Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Happiness Series: 15 - Happiness Exercise 5: Your Perfect Week

The Perfect Week

These exercises can be a bit of a double edged sword. I love them, and they help me a lot. However there is a way to do them very badly. We all know comparison is the key to unhappiness, so when you do these exercises, you have to prime yourself to focus on the right things.

If you find yourself comparing what you want, to what you have, and feeling a sense of despair, then you’re hurting yourself, not helping yourself.

However the first time I did this exercise, I realized a lot of the things I wanted to be doing, I could already do. Things like gardening more, learning an instrument and doing more art. They were things I kept putting off until ‘everything else in my life was under control’. But there was no reason to put them off, and honestly, my idea of ‘under control’ is usually me working more and more.

So remember, the goal of these exercises is not to compare what you want to what you have and feel bad. Its to look at all the ways you can make what you already have a bit more like what you want.

Your Perfect Working Day

When I first heard about this exercise, the instructions were to imagine that money wasn’t a factor, but you still had to work. You were to design your house and workspaces, as if you had unlimited funds. And you could pick any career you wanted.

There are two glaring problems with this. Firstly, what you want may be so far from what you have, it could be depressing. And secondly, you might imagine a career you don’t have is fantastic, while if you actually tried it, you might hate it.

I’m going to let you decide how big you want to dream. Its really not about the size of the dream, or how different it is. Its about the details and the things you want, and how you can bring those into your current life without winning the lottery.

Lets imagine, very quickly, that you say your perfect working day is working on a luxury yacht, that you own, surrounded by models. How could you bring that into your life? You could start taking your laptop to the wharf, to be around the ocean and the boats. And you could take lessons to drive a boat. However you might find you hate the sun, hate the sounds of seagulls, hate the smell of brine and get seasick when you try and drive a boat. What about the models? Well, quite frankly, I’ve never found anyone who wants to be surrounded by models who really understands what its like to be surrounded by 10 bored, hungry young women all day.

So if you don’t really want to be on a yacht surrounded by models, what did you want? Probably to feel rich and adored. You’re more likely to feel rich and adored if you 1) work out your finances and set up a fantastic system of savings and investments and 2) work on cultivating stronger friendships and relationship skills.

So, with all that in mind, on to the exercise.

I want you to write out your perfect working day. From the instant you open your eyes in the morning, to the instant you close them in the evening. What sort of work are you doing? What are the nitty-gritty details of that kind of work? What sort of breakfast do you eat? Lunch? Dinner? What is your recreation time like? What is your workspace like? What is your house like? What are your interactions with family and friends like? Who do you interact with as part of your work? What are those interactions like? Do you work alone or in a team? What is your boss like? Do you even have a boss? What is your commute like?

Aim to make this as detailed as possible, a few pages long at least.

Now, I want you to sit down and really think about how you can make your dream and reality closer together. If you really hate cleaning, can you find $80 a week to have a cleaner come twice, for a few hours? Is it worth it to get that time back? If you hate cooking, can you get all your food through a meal delivery service? If you imagine your houses is minimalist and tidy, can you do a purge of your possessions and set things up the way you dream? You might not be able to move into a mansion (or a cabin 100’s of kms from civilisation), but you CAN take steps to bring the day to day minutia of your life closer to what you wish it was.

Your Week Divided

This exercise was only introduced to me recently, but it made me feel a lot more relaxed and in control of my time.

We tend to think of what we need to do on a day by day basis. We try and cram a lot into every day, because we have a lot of things we are interested in and want to do. But you can’t do everything in a day.

However you probably can do everything in a week. There are 168 hours in a week. If you sleep eight hours a night, which you should, you take away 56 hours and leave yourself with 112 hours.

For this exercise, I want you to take this 112 hours and work out how much time you want to spend on things over the course of a week. For example, if you are a writer, how many thousand words do you want to write in a week? How long does it take you to write that? That’s your weekly writing chunk.

In my case, I wanted to write 10k, which takes me about 7 hours. So if I do 5k on Monday, then 2.5k each on Wednesday and Thursday, I have reached my writing goal for the week. So instead of writing every day, I now have four whole days I can devote to other things.

Don’t forget basic things, like eating, cleaning, commuting and basic hygiene. And don’t think you can fill every second of every day with productivity. Leave some down time for TV, reading or whatever you do when you are exhausted.

Your Perfect Working Week

In truth, exercise one and two were preparing us for this! This is the big one, that will probably take a few hours, or even a few days, to complete. Its very similar to the first one, however instead of a single, perfect day, you are going to map out an entire week. And, if like me, your perfect working day was about 2000 words, then your entire perfect week is going to run somewhere around the 10k to 14k mark.

Don’t feel bad if yours isn’t that long. We all know I am a bit… obsessive. Still, if it isn’t up around 5k, I’d be suspicious you were skipping over some details.

Using your week divided exercise, and your perfect working day exercise, map out an entire perfect working week, including your days off. From the instant you open your eyes, to when you close them, on all seven days.

This is going to show you what you wish you were making time for, and the things that aren’t in your perfect week, are going to show you what you need to cut out of your life.

If you have a long commute, and hate it, its time to start job searching closer to home. Don’t quit before you find a new job, wait until you find the perfect job, or you could end up desperate and with a longer commute. If finding a perfect job means doing some courses and updating your resume, do that first.

If spending 4 hours a day on social media isn’t on your list, then its time to uninstall those social media apps on your phone, and put blockers on your browser, so you can only access them for 1 hour a day. Or less.


No excuses, no guilt. Do them. See if you can actually organize your perfect week. Start to finish, see if you can line it all up so you can actually live it. What was as good as you thought it was going to be? What was better? What was less good?

Moving Forward

Next week, we’re going to talk about the things that are part of your life, that you didn’t include in this exercise. Sometimes what we choose to discard is even more important that what we choose to keep.

Only two more weeks of happiness project to go!

Jake, In Summary:

I love these exercises. I probably re-do them about once a year, and I love looking back through the old versions to see what has changed, how my goals have shifted, and what has stayed the same. I find the consistency very reassuring.

One of the things I find hard, I suppose, is that there is a few things in my life that could be very different, but where I would be equally happy. Do I write a version of the perfect week where I am engaged? Where I am married with kids? Or do I continue to write them for myself while I am single? I am equally happy with all three of these scenarios, though they each look very different.

As most of you know, in February I will have a new little person under my care. I would like to do a new perfect working week for next year, but its a bit hard. I am sure whatever I am imagining being a dad is like, reality will be quite different! I can’t plan a week by ‘guessing’ how much time he will take up—because no one will know until he is here.

The one thing I do know is I want to get a yearly pass to Australia Zoo and take him a few times a month. I also want to talk him on bushwalks and to the beach. I am looking forward to these little adventures, and to showing him the world. So any new plan will involve those things.

How about you? Want to come to the zoo with me? Or are you too busy with a whole new, very exciting plan for your life?

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