Reading time: 3 minutes and 15 seconds
Two powerful ways to boost your focus and improve productivity every day – click here to subscribe and never miss another post
“Its such a perfect day – I wish I spent it with you” – Lou Reed, Perfect Day
Imagine a perfect day of focus. From the minute you open your eyes, you are energised, in the zone and ready to go. Throughout the day, you effortlessly work through your top priorities and get them done. You deflect the interruptions with grace and constructively deal with the challenges that arise. As you wind down at the end of the day, you feel fulfilled, content and satisfied. This may sound unrealistic, unobtainable and a little bit crazy, however why not try to get as close as possible to this?
I’ve struggled with finding focus on a daily basis. I’m a well known procrastinator, particularly when it comes to doing the most important (and for that read scary) things. Yet recently I’ve found two really powerful techniques that have helped me immensely to move closer to having the perfect day, and here they are:
1. Plan out your day in scrupulous detail
One problem I had with being focussed and effective each day was that I didn’t even know what focus looked like. To change this, I have taken to setting aside time each morning to create an incredibly detailed plan of attack for the day. Starting with my prioritized to-do list (I’ll share how to create this later in the week), I work out the key priorities for the day – this includes things from work, my personal life and also how I’m going to take care of myself. I use my calendar to see how much time I have available to make sure that this is realistic. I then create an incredibly detailed programme for the day ahead with a blow by blow account of EXACTLY what order I will do everything and the timing for this. For example today’s schedule looks like this:
8.45am – Send key emails (and I have a list of exactly which ones)
9.15am – Clear out email accounts
10.00am – Go to Coffee Shop – Write four blog posts
12.30pm – Return home
12.45pm – Run – 4 miles tempo run
1.15pm – Post run stretching, shower
1.40pm – Lunch – spaghetti bolognese
2.00pm – Put postings on Linked In
2.30pm – Business Telephone calls (again I have a list of which ones)
3.30pm – Design ideal client experience
5.30pm – Scheduled business call
6.00pm – Do Crossword and relax
6.30pm – Send out personal emails
7.00pm – Cook supper, relax and read
Anyone who knows me will realise that this is the antithesis of my laid back personality. Yet the remarkable thing is that it is 11.38am and I’m in the coffee shop finishing my second blog post of the day.
I’ve found that knowing what you want to achieve creates a real sense of focus and even if you follow the plan with 80% success, those days feel remarkably productive. Mapping out your perfect day in obsessive detail is no guarantee of success every time, yet it gets you focused on what is most important and helps to reduce the draw of distractions during the day. It is easier to get back on track and know what to revert to if you are thrown a curve-ball.
2. Act like you are being audited
This powerful technique came from the Change your Thoughts blog. The key here is to act as if your actions are being audited each day. Imagine that at the end of each day you have to justify what you did to a super critical auditor who will make you account for every second. How easily could you justify what you did today?
To put this technique into practice, start out by “meeting the auditor” twice a day for a week – at lunchtime and at the end of the day. Each time you meet, you need to justify your time since the last meeting – explain what you have done and what makes that important and useful. You also have to explain your less productive time – that half hour on Facebook, the twenty minutes in the bathroom, the 3 hours watching TV. Remember the auditor is not there to judge, only to listen and record.
The objective of this process is not to beat ourselves up, or to take all the fun out of life, it is simply to find focus. One of my primary values is to take better care of myself and develop inner peace and happiness. For me, finding time to meditate, run, read and simply relax and get quality time is justified and I can look the auditor in the eye with good conscience. However, if I goofed out on the important deadline that I had and didn’t make an important call to go running, that is harder to justify.
Over time, your inner auditor will become internalised. You’ll feel them looking over your shoulder as you start your game of Tetris and go back to finishing your spreadsheet. It will become easier and easier to justify your time at the meetings as you find your focus improving.
So the perfect day may not happen every day, however using these techniques you can get closer to a focused and effective day to day existence. As with all personal change some days will be better than others and you’ll need to be kind to yourself when the less good days come along. However with persistence and patience you’ll find the Perfect Day may just be possible. Let me know how your perfect day is, by commenting.