This is how my Perfect Day works …
As noted in previous posts, I’ve used the Perfect Day in some type or form for many years. It was only recently that the idea of putting it together and sharing it came to mind.
When I eventually sat down to write my own Perfect Day it was surprisingly easy. I don’t expect this to be the case for everyone. It depends on how well you’ve been able to distill the rituals and actions that move you towards the life you want.
Today I spoke with an amazing young woman who is a management consultant, about how the Perfect Day has impacted her. She confessed to struggling with the choice of what to include and what to leave out.
I had the same question and you will too. Don’t worry too much about it. As you fine-tune your Perfect Day, over time, it will become clearer to you. Remember, this is your Perfect Day. It’s a very personal process and nobody can tell you if your Actions or Principles are right or wrong.
It will probably take more time and a lot more thinking, but fear not, that’s part of the fun of it.
Of course. Designing your life is an amazing process. It is the opposite of the helplessness, anxiety, fear and doubt that we experience so often.
Personal note: the process has helped me in combating my depression and I use it whenever I start to feel overwhelmed. It gives me a sense of control and hope, which is the best antidote for depression
So, if you’ve been wondering how The Perfect Day can be put together. Here is mine (as of DEC 2016), explained item by item.
I’ll start with the Principles:
Keep in mind that the context for each Action and Principle could include experiences from your entire life. This is impossible to clarify completely in a blog post, but I can give you some of the background to each.
- Focus long term, even though this is daily, the focus is the next 10 years. This is one of the most important Principles for me personally, and one I would recommend you include. The layout of The Perfect Day is for one day, but you must think in terms of how that daily ritual will influence your life over the long term. In other words, ask the question “If I do this 100 times during the next year, how will these actions create change in my life?”
- “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? If the Answer is ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something” – Steve Jobs. I’m a huge fan of Steve Jobs and the change he effected on himself, his company and indirectly, my life. The iPad has been a big part of my daily activities, thanks to Steve. But also, the quote above is the very question we’re trying to answer in crafting The Perfect Day.
- Pain, discomfort, shock, boredom, impostor syndrome, awkwardness, fear, being wrong, failing, ignorance, looking stupid: your avoidance of ALL these feelings (not just fear) is stopping you from a life beyond your wildest imagination. This is a recent addition of one of the Principles I already had, namely what Jack Canfield once said, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” Benjamin Hardy takes it one step further and adds “Pain, discomfort, shock, boredom, impostor syndrome, awkwardness, fear, being wrong, failing, ignorance, looking stupid” to the list. I had used the original quote to only review areas where I’m afraid, thereby excluding others. But, if I delve into things such as discomfort, ignorance, boredom, even pain it gives me a greater scope of self-awareness.
- If I can create the ideal day, then I can create an emotional connection to achieving each day’s purpose, consistently. Writing out goals, using emotional terms/connections, make it more likely that I will commit to achieving them when things get tough. The Actions on your Perfect Day should have emotional connection. Either through word choice or context. If a goal is written in this way you are more likely to achieve it. For example, rewriting “Get 7-8 hours of sleep” as “Commit to get 7-8 hours of sleep” gives me a clearer reminder of what needs to be done. I’m not just trying, I’m committing to it. That’s more deliberate and more emotionally relevant to me.
- “To achieve your desired lifestyle you must accomplish these tasks whether you enjoy doing them or not. No matter how onerous the task, or how little you want to do what is required the payoff will arrive as long as you take the steps! Carry this thought around with you: I do not have to like the steps I must take. I just have to take them. Nine out of ten people don’t understand this. They think, rather, “If I don’t enjoy what I’m doing, then what I’m doing is incorrect”. Bad assumption” – Sam Carpenter, Work the System. This is an amazing paragraph from Sam Carpenter’s book. I came across his work during 2016 at the exact time in my life when I needed it. And this quote had particular relevance for me. We’ve seen so much content out there about doing the things that make you happy and give you joy and avoiding the things that you hate or feel forced to do. His take on this is absolutely true for me and when I look at my actions I view them in terms of whether they should be done, not whether I like doing them. Big difference. And very hard to get right.
- Learning takes place when you consume information AND then process. This is also a recent addition and prompts me to take the information I’ve gathered during the day and actively work through it. Learning happens when you gather and process. Processing could be writing, meditating, brainstorming, etc.
- Billionaires read extensively. Their specific reading habits will make you dramatically smarter, and are highly correlated with building wealth and success. This links with the Principle above about processing at the end of the day. The more you learn and the more you process, the more ideas you will have. And ideas equal success.
- First remove, then try to automate, delegate what you can, do what remains based on 80/20 principle. The Perfect Day is about “working towards the perfect day, balance and productivity”. This is more about subtraction than addition. If I want to be more productive I must add sleep, not working hours. If I want to get things done I must single task not multitask. If I want to exercise more I must rely less on willpower and more on scheduling. The Principle above gives me a process to do that.
