What would your ideal work day look like?
"What would my ideal work day look like?”
My typical work day has changed a lot over the past few years, so asking myself this question was interesting. It wasn't something that I thought about much at the outset and so I fell prey to the push and pull of work and personal commitment.
Now, when I ask what your ideal “work" day looks like, I mean an actual *work* day. As in, the activity from which you make a living and not a leisure day. As much as you might love your ideal work day to incorporate tropical destinations and poolside bars, it's important to be realistic. It's also not a question of what you would like to do on a day off. For most of us, the very idea of day off is a far flung thought.
The whole point is to imagine your ideal work day at your current job, and given your personal situation. What would your day need to look like for you to feel enthusiastic about it and maximise your productivity? Once you have this idea of your ideal work day, you need to ask yourself how you can shift your current situation to reflect this. What key things could you change to bring you more satisfaction and a greater sense of balance?
What small adjustments could you make, if you had the power to? Given these adjustments, what should you focus on as a priority?
It's a useful exercise that allows you to picture how minor changes can have a profound effect on your sense of power and autonomy.
Will it mean spending more time at work or at home with your family? Will it involve being more active and being more mindful of what you are eating? Could it mean you spend more time with your children? What's the one hobby you wish you could put some time into, but you haven't been able to? How can you advance your career without working more hours? In fact, could you even do better working fewer hours? Working your way through these questions allows you to pinpoint what your real priorities are. It also allows you to identify the small changes you can make that will bring you greater freedom and a sense of harmony.
Sure, you have to be realistic, but you should also be ambitious. What could you ask your boss to change that will move you a step closer to your ideal day? Who do you need to speak with to make it happen and how would you have these conversations? What changes could you make at home to create more time to do something you love? If you take a step back and look at things objectively, there is plenty you can do if you bite the bullet and put a new system in place. Try a few small things at first and see how they work.
We often have this fear of asking for help. Employers often struggle to deliver on flexibility, thanks to old structures and attitudes. But, technology is increasingly allowing more and more flexibility. You can now bring more freedom into your day without compromising on work quality or productivity. Any boss who tells otherwise is either a control freak or doesn't trust you to be productive away from the office.
Maybe you're stuck in the situation where you feel the need to put in 8-12 hours a day of face-time at the office. That's a massive chunk of your day! When you factor in 7 or so hours for sleep, it doesn't leave much time for, well, life. As a result, you end up dipping into your sleep, family or personal time - all of which leads to negative outcomes.
So, back to the original question. What does your ideal work day look like? Take a few minutes to jot down the basic outline or schedule for your ideal day. Then list the first three steps you need to take to put this new system in place. Allocate a specific time frame for each activity and be realistic about your work habits and productivity levels. Identify the key people you will need to speak with and seek buy-in from to make it work. Obviously, your boss or colleagues are the first port of call if you are an employee. Family and friends who you share most time with or have responsibilities to come next.
Putting this down in writing and allocating specific blocks of time will show you pretty clearly how to prioritise things. It will also paint a clear picture of where you want to allocate more time and energy, and give you a clear starting point for living Beyond Billables.