Do you sometimes wonder what your ideal day would look like?
It’s not just some idle thought experiment.
When we understand what things need to happen every day, we can build a better life for ourselves.
Learn why a beach day does not equal your ideal day, and how you can design your ideal day.
What My Ideal Day Looks Like
On my ideal day, I wake up early, usually between six and seven. This varies, since I don’t use an alarm clock. I let my body determine how much rest it needs.
I lay in bed for 10–15 minutes, just letting my thoughts wander. I think about the dreams I had, and what they might mean. I think about people I know.
Then my thoughts start shifting to the day ahead. I begin planning my projects, what progress I want to make today. At some point, I get so excited that I just have to get up and get going.
At no point during all of this do I reach for my phone. I don’t check my messages, any social media, or the news.
Instead, I go straight to my most important project. At the moment, that is writing for this blog.
I usually write for one to two hours. When my concentration starts to wane, I’ll take a shower.
I might also do last night’s dishes and clean up around the house a little bit. As an extreme minimalist, that takes little time, though.
I then return to my computer, but now I will do some lighter, organizational work. That includes emptying my GTD and my email inboxes, and reviewing my to-do lists.
I then tick off some of my to-dos, like replying to an email, preparing a tax return, or calling a client.
Then comes one of my highlights of the day — lunch. I will stroll to a good restaurant nearby and order a healthy, paleo-friendly meal.
While I’m eating my food, I don’t look at my phone. I just savor the taste. This helps me to stop eating when I’m full and maintain a healthy weight.
I might hang out at the restaurant for a while afterwards, watch the people walking by, or start a conversation with a stranger.
Alternatively, I will read a little bit on my phone. I enjoy books and blogs about personal development and marketing. If I feel like indulging, I’ll get my fantasy fix from Steven Erikson or Ben Aaronovich.
When I feel sufficiently recharged, I will stroll back home. Again, I avoid all digital distractions (like social media) and get straight to work.
I find that the block after lunch is my second most productive of the day, so again, I reserve this for important tasks like writing or team building.
When, after one to three hours, I notice I am starting to slack off, I will go for a walk. If am near the sea, this might include a dip in the ocean. I love spending time at the beach. It calms me like nothing else.
I might do this together with a friend. If I’m traveling, I might call somebody back home while walking or sunbathing.
When I get back, I’ll do one last round of work. I might write an article for one of my content-marketing clients or edit a previous one.
Then it’s time for my daily body-weight workout. I might do two sets of incline push-us, ring pull-ups, and assisted pistol squats. I will also do some mobility work.
While working out, I will listen to a marketing podcast, like the AuthorityHacker podcast. This is the only multitasking I allow myself, as my workouts tend to be repetitive. The podcasts keep them fresh.
Then off to dinner, maybe with a friend. Again, no phone while eating. I focus on the taste or the conversation.
When I get back home, I turn off the lights and light a few candles. I’ll meditate for a few minutes to calm down. Then some light reading, until my eyes start to feel heavy. I’ll fall asleep listening to the crickets.
That is my ideal day.
Why It’s Important To Think About This
Imagining your ideal day is not some idle thought experiment.
To reach your goals in life, you need to accumulate certain actions. For example, if you want to win the Judo world championships in 10 years from now, you must practice your throws every day until then.
It sounds trivial when you put it like this. But how many people do you know who apply this? I would bet less than five percent.
Most of us lack the self-awareness to connect the dots. We dream about far-off goals, but we don’t break them down onto a daily level.
This is why imagining your ideal day is such a valuable exercise. You are essentially asking yourself:
“Given what I want out of life, what must I do every day to get there?”
Get the answer right, and your life will turn out amazing.
Ideal Day ≠ Beach Day
When I talk to most people about their ideal day, they soon start talking about their last vacation.
And while I enjoy the beach maybe more than anybody — see the title photo of this post — this is missing the point.
Your beach vacation does not result in your ideal day.
Sure, it feels like it now. But that’s because you are caught up in a mind-numbing 9-to-5 job. Of course, all you want to do is to leave that misery behind and do nothing but relax on a tropical island.
But do that for long enough, and you will get antsy. We were not meant to remain stagnant. We need (self-chosen) goals, we need development. True bliss is to experience yourself as competent.
Happiness is the feeling that power increases – that resistance is being overcome.Friedrich Nietzsche
Imagine you would never have to work another 9-to-5 job. If you needed no respite from wage slavery ― what would you do then?
This is the answer that we are after.
How To Design Your Ideal Day
Here is how you come up with your ideal day, one that goes beyond sweet idleness.
1. Start With the End in Mind
As we saw, your ideal day should be based on your most important project in life, the thing you desire most.
Unfortunately, all things desirable — skills, money, love, world peace — don’t come easy. If they did, everybody would already have them.
