I was waiting for a colleague of mine a few Saturdays ago, in the lobby of the local credit union – which is a bit like a local community bank. When I got there there was no-one in the queue, and I had been in earlier, when business was very slow. Five minutes later there were 6 in the queue. Just my luck I thought, and it reminded me of the old adage about waiting for a bus and then three come at once – although I suspect that has more to do with bus drivers moving in packs because they can complete their route more quickly by alternating which bus picks up the poor punters at which stop.

Queuing theory is fascinating. The whole science of it fascinates me both as an observer and a not very patient queuer. Back in the day we would all queue for a specific teller, and it was always a trick as to which line to pick. These days you see banks employing one queue which then distributes to the next available teller, and you see it also in some parts of supermarkets, airport passport controls and retail outlets. But, then again, you still see situations where you queue for your teller of choice, like in, well, other parts of supermarkets, airport passport controls and retail outlets.

I remember doing a bit of queuing theory at college when I was doing my MBA. It involves quite a bit of calculus – a subject which always sends me thinking about the unbelievably clever soul centuries ago who invented those formulas in the first place.

I mentioned this to my colleague when he turned up. As it turned out, he had an even more nerdy interest in queueing theory than I did, and we then proceeded to debate the strategies of some retailers to offer fewer servers so that the longer queues deter people from revisiting, pushing them online, though it’s highly risky.

But, the fact that you can use mathematics to account for and plan around the sheer randomness of something like people turning up somewhere and queuing is amazing to me.

It seems to me slightly unfair that in the main most of us have to work 5 days for 2 days off. Your working week and your weekend; one is longer and goes slow, the other shorter and goes fast.

It’s an evolution I suppose. In earlier times we were working 7 days a week, because we were hunter-gatherers, or we were slaves. We were literally working to survive. Then comes the industrial revolution and the factory existence and it wasn’t uncommon to be working 6 days and get one solitary day off to recover. A hard life, and one which I’m sure a good number of people still have to endure.

Starting from the other end, if you’re working no days or one day a week, you’re probably independently wealthy, or you can rely on someone else to bring in the bread. If you’re 2 days on and 5 days off, or perhaps 3 days on and 4 days off, then you work part-time in my book. Nothing wrong with that at all. It works great for many millions.

Which brings us back to where I started. 5 days of work and 2 days of play doesn’t feel all that evolved to me. 4 days working, however, and 3 days to yourself – well, that feels a lot more equitable. If your work situation is flexible enough that you can fit your working week into 4 days, or if you can get by on 4 days’ income rather than 5, then that feels a lot fairer to me.

There are 168 hours in a week, of which we’re asleep for about 58, leaving 110 hours left. When you factor in getting ready for work, getting to work, lunch, getting back from work and getting changed, that’s about an 11-hour day, or half of the 110 hours at your disposal if you work 5 days. Half the hours are work-related, so my feeling is the balance of days should be closer to half as well.

We simply need to have the right culture and make the economics work for the 4:3 work:play balance.

I was watching a marketing training video the other day, produced by an American company highly respected in the area of what’s called ‘inbound marketing’ and the speaker used the word ‘ongoingly’.

Ongoingly, meaning – one would assume – in an ongoing fashion – is another great example of human languages adapting and changing all the time.

I was talking to my good lady about this recently, and about how language change spreads, and she wasn’t convinced.

‘So,’ she said, as we were walking through an agricultural show to buy an ice cream, ‘I’m going to call that bunch of stones on the path down here a ‘bubblybeg’. You can’t tell me I’ve created a new word..’ Of course it is, I replied, you just coined a new word. Now I’m going to use it, and we’ll both know what it signifies when we use it again. If we don’t use it anymore, it dies with us.

But, I continued, if you continue using it, and others adopt it, your new word is taking hold one person at a time. Throw in a couple of influencers or broadcasters with access to many more people, and then thousands of people are making that individual decision whether or not to adopt and use it too. All of a sudden the word gains critical mass and eventually becomes accepted. It starts as a verbal thing, then over time becomes enshrined in the written word, and away you go.

The same thing will have happened with ongoingly, like it did with three-peat. Language change is a constant, living thing, and that for me is the constant fascination.

Business travel – in the sense of employed business travel – is fundamentally different to self-employed business travel. This is obvious in one way, since it’s the company’s money as opposed to your money, even if you have your own limited company.

In another way, though, in employed business travel you’re essentially getting reimbursed for everything you’re entitled to within the parameters of your employer’s expenses policy. You’re reimbursed for all expenses you reasonably incur.

When it’s your own money, and your own business, you’re more frugal, both with your customer’s budget and with your own budget, those expenditure items you don’t pass on to your customer.

As a self-employed worker you want to remain competitive, so charging significantly higher day rates to cover all your expenses is sometimes not a viable strategy. This manifests itself in the difference between, for example, charging an employer mileage for car use, as opposed to charging a customer the fuel and absorbing the quasi-hidden depreciation costs of putting miles on your own, self-employed car.

