How to have an intentional day off

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It began with good intentions

8th of January, can you believe a week of 2020 has passed already, and still, yes still, I am planning the plan. To be fair it’s not that bad. Dust has been flying both in the real world and digitally. I’ve had some Marie Kondo “Joy” moments that The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus would be proud of, but I still ran into a cloud this morning and it caused me enough pain to have an inner “WHY?” moment at the top of the range of my inner imaginary vocal cords.

Pulling a day out of a 5-day workweek hat

The reason for this little internal spat was the level of expectation built up around this Wednesday, this first Wednesday of our new 4 Day Workweek at Excite Media. After looking at a number of options we had decided at the end of 2019 that the New Year would be pivotal, that we would take our place of work to be an environment where people thrive. Our goal is that staff, and their families are positively affected by their relationship with our digital marketing agency. We want Excite Media to be known as one of the best places to work in Australia. But more than that, we want our clients to also feel and experience the benefits of working with a team who care, about themselves, the business and the people we serve through our talents and skills.

Last week I mentioned in my blog; “And on the “fifth day,” he multiplied” that I wanted you to join me as each week I would diarise what I had done with my “fifth day”, this day off. We are using the first few months to mid-April or the Easter weekend to trial the four day week with our team. At Excite Media we will keep you updated on this page. Already we are receiving jealous responses from friends and clients who are envious of the role. Now just for the record, there are a couple of models that are being played out with the 4-day workweek and even a few ideas being suggested by the new leader of Finland prior to coming into her role in leadership.

Currently, many organisations are either completing their normal 5-day allocation of hours in four days. That is our approach and means that 5x 7.6 hour days has become 4x 9.5 hours days. We have also agreed that for both staff and clients the best idea around which extra day off to allocate was to run with Wednesdays, a lead we took from VERSA in Melbourne. Another model affectionately known as 100-80-100 by Andrew Barnes and Charlotte Lockhart from New Zealand works on the basis that team members give 100% productivity over 80% of their previous hours (or days) for 100% of their original salary. You can read more on their journey with Perpetual Guardian here https://4dayweek.com/ Recently, Sanna Marin, the new leader of Finland was quoted as being equally keen on the idea and is wanting to research and then implement a four-day workweek made up of 6-hour days. This article has since proven to be based on old comments and not currently a focus of the political parties agenda, but what was clear when the story went viral, as well as the local disappointment from Finnish workers when the story was corrected, is that there is a hunger for this kind of solution.

So how did this journey into early Wednesday retirement begin? If you are asking me to evaluate the previous week, I would say exceptionally well. If you want to know about today, not so much. An earlyish start had me driving my son to the railway station for his journey to an appointment. Wednesdays as a day of leisure with servants delivering piping hot coffee, crumpets and a paper and then fluffing my pillow while I jumped in the shower didn’t seem to arrive. Ah well.

Next, ‘where should I begin?’, and that’s where this day took a dive. I really had too many dreams, organised into too many projects, segmented and ordered by too many tasks, and they’re all ready to go. While the merit of this momentary madness seemed well orchestrated I also realised I had created both the ‘lolly shop’ and the ‘minefield’ at the same time. I wasn’t bamboozled by a lack of solutions, neither was I short-circuited by overload. What was happening is I didn’t know which exciting project to work on first. I just hadn’t thought that this would be a problem. Over the previous 2-3 weeks, I had organised my project management software, Plutio, (affiliate link) so that I knew what I wanted to do and what, at a high level was involved.

Saved by the Full Focus Planner

What began with a mini cloud of Dumbo grey and a wee cry of despair though, has now worked out into a more focused plan with definition and some order. One of the more therapeutic reasons I can pinpoint during the day was when I got ‘out of the house’ and went for a local coffee. What I had remembered is that I hadn’t set up my Full Focus Planner. This beautiful daily planner delivered as a quarterly (annually to international customers) solution to enhanced productivity hadn’t been fully broken in for the quarter. I have now been using this planner for a year and would have to say it brings order to chaos, but also provides a safe haven space for putting life right with the tactile and cathartic use of pen and paper.

One of the joys I have is being able to set up each quarterly edition. This planner from productivity maestro, Michael Hyatt has years of his experience printed into the paper. As a former CEO and publishing chairman, Michael has also ensured it is a gorgeous piece. One example is that the pages are stitched, not glued, something you only find in the best of the best. The quarterly one on one with my FFP (Full Focus Planner) starts with creasing the pages which are even included in a start-up video to teach you how to get your planner to lay flat.

