There are three parts to having a Perfect Day. And as Sheryl Sandberg and Jim Rohn will show us today, there’s also one trick.
The first step to having a Perfect Day is controlling your morning. Do this by getting up 15 minutes early and focusing on your number one priority in life. The second step is conquering the chaos of the afternoon. You accomplish this with a scripted schedule and by having solutions for all of the obstacles you can expect to come your way. The third and final step is concentrating on what counts at night.
The trick, or catch to all of this, is you must have a cut-off time for the structure and discipline in your day.There must be a set time when you stop working, when you stop checking email, when you stop surfing the Internet. It must be a hard cut-off time, and you must finish your planning and preparation for the next day before the cut-off time.
The cut-off time is non-negotiable. Set it, stick to it, and you will have a Perfect Day. Ignore it, and you risk taking productivity too far, working too much, and getting addicted to busy work that eats up your evening hours.
I make my business coaching clients set a strict cut-off time at the end of the day where they do a brain dump. In your brain dump, you write down all work-related thoughts running through your mind. This is important for two reasons. First, it gets the stressful issues out of your head so you can be free from them at night and it allows your subconscious to go to work on solving these problems while you sleep. Second, it symbolically signifies the end of your day and marks the separation of work and free time. Leave your work behind and move on to the evening phase of your Perfect Day where you can be present and thoughtful among your family, friends, and hobbies. Work can wait until tomorrow. Really, it can, trust me.
The next-day preparation, the brain dump, and the cut-off allow you the distinction between work and home, home and work. In Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, she describes being home for dinner every night at 5:30 PM. What most people don’t understand is she then works for a few hours later in the evening, but she still benefits from the cut-off time system. To her, it’s really important to have dinner together. This includes her husband, the CEO of SurveyMonkey. He also gets home for dinner with the family and returns to work later. The Sandbergs aren’t ignoring the system for the Perfect Day, they’re just using a modified version that works for them and allows them to concentrate on a priority (dinner together) that counts at night.
Like Sheryl Sandberg you may also return to work later in the evening. That’s fine. It’s still worthwhile to do a brain dump in order to free your mind for a few hours while you have dinner with your kids, bath them, and put them to bed. The benefits of the brain dump and cut-off time allow you to live according to Jim Rohn’s famous advice, “Where ever you are, be there.”
Having dinner as a family is one of the most important things parents can do for their children. Children who eat dinner with their family are better adjusted and perform better at school than kids who don’t eat dinner with their parents.
If that matters to you, make time for it. Structure your day to win your freedom to make that decision. This is an example of concentrating on what counts at night, but it all starts with controlling your morning and also requires you to conquer the chaos of the afternoon so you can keep your commitment.
“One of the major reasons why we fail to find happiness or to create unique lifestyle is because we have not yet mastered the art of being,” said Rohn. “While we are home our thoughts are still absorbed with solving the challenges we face at the office…We are everywhere at any given moment in time except living in that moment in time. Lifestyle is learning to be wherever you are. It is developing a unique focus on the current moment, and drawing from it all of the substance and wealth of experience and emotions that it has to offer. Lifestyle is taking time to watch a sunset. Lifestyle is listening to silence. Lifestyle is capturing each moment so that it becomes a new part of what we are and of what we are in the process of becoming. Lifestyle is not something we do; it is something we experience. And until we learn to be there, we will never master the art of living well.”
Heed his warning well. When you are at work, be there, fully focused and productive. When you are exercising, ignore your phone and turn off the television. Do the work and get on with your day. When you are with people, pay attention to them. When you go home at night, leave work at work.
You can use a flexible schedule if you know what really matters to you. If you make time for family dinner than you might have to sacrifice other parts of your night, such as watching the latest HBO must-see TV series, so you can answer important emails or finish projects for work. The big lesson is to structure your schedule so you concentrate on what counts at night.
In a Perfect World, you would end your day with planning and preparation and a brain dump before your cut-off time. That will allow you to concentrate on what counts and start strong and fresh again the next morning. Control your morning and work on your number one priority. Win your victories early. Conquer your afternoon with a tightly scripted day. Own your day in the face of chaos so you stay on track and can stick to your brain dump and cut-off time. Leave your problems on the paper and get home to your family. Concentrate on what counts at home. That’s the formula for a darn good life and it’s only possible to win this freedom through structure.
Control, Conquer, and Concentrate. The 3C Formula will work for you.