My self-employed business travel is not a life of taxis to the airport, airport executive lounges, ticket upgrades and so on. For me, a typical overseas journey can be a short walk to the train station, a train to the city, a short walk to the coach station, a coach to the airport, a flight with a budget airline, a lift to a cheaper – and therefore off-campus – car rental facility for getting to meetings, following by the reverse on the way home. Some of the expenses I absorb, some of them I pass on to my customers. This agreement keeps me competitive and more importantly fosters long-term relationships.

Everyone realises sooner or later that business travel is not the glamorous pastime we thought it was before we did it repeatedly. With self-employed business travel the sheen wears off even more quickly.

What did we call life hacks before we called them life hacks? That phrase has only been around for a few years but already I can’t think of what term we used to describe the short-cuts or tricks of getting by in life that we pick up as we pass through the decades of our earthly existence.

Anything that gives us the inside track on a task and saves us time improves our personal productivity, wellbeing and happiness. There are myriad life hacks we use every day without even thinking about them.

I drive a lot of different cars. I travel overseas once a month and hire a car when I’m over there. Whenever I’m picking up my hire car I generally ask the staff member I’m dealing with if the car has blue tooth for hooking up my mobile phone (they almost all do nowadays) and which side of the car the fuel cap is on so I know how to pull into a fuelling station on the correct side to fill up the tank. If I forget, I have to get out of the car and look for it.

I’ve been driving for over 30 years. Imagine my surprise and astonishment, then, when someone told me earlier this year that on almost every car dashboard there is a little icon of a fuel pump and an arrow indicating which side you dispense fuel from. Brilliant! I’d noticed the icon many times but hadn’t registered the significance of the arrow. I’m sure most of you knew this one already, and are tut-tutting to yourself, safe in the knowledge that you’re probably oodles of life hacks ahead of me.

For me, however, it was another life hack acquired. Another micro-improvement.

Sport is in many ways the descendant of the gladiatorial contents from ancient times. You have your protagonists, or your actors, and you have your audience. The job is to entertain the audience of paying customers.

The other day I took my mother to a cricket match near where she lives. It was a match between England and Ireland, what’s called a One Day International, and the first of a 2-match series. England, as I write this, are the world leaders in this version of the sport, and Ireland are fast coming up on the rails into the top tier of international cricket. England’s pool of players to draw upon is massive, Ireland’s is tiny.

This was a 50-over match, so each team receives 300 deliveries from the opposition to score as many runs as they can. Whoever scores more runs, wins. A lot rides on the toss of the coin as to who decides to bat first or bowl first. The decision hangs on many things, like ability, confidence, the pitch condition, and the weather. Ireland has beaten England once before in a memorable ‘ODI’ in the World Cup over a decade ago.

Ireland won the toss and decided to bat first. ‘Uh oh, I said to my mum, ‘that could shorten the day considerably.’ Ireland were duly skittled out for about 130 – 300 is a good score – , lasting barely half the 300 deliveries they were entitled to, and England knocked off the runs required with about 200 deliveries to spare. Instead of the match being scheduled to finish at 6:45 pm, it finished about 3pm.

I was furious at what I considered to be arrogance on the part of the Irish captain to opt to bat first. He obviously felt he could win the match, but generally it’s better to bat second, because you know what the target is and you know the run-rate you need to get there. In my view, his thought process should have been: ‘You know what, this is a big step up for us, and a big chance for us to shine. It’s also the first game in the series, and there’s going to be an adjustment period as we step up. Let’s put England in, they’ll probably score about 300, and we can give ourselves a chance and not panic.’

What he also should have said was, and this is going to sound like heresy: ‘You know what, we’re in the entertainment business, and there are 15,000 paying fans out there, 90% of whom have come to see England play. They’ll get more value out of the day, and we’ll have more chance, if we bat second.’

We can’t forget that sport is in the entertainment business, with the emphasis on business. If you’re David against Goliath, you should let him do his thing first, give the crowd a show, see what he’s got and then you might see a weakness and sneak a win. You’ve got no chance otherwise, and people will stop paying to see what looks on paper like a one-sided show. After all, look what happened the last time?

Sometimes, in business and in life, you’re slightly ‘off your game’. You’re not quite there, you can’t put it together, the muscle and brain memory is not firing right for you. It’s a tough rut to get out of, without doing a reboot or calling it quits and sleeping on it.

In sport it’s easier to see when you’re slightly off your game, because it’s pretty binary. It’s either in or out, a hit or a miss. You either win the point or you lose it, win the match or lose it, pretty much.

I was reminded of this the other day when I was playing table tennis. I used to play competitively for many years and am currently getting back into it more regularly after a decade and a half on the side lines. The other day was one of those days when I was slightly off my game, and at a certain level of ability the margins are so small. The ball was clipping the edge of my bat a lot, rather than hitting the sweet spot, because my timing was slightly off and I couldn’t get either my conscious or subconscious mind co-ordinate the hundred or so muscles in quite the right way.

