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I recently listened to Jim McKelvey speak at the Big Omaha conference, a gathering of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs in training and he told a story about driving through a terrible Colorado blizzard. He said he remembers not being able to even see the road and he was the only person on the road. He had a choice: Stop and get buried in the snow or watch for the highway reflectors that came at equal intervals and trust that the next answer would come when he got there. He chose to keep going.
That is where the idea behind “The Perfect Week” comes from. If you build a system, the goal is just to get to the next step, the next marker. Then you assess where you’ve been and where you want to go and you should see your point off in the distance. Sports teams and Fortune 100 companies all build systems to drive success. While it was Adam Smith who first discussed the idea of the division of labor in his book, The Wealth of Nations, but it was the Ford Corporation with their development of the assembly line that took the idea of systems to a new level.
A system is a promise that if you follow these steps, these guideposts, you give yourself a higher potential for success.
Truth be told, systems can (and do) stifle innovation and creativity if you let it. But then there are organizations with a rigid structure that encourage creativity and demand failure. They know that by failing and making mistakes, their product will be better as an end result. That must be true for your life, too.
All too often, and I too am guilty of this, we try to track down too much. We say “yes” too much. And we shot-gun our way to hopeful success. I’ve done it. And you likely have too.
Now that I am entirely untethered to a company, I have had to design the perfect week to be my system to drive success. One last disclaimer before I dive into how to build your system: This can work for anyone with any goal. You don’t have to be aiming to be self-employed or launch your own company. It can, and is just about living life on your terms.
1) Own your time.
Quick question: When was the last time you earned a full night of sleep? Tough to remember? Well, the research says you need it. Chief, Division of Sleep Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Charles Czeisler, says that pulling a 24-hour day, or getting only five hours of sleep a night for a week is actually equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.1 percent! You have to own your time to be able to produce your best work and be your best self.
2) E-Mail Blocks.
Honestly, this point could be numbers one through 100, because it is that important and draining. I have found a system that works for me, but I have a time slot on my calendar, 8:00-8:30am that is reserved for e-mail. I only do e-mails during that time. I respond, move, file, delete and read through all the emails from the night before. I check again around lunch and then around 3 p.m. If I need something from someone right away, I call or text. E-mail should only be used for longer-range discussions and information sharing. That’s how I use it anyway. Whatever you do, never let e-mail control your life.
3) Schedule Fun.
Have you ever gone a whole week only to reach Sunday night and think, “Wow, I didn’t do anything fun!” Do not let that happen again! Seriously. Your body needs fun. Your heart and your mind need it too. I have a section on my weekly schedule entitled, “PLAY” and on two days I have exercise listed, another I have coffee listed and on another I have “walk.” Of course those are flexible, but by putting it on the calendar to see friends, I make sure to make it a reality.
4) Shut Down.
Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook and mother of two leaves work each day at the world’s largest and richest social media company at 5:30 p.m. She does it to focus on her family. When I left my last job in early May, I hit the ground running the next day, writing, pitching, coding and reading. I didn’t take a real day “off” until about three weeks later. I hadn’t planned on it being an off day, but at the end of the day, I said to my roommate, “You know what? I didn’t do anything today and I feel great.” My point with this is simple: you have to shut down, disconnect and wholeheartedly relax.
Life and dreams can co-exist. If you build the system to incorporate them both, you will not only set yourself up for success, but immeasurable happiness. And we all know how being happy impacts the likelihood of success.
Richard Dedor is a writer, speaker and personal coach dedicated to helping each person achieve their dreams. He ran for political office at age 18 and has written one book, Anything is Possible, You can find him at his blog Believe in Possible and on Twitter @RichardDedor.
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