So with that knowledge in mind, I was able to write up my planner with some more focused goals, fill in the numbers and dates relative to the quarter and have a sense of control in the process. These little elements of ‘housekeeping’, which on the surface may appear insignificant are something I always find brings back the topsy turvy balance of what can I do and what should I do next.

Where should I begin?

So what have I learned from my first Wednesday, my first ‘set free’ to follow my dreams day to break up my new 4-day working week? For some of us, our time off is about rest, rejuvenation and recreation. This journey for me is about intention after being gifted this time I want to use it for some personal project purpose.

Start with one project

It all starts just like we learned from watching Sesame Street with focus. “Today’s letter is the letter ‘H’, followed by the number ‘7’”. Although I have many projects bubbling under the stirring broomstick of my hand, I should approach each day or opportunity with the intention of working on only one ‘project’. The idea of having all my energy and focus moving in one direction makes sense to me. When we work on the customer journey of a website user, we are conscious to avoid distraction, so why wouldn’t my own experience be any different. Lesson one.

Choose only 2-3 activities for the day

Taking that project thought into a more granular focus, the next step is to only look at two or three activities (or tasks, oooh nasty word) to be completed during the day. I could have done 10, 20, a hundred, but they wouldn’t have had significance. Like the waves working on the rock, that high volume, small tasks approach will take me years. I need to work on the 1, 2 or 3 things in a day that will have the highest return to the project.

Plan the ice-cream

This can’t be underestimated, but every job and every project should have ‘ice-cream’. It is either the joy part of the job or the gentle reward for getting work done. For me its time away from my desk for a good coffee. For someone else, its a walk, a read, dancing with your buds in to your own private silent disco. Whatever you can reward yourself with, do! And don’t wait until the end. Break up your intentional day with ice-cream moments.

Use the tools

This one comes with a workplace safety warning. Not really, but really, we should be wary of the digital tools. They can be the rabbit warren that Alice of Wonderland fell into and was never seen again. If you can ‘set’ your digital toolbox, then they will become your friend. Have too many and your project scope and information become spread across the gigabytes of the cloud and you really don’t know where you’re at. Have the wrong tools, or tools that aren’t up to the task and you become inefficient.

Something to think about is that tools don’t need to be actual software. Rather they can be models or principles. I was encouraged to see some of our Excite Media team talking about their personal projects using ‘Rocks’. Some people may remember Stephen Covey giving the example of getting the rocks into the jar before the pebbles or sand so everything would fit in. In other words, work on the big items first. This idea has been built into the EOS Traction System (Entrepreneurial Operating System) for running a business and is a good way to organise focus and priority of tasks. Some have used personalised kanban boards whether with digital tools with freemium and premium options like Trello or simple post-it notes on a wall. Either way, there are tools to bring our cluttered minds to a place of visual order.

A lesson for all, never evaluate or research tools in the middle of ‘the project’. Now is NOT the time. One positive that came out of the proceeding weeks before today, was that I consolidated my tools. Decided which ones would be used on work type projects and which would be more personal solutions. I then decluttered the information to make sure that the notes, projects, tasks and calendars were only connected to the right tools. This meant that when I am now working on my projects I know where to go for particular tasks and where the notes and information relative to a project are being stored. There’s a special kind happiness reserved for those who know which digital box the list of pop vinyl collection numbers is stored in.

Push it

Nearing the end of your intentional day, don’t start thinking you need to rush that last hour to deliver something. This is ‘your’ day and should be reserved for quality. This is the equivalent of hiring a craftsman to work on your new kitchen with hand-carved cabinetry, only you are the craftsman. Allow yourself the time to deliver the best outcome for your project. If that means you need to push this last activity into another day or engagement, then do it. Relax in the process and don’t compete with an imaginary boss for your time. You aren’t on the clock, you are walking through your own intentional day off and you’re allowed to push it.

Set a date darling

So I don’t want to get too serious on my first date with Wednesday, after all, we’ve just started on this journey. I do want to say though, “Set a date”. It’s not about booking the church and the reception. What you do want to see is gradual and intentional momentum build. So let’s begin with the end in mind and decide when is the next intentional day off. Whether you have the privilege I am enjoying of a 4-day work week or you are going to carefully use that Saturday next month, I think you should now start to lock it in with a level of detail I didn’t have when I started today. Plan your project category. Only choose 2-3 things you intend to complete. Imagine the ice-cream selection and know what tools you will need to get the job done.

Its been a big day, and telling you about it has helped bring some focus and satisfaction to the outcome. I’d love to know if you have some ideas that can add to my understanding or if you have examples you can tell me about in the comments below.

Any questions on our 4-day workweek and the use of my fifth day are also welcome.

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