What does your ideal week look like? What are its elements, and how much of each?
It seems like a pie-in-the-sky thing, I know. But I began taking it seriously a few years ago when I found myself getting to the end of every week feeling vaguely disappointed with myself and what I’d been able to accomplish with my waking minutes. The lookback at the end of the week was pretty dismal.
I might have been able to push through dozens of hours of work, but my garden had weeds and my eating habits had gone to hell sans handbasket. Or I might have been able to brave networking events, but had to work into the weekend to catch up on paperwork or writing. Or maybe I’d been able to publish something I was proud of, but my clients felt ignored and neglected by my absence into my writing cave.
The end result of several consecutive weeks of that was a mental inertia, a low mood, a self-judgment that made everything feel heavy and pointless.
In desperation, I revisited author Barbara Sher’s “ideal day” exercise one night, staying up late with my journal to envision what I wanted a typical week of work/life to look like. With nothing to lose, I scratched out a map of an ideal week, from eyes open Monday to eyes closed Sunday, trying on different ways of allocating time for things like writing/creativity, service, running my business, self-care, and having a household. It felt great. I could do this!
And then I put it away until the next time I was in the same crisis.
Finally, I learned (from several teachers, in fact) that it wasn’t enough to daydream about it. I needed to bring it to life by calendaring it and protecting it, with the same fierceness with which I defend other peoples’ needs and desires.
These are the kinds of things that landed in my calendar, and which are still there to this day:
- Staying in contact with the people who matter to me, usually via email or phone
- Good daily habits like food, rest, hydration, and movement (I’m not kidding – I have an imposing gray block mid-day that says REST. NOW.)
- Dedicated time for writing & joyful creation around my work
- Meetings and trainings and working with my clients
- Time out in the light, usually working out in the food garden in the summer or walking in the woods in the winter (helps with sleep as well)
- Evening hours to eat well, prep food for the next day, and give a little TLC to my home
- Weekend time over coffee to map out the coming week in a relaxed and positive frame of mind
…You get the idea, right? My weekly calendar has these things slotted in—as non-negotiables. For example, if a friend calls and asks me to go for lunch, I don’t just see “no meetings” on my calendar and whiz off for a reuben. I have to look at my calendar and honor not only prior commitments to clients, but also honor any commitments to my current self and my future self.
Recently, Laurence McCahill of the The Happy Startup School in the UK posted this regarding his own:
Myself and my co-founder Carlos have a high-level catch up every Monday morning face-to-face to help us get in sync and plan ahead (inspired by the Rocket Fuel book)
I have calls and meetings on set days and only in the afternoons (Calendly is a lifesaver for this)
I typically coach people on Fridays, where possible outdoors (if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s not to struggle alone)
I work at home on Thursdays and use this as thinking and writing time (my goal is to write a book this year)
I make time for walking my dog, pilates and swimming as these things makes me feel good and help to prevent recurring back pain (long story)
Family always comes first so I prioritise time and activities with my kids (as Steve Blank says in this timeless post “your kids are only passing through. It will seem like forever but it will be gone in a blink of an eye”)
I deliberately make room for serendipity, particularly activities that include greenery, campfires and coffee 🙂
For many, this can seem indulgent or even selfish, but from my experience you’ll be of no use to anyone if you aren’t showing up as your best self.
What’s your ideal week?
And how can you shape it and protect it…with the same tenderness and fierceness you would use to protect other people you care about?