I give advice for a living. To pre-lawyers. That’s right–people who want to be lawyers.
I’m not a lawyer. Never have been. Never will be.
But sometimes I work like one…and give myself ulcers. Well, not really, thank God. But I do work so hard sometimes that I cause myself lots of anxiety and painful IBS episodes.
You see, even though I tell my prelaw students all the time, balance yourself, I often forget (or avoid) doing that for myself.
And what’s even more ironic is that I often recommend to my clients and others an exercise called My Perfect Day, but it’s been a long time since I’ve done it myself.
My Perfect Day is an exercise that helps you pinpoint what you love, enjoy and desire.
You simply write down what your perfect day looks like from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. It helps to be detailed. Write down what you want to eat for breakfast on your perfect day. What you would do in the morning, what you would eat for lunch, what you would do in the afternoon, etc., and on and on.
I ask that you not put in anything that needs lots of money or prestige or connections to make the perfect day happen. Include only things that you can readily get or make happen.
Why do I put that parameter in there?
Because I find that people often think “perfect” needs to be crazy, wild or fantastical. It doesn’t have to be. In fact, when most of my clients do this exercise, they include simple pleasures that cost next to nothing. Then they wonder why they don’t do these things more often.
Today, I woke up and realized that I had been working too much, too long and putting way too much pressure on myself. I realized this because I woke up this morning and my stomach and bowels were once again in pain. I needed to take my own advice and remember what’s important to me and to my well-being.
So, here goes.
My Perfect Day by Peg Cheng
8:00 AM: Wake up without an alarm clock
8:15 AM: Eat a savory breakfast that is actually leftovers from last night’s dinner. Chicken and zucchini stir fry with carmelized onions sounds good. Read the newspaper while I have breakfast.
9:00 AM: Take a shower that’s not too long and not rushed. One that only takes ten minutes but makes me feel refreshed and renewed. Sing in the shower! Get dressed in my super comfortable yoga pants, a hoody and a t-shirt.
9:30 AM: Sit down at my desk and work on my latest creative writing project. Could be a short story or a novel or a screenplay. *
10:45 AM: Get up and take a break.
11:00 AM: Check and respond to emails.
11:40 AM: Leave for qigong class.
12:00-1:10 PM: Qigong class at Embrace the Moon.
1:30 PM: Back at home. Heat up a tasty homemade frozen meal and have that for lunch. I don’t like to cook breakfast or lunch on weekdays and so I make big dinners and freeze smaller portions to have for lunch at a later time.
2:00 PM: Read for pleasure. I love, love, love to read for pleasure. When I go a day without doing it, I feel off. Funny how many times I don’t even give myself this simple pleasure.
3:00 PM: Facebook post, tweet, read twitter feed, etc.
3:30 PM: Meet with a client over the phone/Skype and/or edit clients’ essays. Get up from desk and take a break at about 4:30pm.
5:00 PM: Check and respond to emails.
5:30 PM: Cook dinner. Let’s see…I think today I will make cod baked in foil with thyme, green onions and white wine, roasted bell peppers with garlic, and jasmine rice.
6:30 PM: Eat dinner with Marcus and talk about our day.
7:00 PM: Watch one of our favorite TV shows on Netflix. (If only every show was as good as Life on Mars, I’d be happy.)
8:00 PM: Go for a walk with Marcus around our neighborhood. Look at the flowers and trees and breathe in the slightly salty air. During the summer, watch the sun set over the Puget Sound.
9:00 PM: Rest and relax at home.
10:30 PM: Go to bed and have deep, wonderful sleep.
This is my perfect weekday. Weekends would be different. Notice how my perfect weekday only includes two hours and 40 minutes of work. I know this won’t work for every weekday, especially not during my busy season, but it’s a much healthier mix for those days when I don’t need to do client calls or essay edits around the clock. It’s a good reminder to me of what’s important to me and what “perfect day” things I can include in my daily life.
Does your daily life give you energy and pleasure? Or has it been depleting you?
What does your perfect day look like?
I hope you will try this exercise. Take just 20 or 30 minutes and write down your perfect day. I hope it will inspire and motivate you to include something from your perfect day into every day of your life.
* Special thanks to the Kick Ass Critiquers Brenda Olson and Mary Bell for always encouraging me to keep writing. The KAC rules!
Sunset photo taken by Marcus Donner on the evening of our wedding engagement.