24 hours

Inspired by Benjamin Hardy’s recent blog post, I decided to picture my ideal day so that I can use it as a consistent, visual reminder of my priorities. A few of his probing questions caught my attention:

  • If you repeated today every day for the next year, realistically, where would you end up?
  • One of the best ways to consciously design your ideal life is to start with your ideal day. What does that actually look like?
  • How often do you live your ideal day?

With those ideas in mind, taking into consideration basic constraints around work, this is the current design for my ideal day:

24hoursActivity type. While the activity types in the diagram don’t directly correlate to the dimensions I use in my  annual reflection, there are parallels. All of the active, reflective, and restorative habits fall within the “inward” category, while creative & productive are part of “outward”. Eating & social straddle the two categories because it’s an efficient way to achieve both within 24 hours and they’re such a natural pairing. Often I pair exercise & social time. Also, I gravitate towards collaborative work and have the opportunity to enjoy those types of interactions throughout the day. Since I’m an extrovert, social experiences energise me and I try to incorporate them into my day as often as possible. Creative & productive feels a bit nebulous at the moment, but my intent is to acknowledge that a combination of making, learning, collaborating and exposure to new experiences and ideas make me feel fulfilled.

Attention level. Hadn’t considered the importance of this until I read Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott at a friend’s suggestion. It’s a great way to think about organising your day to get the most out of your efforts and energy levels. My attention level deteriorates over the course of the day, so I’m at my best when I can focus on the tasks that require my most active attention in the morning.

Priorities. It’s interesting to see how the proportion of time spent on each grouping of activities naturally falls into a Maslow’s hierarchy of needs-style pyramid. To be fair, it’s hard to know what percentage of creative & productive time leads to some form of impact, but I think 15% is an optimistic target. There are probably activities in other categories that could also contribute. Impact alone is a concept that deserves its own, dedicated post. As for experiences & relationships, this is the category that comes most naturally to me (and that I tend to prioritise at the expense of others). A fair chunk of these activities are tech-enabled because my close friends are so dispersed, but coffee Skype dates can be almost as enriching as their in-person equivalents.

Foundation habits. It took me years, but I finally have a set of healthy foundation habits that I not only incorporate into my day, but have become quite protective of (sleep, eating, exercise and meditation). For extended periods of time I flipped the pyramid up-side-down and prioritised experiences, relationships and impact over these basic needs to disastrous results. At university, I ran myself into the ground to a point where I required hospitalisation. Having not learned my lesson, I manufactured a similarly unsuccessful attempt working for a startup that resulted in complete burn out. For a long time in between, I relied on my ex-husband to provide structure and enforce healthy habits. Now I have internalised those learnings and realise that I can’t sustain quality experiences, relationships and impact without that strong foundation.

Inefficiencies. When you start adding up the time, you can’t help but think about common time sinks. A quick Google search revealed that people in the UK spend a year of their life commuting to work. The stats around watching TV and spending time online are more staggering, with estimates as high as 8 hours per day. This is in part why I haven’t owned a TV in 15 years and don’t have internet access at home. It’s also why I live in urban centres and am willing to pay a premium to keep my commute short and productive. On the flip side, it’s also why I’m terrible at life admin, as it never seems to bubble up in terms of priorities.

So, how do my current habits measure up?

  • Right now I don’t set aside enough time for meditation, but I have made that a priority for Q2 2016
  • Organising my time to take advantage of my peak active attention is a work in progress, as is taking time to make something or work creatively every day
  • Recently I have spent much more time eating lunch in front of my office computer than I’d like, which this exercise revealed
  • Cooking with others has been a rare treat since moving to London, rather than a regular occurrence. Perhaps when my boxes arrive from Hong Kong I’ll feel settled enough to host these type of gatherings again.
  • Wouldn’t mind if the sex involved another person more frequently :p
  • Impact is still elusive, but I’m slowly wrapping my head around it

Would love to hear how others align their daily activities with their goals and values. How do you ‘master’ your days?