The good stuff does take the often-quoted 10,000 hours. That means you must prioritize “it” every day, whatever it is. Your ideal day must reflect what your life as a whole is about.
For example, I would like to be able to live off my personal brand one day. Therefore, I produce content every day.
If it’s important, do it every day. If it’s not important, don’t do it at all.Dan John
That begs the question — what is your most important work? These are my two go-to tips to find out:
a) Read Between the Lines
Your passion has already manifested itself. But you haven’t acknowledged it yet. It is so ingrained in us, we don’t even recognize it.
Look at your life’s story — time spent, reoccurring themes, moments of crises. There is something there, something that drives you more than anything else. You just need to read between the lines.
Granted, this is not easy to do. My own life story is as convoluted as it gets.
My first obsession in life was reading and learning through books. My children’s bedroom looked more like a library.
In my teens, I got really into martial arts, and eventually opened up my own gym for MMA and BJJ.
In my late twenties, I spent several years figuring out dating and relationships, which I also ended up teaching.
Later, my interest in dating transitioned into a fascination with marketing and sales (they use the exact same principles).
How do you make sense of that mess?
What I eventually concluded is that I enjoy learning new skills. And I do so by coming up with systems. And once I have these systems in place, I enjoy teaching them to others.
Hence, my current project of building a personal brand in the personal development space.
It took me a while to reach this conclusion, but all the ingredients were already there. I just had to put them together and “bake a cake.”
It will be like this for you, too. To figure out your most important work, you must look at what you have already invested in, and then figure out the underlying theme.
Bonus tip: Consider working with a coach. It is often much easier for someone on the outside to figure out these underlying themes in your life’s story than for yourself.
b) Form a Hypothesis
I just said that, in order to figure out your passion, you must learn to read between the lines.
The problem is that the first few times you try to do so, you will get it at least partly wrong. You will overemphasize one thing, and ignore another thing.
Therefore, don’t indulge in endless soul-searching. Do some soul-searching, but come up with a best guess for your passion relatively quick. Then try that best guess for at least half a year.
Don’t sweat being wrong. Because in the process of testing your hypothesis, you will come to understand yourself more. Your next guesses will get better.
It’s a spiral-like movement. Your understanding of yourself informs your actions. And your actions deepen your understanding in yourself. Eventually, you will arrive at your passion.
2. Block Time
Let’s say your passion hypothesis is about painting. You were always doodling, you now work as a graphic designer, and you spend all your weekends at the museum. Clearly, there is something there.
Now we must break that vision down into daily action. For that, you need time blocking. Every day, you will reserve a couple of hours for your most important work. In your case, that’s putting colors on a canvas.
I recommend splitting up your time blocks. Do two hours first thing in the morning, then another two after lunch, when you feel recharged. You’ll be way more productive than during a 10-hour-marathon session.
Admittedly, not everyone can do that. Some people have jobs and family.
In that case, get up very early. While everybody is still asleep, do three hours of focused work. Do one more hour after work. Then go to bed very early (never compromise on sleep).
It’s not fun, but it is how you get the ball rolling. Once you turn your passion into a business, you will be able to structure your day as you see fit.
Now that the most important blocks of your life are in place — your productive spots — we need to talk about relaxation.
You must strategically goof off every day, without exception. Relaxation is what enables you to do your most important work. If you don’t counterbalance focus with laxness, you will eventually break down.
To be clear, when I talk of relaxation, I am not talking about these things:
- Watching the misery called “the news”
- Checking your social media 5 trillion times
- Gossiping about others
- Eating comfort food
- Hanging out with other bored people at the bar
There are three criteria that a truly relaxing activities must fulfill:
- It must not drain you, but invigorate you
- It must happen away from a screen
- It should have a physical component
My favorite options include:
- Taking a walk in the forest
- Going for a swim in the sea
- Laying on the grass
- Watching the people walking by
- Getting a massage
That’s just me. Find your own truly relaxing activities. Maybe it’s slack lining. Maybe it’s having sex. Then sprinkle them throughout your day, going back and forth between focused work and light play.
I think you should read every day, for two reasons.
The obvious one is that you can learn from some of the best minds around, at almost no cost. If you commit to a well-thought-out reading schedule, you will arrive at your goals much faster.
The second reason is that you need allies.
Living your ideal day — i.e., focusing on your passion — will feel pretty lonely at times. Most people gave up on their passions a long time ago. Therefore, they will doubt and even ridicule you.
But there are people who have done what you are trying to do. And they have written about it. By reading their books (or blogs), you invite them into your life. They will cheer you on when the going gets rough.
Exercise needs to happen every day.
Spending all of your hours staring at a screen is a disaster in the making. Not just in terms of physical health, but also in regard to productivity. You need movement to get out of your head.
However, I am not a fan of the gym. It takes too long. Remember, our goal is to come up with a formula for our ideal day. We want to be able to do this every day without fail.
