Have you ever thought about what your ideal day looks like? We get so busy in our everyday lives that we don’t know a bad day from a good or a great one. In any given year, we can remember only a handful of days that are worth remembering. Why is that? Where did the year go? Why can’t all our days (or at least most of them) be just like our best days? Sure, there are some bad days, but we can try to keep those to a minimum. It may also be that you are not living your ideal day most of the days, which is okay for you, but just because things are not broken doesn’t mean they can’t be better. I wrote in an earlier draft about how our lives don’t change because we don’t think about them enough or as often. The fact remains that how we spend our days is how we spend our lives (paraphrasing Annie Dillard).
A day is the most basic time unit followed by the week. The only way to live your ideal day is to reconcile how you live each day and how you would like to live, but that’s easier said than done. You have to imagine the possibilities before you can decide what to do. You have to think about what your best days would look and feel like before you can live them. What things would you like to do in your ideal day? What things can’t go without doing? For instance, an afternoon nap is vital for me to stay alert and effective the rest of the day. It’s a source of self-renewal for me, and it’s non-negotiable.
Other essentials for me include blocking time for exercise and reading. I set aside weeknights and weekends for leisure/recreation time. This includes things like spending quality time with friends/family, playing games, reading books, listening to music/podcasts, watching films, etc.
Here’s how you can design your ideal day. First, figure out all the things you would like to do during an ideal day. Be as detailed as you can. Focus equally on the emotions behind doing them. How you feel about doing those things will be your real motivation for doing them. Don’t worry about the order of things yet — just focus on capturing the things (without judging them) as they come up in your mind. Once you’ve captured those things, then reflect on them. Keep the ones you want and discard the rest. Only after doing that, figure out the order in which you want to do them. I also wrote about this process in an earlier draft.
Of course, you can’t create your ideal day overnight. You need the right habits in place to help you get there; otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for failure. After doing the exercise, pick one thing you feel strongly about from the above list and work on it until it becomes a habit. Move on to the next thing. Wash, rinse, repeat. When you eventually start living your ideal day, that day won’t feel like some ideal day far out in the future; rather, it will have become the new normal day for you and you wouldn’t have even thought about it.
Let me share my example. My days are made up of Work and Play, which I believe go hand in hand. There have been days where I didn’t work much during the day and felt something was amiss. I felt unproductive and as if my day was wasted even though I enjoyed my leisure time. For me, even a single day devoid of some work makes me feel less useful. Then, there have been days where I ended up working all day that didn’t leave much time for leisure, and I felt equally incomplete, but those have been few and far between.
It’s not vacations we want as much as a life of meaning and fulfillment, both of which can be done by serving others and making an impact in their lives through the work we do, be it readers, clients/customers, or who have you. Furthermore, vacations may be a poor substitute for everyday leisure. We don’t set aside enough time for ourselves on a daily basis; it’s because of this we look forward to weekends and vacations, but that’s a topic for another draft.
For me, having an ideal day starts with owning your morning, or possibly the night before, so you’re not thinking about it on the day, and you’re simply showing up to do what you’ve committed to.
If you ask people about their perfect days, chances are they haven’t given it much thought. We don’t live our ideal days because we haven’t thought about it. We have a new chance to change our life every day, which is a matter of choice, really.
Of course, living your ideal day (and week) doesn’t happen by default — only by design. I plan my weeks ahead of time, giving enough time for both Work and Play because I know that is only sustainable in the long term. If you’re unhappy and/or unsatisfied by the way you’re spending your days now, spend some time thinking about your ideal day, then reflect on how you’re spending your time now. The idea is not to make a giant change in your day (even though you may have defined it), but to introduce things you would like to do in your day over a period of time.