The temptation to have plans for every day of our lives is hard to avoid, especially if you are a productivity nerd like me.
You can fall into the trap of needing to be doing something productive, or useful, or goal-orientated every day of your life. When you’re not being productive you can feel guilty like you’re cheating yourself out of your future aspirations.
This became all too real, recently.
My girlfriend asked me what our holiday plans were. There were a few days with activities marked on the calendar and quite a few that were blank. Instinctively, we both switched to auto-pilot and began looking for activities we could insert into these free days.
Then I thought about Sundays. Every Sunday, we leave the entire day free without scheduling anything in the calendar. Strangely enough, Sunday is the day we feel most alive and look forward to.
That led me to the idea of having complete days with no plans and the power that comes with this simple practice.
Plans destroy unexpected surprises
When everything in your life is pre-planned, it gets boring real quick.
Some of the best surprises occur when you least expect them. Like the other day I was walking past the arcade and decided to step in and play Mario Kart, which I haven’t played for years.
It took me back to childhood and those familiar levels with blue skies, sunshine, and beautiful artificial landscapes.
A nice surprise like this would never have happened if my day was full of meetings, podcasts, social media and responding to every damn email.
We’re told to always have goals and live by the knife’s edge of our calendar, but what if that advice destroys part of our life? The part of our life that we need to recover, synthesize new ideas, relax, and think about nothing.
With no plans, your mind is free to wonder
When your calendar is backed up like a drainpipe with overflowing activities in every direction, it’s hard to think, let alone think deeply.
When your calendar is free, your mind can be free too.
A free mind can wander, and your subconscious can thrive without plans, priorities, and distractions. It seems ridiculously simple that having a free day with no plans can do that. If you try it for yourself, you’ll see what I mean.
If you can’t make time for one day of no plans, what does that say?
I have asked a few people in my friendship group about having full days off. A few of them said that they don’t have time. Many of them have families, jobs, side-hustles, hobbies, and financial commitments.
The thought of having an entire day off feels scary to them. They might commit a couple of hours to this powerful practice but one day is too much.
If you find yourself in this situation, think about what that says.
If you won’t make time to do nothing and have a free calendar once in a while, thus creating time for yourself, when will you? Why won’t you?
Your life matters and you deserve to enjoy it in the present moment with no plans or calendars to mess things up.
Here’s how to prepare and execute an entire day with no plans.
1. Choose one day a month, fortnight, or week
Choosing an interval for your day with no plans is key. I like weekly, but each person is different depending on individual priorities.
Weekly lets me reset after the working week and think about how I’ve been complicit and, therefore, responsible in some of the circumstances or outcomes I say to myself I don’t want.
If you’re really that busy, start with monthly.
2. Wipe the calendar for that day and avoid the temptation to schedule anything
Once your day is chosen, delete everything that appears in your calendar for that day, including reminders (shift those to another day).
After deleting all the activities, notice how good it feels. (My Outlook Calendar App has the added bonus of showing me an empty inbox with a hot air balloon in the place of emails, which enhances the experience.)
3. Take the day as it comes
When the day of no plans finally arrives, take it as it comes. Avoid the temptation to do anything and notice if you feel any anxiety or guilt about what is about to happen.
As the days starts, ask yourself a few of these questions:
- What do you feel like doing spontaneously?
- What have you never done before?
- What is an activity that could be unplanned that you have always wanted to do?
- What would the “childhood you” do today?
Let one of these questions lead you to an activity or do nothing at all. (The first time you proactively plan a day of no plans, try doing nothing.)
Now that your day of no plans is over, how did it feel?
It’s time to reflect and write down a few dot points to see if you had any realizations from your time off (you’ll be surprised what comes out).
My initial thought when beginning this proactive approach to days of no plans was “Wow, let’s do this again!” See what your reaction is.
One way to screw your day off
This one is a reminder. Part of having a day of no plans is to experience the freedom of it all.
Being glued to your phone for the whole day is generally unhelpful. Your mind can’t relax when it is chasing the dopamine rush of Screen Pokemon, followed by “like” charades on social media.
Do your best to put the phone away. There is better things than your phone like nature, being present, your family and places to visit.
If you follow this dead simple process, hopefully, like me, you’ll quickly see that having days of no plans mixed in with days where you are task and goal orientated can be a powerful experience.
In my case, on the days where I had no plans, the answers and thoughts that I needed for my task/goal orientated days were eventually found — it’s weird. This holiday period in Australia I’m going to do the same thing, and when I go on holiday to Greece next year, I’m going to have days where there are no plans as well.
Embrace the power of having a complete day off with no plans regularly.