When you drive to the gym, then change, then workout, then take a shower, then change again, then drive home, that is easily 2–3 hours gone. Will you be able to sustain that? Probably not.
But doing 20 minutes of body-weight training in your living room? That is easy, and once you build the habit, it can then be sustained forever.
6. Eat Right
For your ideal day, you need to eat right. Food is literally the fuel we run on. You get out what you put in.
The number one problem with our diet is carb-addiction. We are either eating pure sugar, or foods that get broken down into sugar easily inside the body. Think bread, noodles, rice, etc.
And it really is an addiction. Try to wane yourself off that stuff, and you will see. The first two weeks without carbs, you will get the sweats just walking by a bakery.
Therefore, start slowly. Out of the 20+ meals you eat per week, eat one truly healthy meal. That means a high-quality protein (e.g., grilled salmon), and a large serving of veggies (e.g., broccoli).
Anyone can eat like this for one meal per week. Then, after a month, add a second healthy meal. After another month, a third.
Before you know it, you are eating clean every day. It will revolutionize your life — your attractiveness, your energy level, your life span.
7. Sleep Right
Ideal days are built on ideal sleep.
That’s because sleep refreshes your willpower. When you are well rested, you are more capable of making smart, long-term decisions. But miss out on sleep, and you only pick what feels nice in the moment.
There are two keys to getting the best sleep possible:
First, go to bed at the same time every night. That includes the weekends.
Naturally, no one likes to do that. At least on the weekend, we want to make up for our crappy 9-to-5 existence. So, we stay out late, drink, party, hook up, etc.
But it throws off our biorhythm. Deep, refreshing sleep will elude you. You will wake up feeling worse than when you went to bed.
There is a reason for that.
In prehistoric times, once the sun set, there wasn’t much to do, but sit beside the fire for a while. Shortly after, you hit the sack.
We are still the same hunter-gatherers, just in a modern world. Your body still needs that regularity. Grant it that wish.
The second key is to have an evening routine:
- At least an hour before you go to bed, stop looking at all and any screens
- Lacking a real campfire, light some candles
- Do some light, enjoyable reading
Such a routine will make you feel sleepy in record time. Not only that, but you will also enjoy deeper, better-quality sleep.
8. Surround Yourself with the Right People
We are social creatures. Even a hermit like me occasionally needs company. So, your ideal day must account for some social time.
But just like with food, there are low- and high-quality options. To have the ideal day, you must surround yourself with the right people.
High-quality people will…
- …hold you accountable
- …give you honest feedback
- …inspire you
- …help you see things clearly
Naturally, such people are hard to come by.
The trick is to provide value first. This could be your physical attractiveness, your sense of humor, a certain skill, or your status. Invest in yourself first, so you have something to offer.
The other challenge is time. Relationships can’t just be fitted into a 20-minute time window.
My recommendation is to do things together that should be part of your ideal day anyway. You could exercise together. You could walk together. All your meals could be taken with friends and loved ones.
9. Have Sex
Your ideal day should include sex. For obvious reasons — great sex is one of the most enjoyable activities in life, and one of the healthiest.
I am somewhat hesitant to give any recommendations here. While I am generally a proponent of routines, to be great, sex must be spontaneous.
Ironically, the one area that really profits from uncertainty — sex — is the one area where everybody craves structure.
I am talking about monogamous long-term relationships. They might be good for companionship, but they lack any element of danger. And without that danger, there can be no ecstasy.
So, the one recommendation I will give is to go where the danger is. For most people, that will mean introducing other people into the mix, as in ethical non-monogamy (ENM). It will revitalize your primary relationship, too.
Yet, most couples shy away from that. But is your sense of security worth having bad sex for the rest of your life? To have your ideal idea, you might have to stray from the trodden path a bit.
10. Quit Your Day Job
Pondering your ideal day is pointless if you are not willing to escape your 9 to 5.
As we saw, it’s imperative that we live our ideal (or something close to it) every day, not just on the weekends.
But how can you do that, when, five times a week, you are spending 50 percent of your time awake on monotonous, mind-numbing work?
Wage slavery and living your ideal day simply don’t go together.
You must transition over from your day job to work that you are passionate about. Your work shouldn’t be something you ride out. On the contrary, it should get you excited to get out of bed every morning.
To be clear — you must still provide value to others. Following your passion is not the same as being a narcissist.
Also, building a passion business takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. You will have to keep working your day job to pay the bills, while building your side-hustle in the evenings and on the weekends.
Finally, even with the most passion-driven job, there will be aspects like taxes and bookkeeping. So not everything about your business will be fun.
But it’s worth it. Turning your passion into your business is a game changer. It will allow you to live a never-ending succession of ideal days — not just on the weekends or during your beach vacation.