Why 650hours? Blame Bill Bryson

Bill, what are you thinking?

Bill, what are you thinking?

An associate asked me recently “what is the logic behind 650 hours???” He’s not the first, so I thought I might take the time to explain in blog form why 650hours is called as such. It’s not complicated and it’s all Bill Brysons’ fault.

I’m quite a Bill Bryson fan, in a quiet, non-evangelical kinda way, which I suspect he might respect. Usually, I’ve enjoyed his books and had the odd “huh, whaddya know?” moment on the way, but that’s about the extent of the long-term impact on me.

However, his 2005 publication “A Short History Of Nearly Everything” changed everything. Therein is the following line:

“Even a long human life adds up to only about 650,000 hours. And when that modest milestone flashes past, or at some other point thereabouts, for reasons unknown your atoms will shut you down, silently disassemble, and go off to be other things. And that’s it for you.”

This rather struck a chord with me and got me thinking about hours and how we spend them.

At that particular time, I, along with all of my then and some now colleagues, was wasting quite a lot of hours sitting in work, waiting for the company we worked for to shut down so we could get our redundancy pay outs. It subsequently shutdown and we subsequently did, you’ll no doubt be pleased to hear – we all certainly were – but nonetheless, there was a lot of wasted time during those 86 days whilst it limped on.

During that time, we were planning to break away and set-up a company, working in the area we’d all come to love with a bunch of guys we’d come to respect. Such dreams we had – but we lacked a name. Until, that is, one rainy February lunch time when I decide to work out how much time I had in fact wasted sitting around waiting for this thing to end.

The answer was a hugely convenient 86 days (as of that point, there were a few more days to come), which when multiplied by 7.5 to get the number of hours was – 645 hours. I’m not one to let 5 hours stand between me and a great story, and thus 650hours was born.

650hours is 0.1% of your life (if you’re lucky) and almost exactly how much time I wasted waiting for my previous employer to get over himself and shut down a failing company, releasing us all, which is a scary thought – 0.1% of my life….what was I thinking??!?

That’s why I named 650hours thus – to remind us all never to waste 0.1% of my life again, no matter what the reason – and also because it’s kinda a cool name too. Thanks for asking!

Stewart Boutcher, CEO, Project Architect @650hours

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