Shaping your Ideal Day
Life is made up of a series of days, and how we live our days determines how we live our life. In order to know how to live our best days, we need to answer some big life questions, “What do I really want? What purpose does this life serve? How do I want to be remembered?” It’s about taking a 50,000 foot view of the Earth so you can see the bigger picture, and then zooming into the details at street level so you know where you are and the way to move forward.
By becoming intentional with how we shape our days, we put ourselves in the driver seat of progress. We consciously create the life we desire to live in smaller, bite-sized pieces. Giving thought to “What does my best day look like?” draws a plumb line to evaluate the days we live. We can choose to run our days, or we can choose to let our days run us. Effective leaders and entrepreneurs live by choice, not by chance.
Giving shape to your ideal day is more than having a cheery disposition (although this can help!) It’s about engaging in the activities where you add the most value, where your strengths and passions come to life, and you’re making real progress towards your goals. It’s about doing work that you enjoy, that you are good at, and that holds meaningful contribution. When we operate the majority of our time and energy in this way, we also build reserves of esteem, inner strength, and resilience.
Often times the more successful a leader or entrepreneur becomes, the more complex their world gets. Complexity can lead to more demands on time and attention. If left unchecked, the days become consumed with activity that no longer engages passion, talent, higher purpose, or productivity. Having a predetermined map of the best day and what contributes to it, gives leaders a tool for course corrections. When course corrections are required, leaders have an opportunity to decide what they will do, what can be ditched, and where to delegate. Followed by setting some boundaries so that the leader isn’t pulled back into the activities that don’t align.
When aligning your best days with your purpose, be mindful of what your priorities are, and incorporating them into the map. Stephen Covey calls them “The Big Rocks”. Personal priorities could include health, family, spirituality, fun, and more. Professional rocks could be growth and development for you or your team, culture, relationship-building, communication, sales, etc. I remember when I first learned of this principle in the corporate world, it was during a time when I had a large team, we were going through some big changes, and the demands for meetings and reporting was high. I fell into the habit of tending to the people after everything else was taken care of. I soon realized that my team was getting the rest of me instead of the best of me. I made a concerted effort to change it. As I built my schedule for the week, the first on the schedule was my team. I scheduled the team meetings and the one-on-ones first, and then the other meetings and reporting. I shared the schedule with my team, and with my boss. This created some accountability, as well as helped to manage expectations going forward. I negotiated lesser involvement in other meetings and delegated some of the reporting. My motto became, “People First” and the ROI was a positive, measurable difference.
As entrepreneurs there can be a temptation to take on certain tasks in order to save money on expenses, or out of a sense of control. The caution here is, if you get too many of these tasks on your plate, they can take you away from where you add real value to the business. And in some cases this can be counter-productive. I was coaching a client once whose business had grown quite a bit, which meant adding more staff. The owner looked after all of her own books including payroll. More and more of her time was being consumed by accounting, administration, and fielding questions rather than by developing the people to match the growth. Problems began to arise because she felt tethered to her desk. She was frustrated because she couldn’t get to the work that she loved to do – the reason her business existed!
At this point you might be thinking, “How can I fit it all in?” It’s a fair point. Squishing it all into one day can be enough to not even bother. As you work through the process, look at a series of days rather than just one day. If your work week is 5 days for instance, then spread the goodness over the course of those 5 days. Call forth great days by intentionally creating the conditions that lead to a great life.
What does your ideal day include?