up at me from the paper box was Cadel Evans; his victory grin as wide as the mouth of the Yarra. I felt a little bit angry and a little bit sad. There was Cadel, still sweating from one of the great sporting triumphs in Australia’s history, already consigned to the recycling box. Will the world not stand still for one moment!


I haven’t had time to process what his Tour win really means yet. Where does it fit in the scheme of things? What does it mean for cycling in Australia? What does it mean for me? Was it THE most courageous victory I’ve seen? Does it affect how I feel about my country? Can men really get away with wearing lycra? It’s one thing to read about these things, it’s quite another to ponder their meaning.


I realized I’m miles behind in my contemplations. I should have taken my father’s advice a lot earlier. Hell, I’m still coming to grips with the Cats’ 2007 premiership! The 2009 flag is on my “to do” list (2008 was surgically removed).


So I’m pleading with my fellow knackers to heed this warning. I want you all to promise yourselves you’ll spend an hour each day just looking out the window (if no window is available just stare at the horizon).


Together we may be able to slow down the world. Like Earth Hour we can start Dearth Hour; a time in each day where activity is thwarted, where nothing becomes something!



More from Dips O’Donnell can be read Here.



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About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Dips. Great piece. If a man of your father’s standing believes that I should spend an hour a day staring out the window, then who am I to argue?

  2. Every time I look out the window Dips I see an expanding population of magpies in my neighbour’s paddock.

    Should I move?

  3. Phil Dimitriadis says

    This is very Zen of you Dips. I definitely feel that the power of reflection without distraction opens a space that this age of technobabble tries to close in…if we allow it.

    I sometimes watch my cat just being herself. Cats take their time, get plenty of rest and are ready to pounce when the moment is called for. Relaxed, yet alert. Now there’s something to aim for.

    I do find watching blokes in lycra riding uphill a bit distracting. Good on Cadel, I reckon the magnitude of his achievement will be more apparent with time.

  4. johnharms says

    There is a window in front of my desk. QED.

  5. I sell windows. I spend all day looking at plans of windows and doors and houses.
    I recommend Western Red Cedar casement windows as the most contemplative (P.O.A)
    I spend all day looking at windows; out of windows and at the Almanac website.
    Woops – here comes the Boss (work or home). Better click back quickly to those plans and pretend I’m working.

  6. Adam Muyt says

    Damian, wise man, your Old Man.

    There’s a lot to be said for just staring at things – or nothing in particular. And plenty to be had in simply “dagging about”, with no real purpose, just a ramble of the mind. I reckon I’m blessed – nature is my big recharge and freeing of the mind…I work in it and spend lots of my free time amongst it too. It’s free ‘entertainment’, something I pick up where ever I am. Plants, birds, a beautiful scene or scenery. Try it!

  7. As a software tester, I spend a lot of time staring at Windows. Windows 3.11, Windows NT, Windows XP, Windows Vista. They’re all crap. Get a Mac.

  8. PeterB – a little while back we renovated our house. One of the best decisions we made was the windows we selected. I think they’re called box windows?; where they wind out on the vertical rather than the horizontal. I love them. Couldn’t tell you what the RRP was.

  9. David Downer says

    Nice one Dips.

    This could take hold as the Australian version of the “siesta”

  10. Chalkdog says

    Your old man was years ahead of himself. Did a Management course a few months back and they insisted that an hour a day [around midday] doing nothing should be factored into every managers diary.
    Then you have the old joke:
    Q “Why dont public servants look out the window in the morning?”
    A ” If they did they would have nothing to do in the afternoon”

  11. Few words, powerful result. Amazing what stringing the rights words together can achieve.

    2008 GF was deleted from the “My Documents” section of my brain, but must still be in the Recycle Bin because I get flash backs from time to time.

    Kind of like the biggest crash and burn of my life. In my youth, I met Sharon, the most stunning creature I have ever laid eyes on (before or since), in a nightclub and she actually initiated contact. We had a terrific evening. I told her I’d never forget her name because I’d met 3 other Sharon’s in a very short space of time.

    As it was getting late, I’d run out of things to say and insecurity started to hit home. She was stunning, and I’m tall, dark, and two out of three ain’t bad.

    For some inexcusable reason, I asked here what her name was? She went to the ladies and I didn’t see her for a couple of hours. Just before closing, she appeared out of the crowd, said “Bye” and I never saw her again.

    The 2008 GF and Sharon. Nightmares.

  12. Colin Ritchie says

    Wonderful words Dips! Your dad certainly knew the importance of stopping to smell the roses, to stop and just daydream as an important means for recharging the batteries and clearing the head with moments of contemplation.

  13. Timeless

  14. Brilliant Dips. I’m doing a lot of window staring these days thanks

  15. John, Port Klang says

    Very wise advice Dips. Thanks.
    I received similar advice from a Law Lecturer, years ago.
    If stuck for words writing an essay, solving a problem etc ponder.
    If the words fail to materialise or the problem remains unsolveable go to bed.
    Sleep on it.
    Invariably the words, solution will appear the next morn.
    At least they did for me.
    My more learned Nacker colleagues will know the right word to describe this phenomenon.
    Meanwhile I am gazing out the window for inspiration.

  16. roger lowrey says

    Great call that Dips.

    I look across Corio Bay every morning as I walk around The Esplanade so I’ll count that as my token window on life.

    But the very best bits are the optional extra activities like sitting under the shade of the tree in the back yard with a blank mind while not doing anything other than listening to bird calls. Highly recommended.


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