One of the valuable tools that I have used in my own leadership journey is the concept of the perfect week. This also something that I use with my coaching clients. The perfect week is a way to set your intentions for the goals that you are working towards in your leadership journey. It is a really valuable tool to employ to gain more clarity around where you are now, and the types of changes that you want to work towards in your work-life balance/fit.
As well as using the perfect week to provide direction for where you are heading, I also use the idea of the perfect imperfect week. The perfect imperfect week is the best week that you can have, based on your current work life situation. It is the best week you can create yourself based on all your current constraints.
The perfect imperfect week enables you to carve out time for the things that are important to you, within your here and now. One day in my perfect imperfect week looks like this:
- 5:30am – 7am at the Gym: Cardio whilst watching French news with subtitles, plus yoga practice
- 7am – 8am: Family time getting ready for the day (trying not to get flustered and cranky at each other!)
- 8am-8:15am: Family time walking to childcare
- 8:30am – 10am: Work from cafe over a coffee
- 10am-12:30pm: Work from home (plus take 15 mins break to hang out washing)
- 12:30pm- 1:30pm: Walk to local green grocer (farmers outlet) to buy vegetables (whilst walking I listen to learn German audio course)
- 1:30pm-4pm: Work from home (plus short breaks to bring washing in, or do other small household tasks)
- 4pm-5pm: Cook dinner whilst listening to a business or leadership podcast
- 5pm-5:30pm: Walking to pick up children from care, family time on the walk home
- 5:30pm- 7:30pm: Family time, dinner, bath and bed (husband out at sports from 6pm-8pm)
- 7:30pm- 8:15pm: Cuddles (ie lie in bed with children until they finally fall asleep!)
- 8:15pm- 9:45pm: Watch TV with husband whilst folding washing and/or knitting
- 9:45- 10:30: Reading in bed (a novel or a children’s novel in French)
- 10:30pm- 5:30am: Sleep
If you look at this one day in my perfect imperfect week, you can start to get a sense of the things that are most important to me. These are: fitness/health, eating sustainable fresh food, cooking from scratch, learning foreign languages, creative outlets, personal development, and of course family.
To determine your perfect imperfect week, you need to start by getting clear about your values. A day in your perfect imperfect week will be as individual as you are. What works for me likely won’t work for you.
Once you know what you want to prioritise in your life, then you look at your current situation and constraints. What must you do to meet all your obligations? If you work from a workplace, then childcare drop offs and a commute to work need to be scheduled in. What are your fixed requirements that you need to fit it?
Finally, you look at how you can set up a schedule that can fit in more of your priorities, whilst still meeting your fixed obligations. Perhaps this means starting work 30 minutes earlier so you can fit in a long walk at lunch. Perhaps this means starting your own mama leadership book group and reading the books on the bus to work. Perhaps this means cycling to work instead of driving. Perhaps this means listening to a great podcast on your drive to work. Perhaps this means starting at 7am, and finishing at 4 so you have more time to cook. Perhaps this means booking the kids into after school care so you have an extra hour each day to write your novel. Try a few different strategies and see what works for you.
You will notice that I get the most out of my perfect imperfect week by combining the things I give priority to, such as working on my language skills whilst exercising, or cooking whilst learning for my leadership journey. This is a common strategy applied by women with very full lives and careers, to enable them to have the lives and careers that they desire.
The most important thing to know
The perfect imperfect week is simply a tool for you to use in your leadership journey. And by tool, I do not mean blunt instrument to beat yourself up with! There will be weeks which you drop the ball. Sometimes I am too busy at work to finish at 4 and cook, so we have baked beans and mashed potato for dinner. Sometimes I feel too tired to get out of bed and go to the gym. The perfect imperfect week is the ideal that you aim for, so you know what a good balance looks like to you at this present point in time. But you need to leave yourself room for imperfection. If you never make it to the perfect week you’ve described, perhaps it was unrealistic, or maybe you need to revise your expectations so that you can come up with schedule that is better suited to your constraints. But if you do make it sometimes, or even most of the time, you can consider yourself on track.
The perfect imperfect week is a valuable way that you can start to get the best out of your time here and now, and fit in more of what is important to you. I encourage you to sit down and try this exercise for yourself.
Take this topic further:
- To get a better sense of how to fit in more of the things that are important to you, read I Know How She Does It: How successful women make the most of their time by Laura Vanderkam to see how other women do it
- If forming new habits is a challenge for you, you will find Better Than Before: Mastering habits in our everyday lives by Gretchen Rubin a very valuable resource
- If you want to get clear about what is important to you, the things you value, and the way forward for your leadership journey, check out our affordable 3 month Leadership Foundations Program, which includes 3 one-on-one coaching sessions and monthly workbooks.