The working world has changed. The traditional thirty-year career, company loyalty, great health plans, company cars, and pension plans are all but gone. More people are working from home, pursuing side gigs. They are taking a more entrepreneurial approach to work. Entrepreneurial adventures have become the new pension plan.
There’s some great news here. For those of us who are stubborn, who refuse to live life by someone else’s rules, who are comfortable with uncertainty, lies opportunity. If you’re one of those people, it doesn’t matter if you’re 25 or 55: if you can do these things, you can redesign your life to take advantage of the current uncertain environment.
Reinvention, one day at a time
Yeah, that sounds easy, just redesign your life. No problem, right? As anybody who’s tried it knows, completely reinventing yourself is extremely hard. I’m recommending a different approach. In his book The Four Hour Workweek Tim Ferris talked about designing your week so that there were only four hours of work (that you didn’t enjoy). A lot of people misunderstood the title of the book to think that this meant only working four hours a week and sitting on the beach of the rest of the time. The book’s cover even had a guy on the beach in a hammock! The book’s actual premise is that If you’re doing something you really love then that is not work. Make no mistake, you will be doing something. A lot of something, often for less than you’d make in a traditional commuter/cubicle job. This doesn’t necessarily mean quitting your job, it means redesigning your entire workday to eliminate the distractions and poor use of time that are getting in the way of your perfect day.
Let’s look at a slightly different approach. Instead of trying to figure out what type of lifestyle, business, or new invention would be needed to support a four hour workweek, we should start smaller. Let’s start by simply designing a perfect day.
Think of it as a Tuesday sometime in the future. Let’s say this Tuesday is your perfect day. What would this perfect day include and what would definitely not be happening? Would you be commuting somewhere in your car? Would you be in a cubicle in a large office? Would you be sleeping off a hangover in a crappy hotel room?
Some people really enjoy large offices, traveling for work, staying in hotels. However, the key here is to design your perfect day. Start simple. For instance, one of the best lists that I ever made was called “the musts.” In this case. the musts are things that would happen on my ideal weekday.
Here are a few “musts”, I included.
- Eight glasses of water
- Writing 200 words per day
- Make my own kick ass lunch
- One hour walk or bike ride
- 20 minutes of high intensity training
- Dinner with family
- Read for at least an hour
- Seven hours of sleep
A few of these things would be easy adds, others would be difficult to achieve consistently in a traditional work/office/commute environment. Once you’ve created a list from your perfect day, decide how that might fit into a typical weekday. I rearranged my list a few times and fit it into the best times of day, for instance, writing in the morning or reading in the evening.
Tapping into productivity
I find writing difficult, so I put that early in the day, before any distractions like email enter into the picture. Once I figured out what I wanted to include, then came the hard part: deciding what needed to go. I found that by eliminating commuting, unnecessary meetings, a lot of social media and news, I was able to free up time for these more important parts of my workday and incorporate them all while getting work done.
Creating, then duplicating your perfect day
Here’s the important part. Once you’ve envisioned, created and tested your perfect day figure out how to duplicate it. It’ll be very hard to have a perfect day every day. In doing this I found that I was pushing a lot of “stuff“ into the weekends like paying bills, home repairs etc. I’m still working on that, but I’m good with it, because at least I’ve been able to settle into some good habits five days a week. It’s good to mix it up a bit on the weekends anyway.
The message here is that it’s tough to plan your future, or the even the next week without knowing what your musts are. So, start by designing your ideal day and take it from there. One of the first things to do when designing your perfect day is understanding when you’re least productive. I like to call the period between 3 to 5 PM the dead zone. That’s a great time to drop in a workout, a long walk, maybe even a nap. It’s all available if you’re designing the day.
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