- First make 100% sure I really have to do something. Ask the dumb questions
- Then try to automate it, if it needs to be done and is recurring there’s probably “an app for that” (corny but true)
- Delegate as much of what is left over. If someone can do it 80% as well as I can delegate. Even more so if I’m not good at it. (Note: personally this includes repetitive tasks, I hate those, I get bored out of my mind)
- Whatever is left over is the absolute minimum and then I still do a 80/20 analysis to decide what is priority
- This is a rigorous process and requires a lot of mental strength, but it’s absolutely worth it. Warren Buffet said “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything”. As you can see about the steps above, I try to say NO at least 3 times before I say “Yes, I’ll do it”
Next up, the Actions:
- 06:05 Commit to getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep (night ritual)Although this is an Action taken at the end of the day, I list it at the beginning to remind me that it’s the foundation for the Perfect Day. If I get this wrong, my whole day suffers.
- 07:00 Brush softly and floss. I’ve read that people who floss, live on average 2 years more. Nuff said.
- 07:15 In car – praise kids for effort, not innate ability (what did you do that was hard?)I have only 15-20 minutes with my kids in the morning where I have their absolute attention. The rest of the day? Forget it. So I try to use those minutes as best I can. And the best lesson I can teach them is to work hard and do things that are challenging. This is all about mastery.
- 07:35 In car – before work, listen to my ‘theme song. I’ve dropped of the kids and I have 25-30 minutes in the car, on the way to the office, to prime my state of mind. Tony Robbins shared a simple technique on Tim Ferriss’s podcast (massively popular, and a goldmine of learning). My car is not the ideal environment for me to do this, but it’s also no time wasted.
- 08:00 Drink 250ml water to re-hydrate my mind, use the time to be mindful about my day’s goals. I hate drinking water, I wish I didn’t. So my Action is minimal, just a cup of water a day. I’ll build that habit up as I go.
- 08:05 Use standing or squatting desk, work in different locations. Whether you believe that “sitting is the new smoking”, I do and I’ve been using a standing desk since 2015. I suffer from migraines and one of my triggers is sitting in a meeting for more than 30 minutes. Even worse if the chair has no wheels and I can’t move.
- 08:05 Deliberately, don’t start with email. I will scan my inbox for urgent client issues (2mins) and then close Outlook for the day. I re-open it usually around lunch.
- 08:05 Reading (all billionaires read extensively)This is not casual reading, but content that is relevant to what I need to do that day. I’m always looking for ideas and thanks to Google, we have access to millions of great ideas, tried-and-tested by someone else. To not use that would just be stupid.
- Day: Work in 25min / 5min sprints (use Cortana for reminders)Normally, if I get into a state of flow I won’t stop for breaks, but if I need to I will use the Pomodoro technique.
- Day: Start with creating content (you must create daily)This can be a client proposal, training material, feasibility study, etc. Content related to my day job.
- Day: If it will take less than 2mins DO NOW, if not add to TO DO list on OneNote. Interruptions are part of office life. But, I’m mindful that someone else’s priority is not my priority. If something crosses my desk and it will take less than 2 minutes, I get it done and forget about it, otherwise it moves into the queue in my subconscious and hogs the resources there.
- Day: Flow follows focus. Achieve flow better by clustering tasks (songs on repeat)Clustering tasks is a lifesaver. Another great principle I found in Sam Carpenter’s work. Don’t do one type of task 10 times during the week. Cluster it, schedule it and power through it like a productivity monster truck. A trick I use is to put a song on repeat and focus on the rhythm. This primes me for flow. Music therapy, or just listening to music, can be good for the heart and can affect your heart rate and blood pressure
- 12:00 Schedule lunch in advance (protein, veggies, greens, water)I’m still working on this one. My goal is to automate this so that I have no temptations. I’m a big sucker for refined sugar and I know the willpower isn’t there. So, I need to take away the choice.
- Day: single tasking, not multitasking. Multitasking is a myth. If you want to achieve flow you need to focus and you can’t focus on many things at once. You deplete the mental resources you have at your disposal.
- The 4 items listed below highlights the 4 main jobs I have as Managing Director and Business owner.
- Clients – Stick to the 2017 client profile. If the client doesn’t fit our profile, we say NO and move on
- Personnel – Ensure the right person is on the bus, focus on developing their skills. The bus is going in a set direction, if you’re going somewhere else you need to get off
- Infrastructure – Set the vision & strategy clearly. We need to tell our story right and have 100% clarity on what we need to do
- Business Administration – Make sure there is money in the bank for payroll. That’s one of the main jobs of any business owner, if you can’t make payroll you’re not doing your job right.
- 17:00 Schedule exercise in advance (yoga, squash, bike, weights) (2x per week)The principle is simple, high-intensity activity, doesn’t matter what
- 18:05 Kids ‘show and tell. Here I make sure that I sit with each of them and deliberately give them my attention. And the stuff they tell me range from scary, thru strange to downright mind-blowing
- 20:00 Mindfulness – process what my brain downloaded (think through it)I usually write the blog in the evenings. I also write down ideas. Both help me to process my day
- 20:35 Reading (no TV)TV adds nothing to your life, except Game of Thrones and Big Bang Theory, that’s some good TV, dude
- 20:55 Deliberately, wind down with breathing exercise. In bed, focused on my breathing and being mindful of the absolute joy of sleep. And if there’s a thunderstorm with heavy rain and the windows rattling it’s sheer bliss
So there’s my Perfect Day. I’m always working on it and I tweak it now and again.
It has served me so many times to “work towards a perfect day, balance and productivity” I have absolute faith that it can do the same for you
Thanks for giving your time to read this.
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