The Huffington Post recently attempted to answer this question. You can see their diagram of a perfect workday here. When I shared this on my Facebook page, many commenters (accurately) pointed out that “perfect” was one way to describe this illustration of 24 hours. There were no commutes, chores, children’s needs, etc. This was a productive day…on a different planet.
That said, there were some interesting take-aways. One was the idea of structured breaks. Many of us fall victim to the idea that we should try to work straight through the day. That way we can get home earlier! It’s fine in theory, but the human brain doesn’t work like that. When we don’t take real breaks, we take fake ones. We wind up following links from Facebook over to The Huffington Post in order to read about some unattached person’s perfectly productive day.
Better to plan for breaks and do something really rejuvenating. The article recommends working for 52 minutes and then taking a break for 17, based on a study from DeskTime. If you’re aiming for something like that, this means taking roughly 2 breaks in the morning, a lunch, and 3 in the afternoon (based on a 9-6ish work day). This is a useful framework. If you have 5 mini-breaks and 1 long one during your work day, how would you like to spend them? Grabbing coffee, doing some stretches, going outside, chatting with a work friend, and meditating are all great ideas. This might be worth mapping out.
I also liked the idea of designating a time to record daily wins. This will probably not happen at 8 p.m. for me. That, conveniently, is the time when the baby wants to nurse, the 3-year-old needs a bedtime story and snuggle, and the older boys want their dessert/bedtime snack. However, I have been writing in my journal. I had let this habit slide, and I decided to pick it up again in the new year. I haven’t missed a day yet! I mostly just record the hours, but I need to be better about celebrating the sorts of postpartum wins that are easy to forget about (I got my hair cut!)
Do you plan your breaks? Do you record daily wins?
In other news: My friend Linda Formichelli recently released a short ebook called Commit that recommends “massive action” to achieve a goal. There are lots of different ways to attack a problem, so why not throw it all against the wall and see what sticks? While I’m generally a fan of slow, sustainable progress, she’s not wrong that seeing something work instantly may be motivational enough to propel you forward. She’s got stories like one aspiring writer who sent out 300 queries to trade journals in a short period of time. This person landed a dozen regular clients. That’s enough to launch a business. Sometimes it is possible to change your life quickly.
Photo: Totally gratuitous baby pic. I could make up a caption about pondering the perfect workday schedule or something.