In my office, I have a printed chart taped to my wall called “A 90-Year Human Life in Weeks” (from an awesome blog: Wait But Why). It reminds me that although I feel that I have an unlimited number of weeks left in life, that in fact, the weeks are numbered. I have maybe…175 weeks left before my oldest son leaves for college. I have maybe…600 weeks left of the dynamic phase of my career. How will I make these weeks count?

If I were to rate my weeks on a 10-point scale where “10 = Amazing”, most of my weeks would fall into the “7” or “8” range. Of my “10” weeks, the majority of them would be when our family went on vacation. While not surprising, it does make me think about what about those family vacations that made the week meaningful.

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My last “10” week was with my family on a trip to the Oregon Coast. In reflecting on what made the week a “10”, I came upon three Ah-ha’s that I share below. I think these three elements are a major part of what creates “10” weeks. While they can come quite naturally on vacation, we can be more deliberate in incorporating them into our “normal” lives at home and at our work.

Every Day is an Adventure: Have a Strong Agenda

I noticed that during our Oregon vacation that every day was an adventure. Today kids, we will go whale-watching. Tomorrow, we will go boogey-boarding on a beach we have never been to before. The day after, we will go exploring the dunes on the shore and then have amazing food.

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When on vacation, we know that this is a special time. We won’t be able to go to the Oregon Coast every week, so we value the time. The way that we value the time is to build adventures into each day. Imagine that, each day is an adventure!

Of course, we don’t do this (much) when we are at home and at work. Work…an adventure? What if instead of your next committee meeting to talk about “incentive structures for research productivity”, you talk about how to “inspire researchers to engage with impactful questions facing society”? Inject a bold purpose into what we do. Everything can be an adventure if you choose to view it that way.

Reflection: How can I reframe my work agenda to reflect a bold purpose?

Go Deep into Something: Create Blocks of Time

On many days, I would go from meeting to meeting. On those days, sometimes the longest time I would spend thinking about something is about 30 minutes, and then it’s on to the next topic.

During vacation, rather than eight to ten things on the agenda, there would be two or three things, out of which one of them would be something like a three-to-five-hour chunk of time focused on one activity, such as explore the city of Bend.

One of my favorite work activities is to spend three+ hours at a time to craft a lesson that I will be teaching. I find that it takes me about 30 minutes just to get into the flow of the work and that my best ideas often comes two hours into the task. At the end of the three-hour chunk of time, there’s a feeling that I actually did something.

I wonder if we’re actually getting getting things done when we chop our time and attention into a million slivers. We certainly feel busier, and perhaps that feeling of busy-ness fools us into thinking that we are productive. Perhaps there’s a way for us to create a chunk of time in the day where we can go deeper and enjoy the satisfaction of deep engagement. (for ideas and strategies for creating time blocks, there’s a link at the end of the article about managing time)

Reflection: How can I consolidate my work and attention into larger blocks of time?

Connect Meaningfully: Make Memorable Moments with People

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When we get back from vacations, we often look back at our pictures and remember the moments. I am very grateful to be able to spend meaningful time with people that I care about.

I think…there are many people at work who are meaningful to me, do we ever take pictures of our work to remember the moments? What would it take for the moments to be memorable enough where we would want to take a picture of it to remember that moment?

I do have seven or eight pictures of work which represent the most meaningful moments, and they all involve intimate gatherings of some sort. They were never of a committee meeting where we were discussing logistics. Of course, we do have to discuss logistics sometimes. But, are we creating enough meaningful moments?

Reflection: What would make something meaningful enough where I would want to take a picture of it to remember the moment?

Most people spend more time planning a one-week vacation than they spend planning their life. ~Michael Hyatt

We sometimes think of vacations as an escape, that it represents an escape from our normal lives. Rather than an escape, vacations can also serve to teach us on how to live. When on vacation, we have the freedom to be and do things in a way that is naturally adventurous, satisfying, and meaningful. These are not confined to vacations on the Oregon Coast (although that does help), but if we look to introduce them into our day-to-day, week-to-week ways of being, we will begin to create “amazing” weeks throughout our lives.

Recently, I recorded a short workshop series on time management. This topic is very related to the intentional use to time and creating meaningful moments. The workshop could be accessed through this link.