If you’ve ever read a book on productivity, then you’ve probably come across the concept of “your perfect day.” It’s a way to think about scheduling, but also managing energy levels and ongoing priorities. The idea is that if you knew what your best routine was, you could align your various responsibilities to fall into that format – or at least something close – on a consistent basis.
While some time management experts swear by this concept, others (not to mention many business owners and their executives) may find it to be a little bit ridiculous. After all, how often do any of us really get to dictate our own schedules? Even when you’re in charge, it’s hard to get control of your calendar when you factor in things like responding to client requests and emergencies.
Still, I think it’s a good idea to have a solid idea of your perfect day.
Having a template to work from, or strive for, helps you to better plan and organize. Plus, going through the exercise itself can yield some interesting insights.
To show you why this concept has so much value, let me share an example and a few follow-up points. Before we get into specifics, though, let me just point out from the start that I’m leading with my perfect day. Yours might not look the same, or even at all similar. That’s alright, though, because I’m going to show you how to take my template and adapt it to your own needs…
What my perfect day entails
Recently, I had the chance to think about the way things go when I’m at my most productive. What I discovered is that I can handle quite a bit, but only if the tasks are varied and spread out.
For example, I typically have lots of meetings on the books. I talk with new clients who need websites, existing clients who want to sharpen their internet marketing plans, and even referrals who are interested in seeing what we might be able to do for them.
However, these have to be balanced with the need to supervise ongoing work, interact with my team, participate in creative projects, and complete everyday management tasks.
When I break things down into more specific steps, an actual schedule might look like this:
Wake up early – usually between five and six AM, grab a hot beverage and play with the dogs.
I’m an early riser, and like to start the day on a positive note. My dogs make that easy.
I might pick up my phone before or after breakfast to check emails and do some social engaging.
My mind is free and creative at this point.
That I’ll take a shower and get ready to leave for the office after the morning rush hour has dissipated. I like to take my time and arrive at work without feeling rushed or stressed.
Then I’ll take an hour to prep for my first mid-morning meeting which usually starts at 10:00 am.
I like to review my notes and ideas just before seeing someone, to ensure I’m fresh and in sync, or bring insights to the meeting.
After taking a lunch, I’ll spend another hour or so preparing for my second meeting, typically around 2:00 pm.
By avoiding back- to-back meetings I stay fresh, engaged and excited.
My meetings done, I’ll look at doing some free-thinking creative work, follow-up on existing projects, and try to tie up loose ends before preparing for the next day. I’ve found that the best way to stop myself from being overwhelmed is by thinking ahead and sleeping on it.
A perfect day isn’t every day
I want to reiterate once again that just because this is my idea of an ideal day doesn’t mean they all unfold like this. I’m like anyone else in that I have client crises, meetings that drag on, and unexpectedly long phone calls or delays that might cause later scrambles. Some days my energy is low, and other days there are things I can’t move or change that necessitate a shift in my approach.
However, a couple of important things have to be said. The first is that I do what I can to plan my days like this, meaning I get the optimal schedule (or something close to it) a lot more often than I would otherwise. And secondly, when those hectic days do arrive, I’m less stressed and better able to deal with them because I’m not facing chaos from one morning to the next. I can withstand the turbulence since I’m not going through it all the time.
In fact, the longer I work within these parameters, the easier I find it to stick to my schedule and adjust my various needs around a template that allows me to perform at my best. That makes the exercise of planning the perfect day worth it in the first place.
How to find your perfect day
Look closely at the day I want for myself and you’ll find that it’s really a balance of three things:
- the tasks I have to do almost every day,
- my natural energy levels at different points,
- and a tendency to spread out the parts of my job that require focus, creativity, and a close attention to detail.
Keeping my stress levels manageable during the work week allows me to let my hair down on the weekends without worrying about work. While I used to spend every day working, I’ve learned – post cancer victory – that hiking a backcountry trail in the Rockies or paddling my kayak across a glassy still lake is an incredibly joyous and rewarding way to recharge for the week ahead.
Your perfect day might look a lot different from mine. You probably have a different job, your own biorhythms, and a unique sense of what is enjoyable or difficult. The closer you can fit those different elements to their ideal scheduling points, the easier it’s going to be for you to feel energized from one day to the next.
I would invite you to think about which of your work activities and habits really matter most to you, and when they could best be tackled. Then consider how you might be able to arrange your life so that you’re firing on all cylinders while decreasing stress at the same time.
In the end, you may find that some adjustment or experimentation is required, but you’re likely to learn some things about your working habits and enjoy every task just a little bit more. I can’t promise you’ll always have your perfect day, but you’ll get there a lot more often once you know what it looks like.
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Randy Milanovic is the CEO/CMO of Kayak Online Marketing and a Red Pantz guest contributor. This blog post contains his views and opinions.
Images by Randy Milanovichenergy, performance, productivity, stress, work habits, work style, workplace