It’s leap day today. The extra day we get once every four years. What have you been doing with your extra day?
My guess is, for most people, it’s just another Monday at the start of another week. Yes it was nice to discover we had an extra day’s grace before the bread went past it’s best before date, but in all practicalities, it’s just another day.
The truth is, whatever date we give a day, each day rolls on from the next. The only time we can truly create an extra day, is when we protect it. When we take an ordinary day, set it aside and make it special.
If you’re thinking “I could really use an extra day!” here are four ideas on how you can ‘create’ an extra day:
1. Set your out of office for one day longer than your holiday
If you return from holiday on the 4th, tell everyone else you’re back the 5th to give yourself an extra day to get back up to speed and make your way through your inbox before people start expecting your reply.
2. Declare a meeting free day
When you have back to back meetings all day every day, when are you actually going to do the work that comes out of these meetings? Or the preparation that goes into them for that matter! Experiment with having a set day in the week when no-one can book meetings into your diary (and no I don’t mean the weekend!) It’s amazing how meetings will find their way into the other days of the week when you hold those boundaries firm.
3. Work a four-day week
Taking it a step further, how about working a 4 day working week rather than a 5 day one? Work expands to fill the time available, so says Parkinson’s law. If you only make 4 days a week available for work, you may find yourself working faster and much more focused to meet that 4 day deadline.
I know many entrepreneurs and freelancers who have deliberately set their working patterns to a 4 day week, in order to create space for commitments and interests outside of work. And it can work just as well for teams too. See Think Productive CEO’s take on the 4 day work week for an employer’s view for example.
4. Make a date with yourself
In an ideal world, we can simply take time out when life slows down. In reality, most of us find that life is far more likely to speed up than slow down! And if we run until we collapse, we end up in enforced damage repair mode, rather than having time to recharge, retreat or whatever we might choose to use an ‘extra day’ for.
The truth is, it’s only going to happen if you make it happen. Commit to a date. Block it out in the diary. Honour your commitment, and let everything else fit in around it. Just as you would if you had the day booked out for a client, a boss, a medical appointment, or Richard Branson.
This is something I’ve personally done on an ad hoc basis in the past – a day here to run away with my best friend for a spa day, a day there to attend a writer’s retreat. But my work is picking up at such a pace I’m aware that I need to start booking days in well in advance, to create an intentional rhythm of making space for myself.
I know of some church leaders who religiously (pun intended!) take themselves off for a 24 hour period of solitude once every 6 weeks to recharge, reconnect and tend to their own spiritual life. One of my fellow Ninjas books himself onto silent retreats on a regular basis to balance the intense people-facing aspects of his work. Another friend has a monthly spa ritual which she pays for upfront once a year.
Whatever your retreat of choice, book it in. Ideally in someone else’s calendar as well as your own. Book that cabin in the woods or your mum’s caravan (depending on your budget!). Book the childcare arrangements. Book the hotel room or the table at the restaurant, or the train tickets. Because then you’re much more likely to show up.
Make it a proper date. Pack, get ready, dress for the occasion, show up on time and be fully present. Don’t stand yourself up, don’t be late, don’t disappear halfway through to check your emails, and don’t cut it short unless it’s a genuine emergency. Honour your commitment to yourself, just as you would a date with any other human being.
Over to you. Where could you use an extra day? Which one of these ideas would you most like to experiment with? Drop me a line in the comments below and let me know.