The ball was also missing the table by small margins, and hitting the top of the net a lot. With table tennis, the ball is maybe a quarter of the height of the net, so you get a lot of shots hitting the net cord, compared with tennis or badminton. When you’re sightly off your game, you hit the top of the net a lot, and the ball either comes back on your side, or dribbles over the other side, or else sits up for the other player to crush past you. Either way, it’s really hard for both players to establish any kind of rhythm.

A couple per cent degradation in your execution and the result is maybe 20% worse, easily the difference between winning comfortably and losing comfortably. Frustrating.

I know you either win a deal or lose it, and a lead either becomes an opportunity or it doesn’t, but business, projects and sales cycles feel a lot less binary to me. If you’re slightly off your game, you don’t necessarily get direct feedback from a prospect or customer. You don’t necessarily know that a specific campaign hasn’t converted a specific individual, or that your answer to a sales objection has been answered satisfactorily.

All you can do then is go back to the data and study the statistics over a larger number of similar circumstances rather than an isolated, specific interaction. And work hard all the time to reduce the occasions when you’re slightly off your game.

Park and ride is a great concept for cities, especially those that have compact centres, limited parking or horrific traffic. Dump your car out of town, hop on a dedicated bus every few minutes, swoop into town on the bus lanes, get dropped off really close to where you need to be, do your thing, pick the bus back up and pick up your car.

People who like having their car close, like driving or want some control and flexibility, they tend not to be big fans of the park and ride.

I tried it for the first time in decades quite recently. It was an interesting experience. I was taking my mum to a cricket match, in a place notoriously poor for parking – even if you have a disabled parking pass – so we opted for the park and ride.

First of all, there were almost no signs to get the park and ride. Fortunately my mum knew where we were going, and I had looked at the map beforehand, but still the signage was very poor, which makes no sense if you want to encourage the use of it by providing a good first experience. We had little or no wait for a bus to leave, and the fair was an extremely reasonable £4 each for both ways. The journey was OK, and we were dropped off at the place which, we were told, would also be the pick-up point, on the same side of the road. Fine.

The walk to the venue was short, so it was all good. Then came the return journey. As often happens after an event finishes, the whole attendance who had arrived at the event in steady streams over time then exited the event all at once in a massive throng. Consequently, there were a couple of hundred people waiting at the bus stop when we got there. The match had finished early and no-one seemed to have told the bus company to be ready early and at short notice. There were 15 minute gaps between the buses, rather than the 5 minute gaps that were advertised.

We finally got on a bus, which departed and took 40 minutes going 3 sides round the mobbed ground we had just exited in order to follow the park and ride route. We finally got back to the car and made our way home.

So, a great concept, with less than great execution, which was a shame. I score it 6 out of 10, a B-, ‘could do better’ on the report card.

Is it just me or have eyes failed to to keep up? While peace, our understanding of nutrition and farming techniques mean that we are bigger, stronger, faster and we’re living longer than ever before, the eyes don’t appear to have got the message.

Take me for instance. Into my sixth decade, but not by much, I have 3 pairs of glasses. I have a pair for screen-work, phones, laptops, TV and other devices. I have one for driving, because I can see perfectly well into the long range but I can’t read the dashboard numbers and letters. And I have a pair of sunglasses for sunny or bright-light driving and so that I can read prices in shops and books when I’m sitting on a lounger by the pool.

I’ve always had perfect eyesight, except that mid-way through the fifth decade the focal point for close-up work had lengthened to the point where I couldn’t hold a book far away enough or reach the keyboard with the target in focus. From there it’s been regular and expensive trips to the opticians. More pricier than the occasional trip to the physio.

What was life expectancy as recently as a thousand years ago? Half what is is now? The eyes don’t have it any more. We’re living too long and it’s not like we can retrain them like other muscles. I know of no exercise program focused on strengthening the optic nerve and the muscles that control focusing, if indeed they are muscles. All we can do is have corrective surgery in some cases or wear corrective equipment in other.

I’m happy to acknowledge that all my experiences and observations might be coloured by the fact that up close attention to the typed word is my life. I’m both a publisher and consumer of it, for many hours a day, so that may have contributed to the speed of the decline. But even so, if all the magnifying tools in the world disappeared overnight, or I found myself washed up on a deserted island, I would be, to use a crudity, buggered.

I drive quite a bit. Short journeys running errands and dropping kids around town, and long journeys to airports and customers. I like to drive, and I generally do the driving when Her Ladyship and the little angels accompany me. It frees up my wife to organise a bunch of things on her phone, and I don’t mind at all.

The other day, in a break with tradition, I was driven, on one of our normal routes out to the country for the weekend. My wife drives a little slower than I, but not much.

It’s not comfortable being driven! Not as comfortable as it should be. You forget, when you’re in the driving seat and shimmying through country lanes with gay abandon, that you’re holding the steering wheel, which anchors you to your seat and minimises unnecessary roll.

The kids don’t mind of course, because they’re used to it, but more importantly they’ve never driven so they don’t know what it’s like. It was for me, though, an instructive lesson that I must drive more slowly, more smoothly and more considerately when I have company, passengers, customers if you will.