You’ve mapped out your ideal week, but it never happens—and it’s hard not to blame your partner, spouse or roommate. It seems like you can never get on the same page, and the miscommunication and foiled plans are creating tension that’s driving you crazy.
We’ve been there, and we’ve got good news. The problem isn’t a person. It’s your plan. You can collaborate to create a shared ideal week that helps both people experience success and feel supported. All you have to do is follow four straightforward steps.
When you do, you’ll stop having your ideal week derailed and start experiencing the benefits of designing your days. And, you’ll overcome the relational disconnect and finally feel like you and your partner are on the same team again.
Verbs: Happy Monday. This is Verbs, and you are listening to another episode of Focus on This, the most productive podcast on the Internet, so you can banish distractions, get the right stuff done, and finally start loving Mondays, with Courtney Baker and Blake Stratton.
Blake: Happy Monday unto you, Courtney and Verbs. How are you?
Verbs: Doing well, Blake. Thank you for asking.
Blake: I’m glad. Courtney, how are you doing?
Courtney: I’m doing great. I think I’ve talked about this on the podcast, but I am very pregnant. I’m kind of on the home stretch here. Today, we’re talking a little bit about Ideal Weeks, which is timely for me, because when you bring a child into the world, your Ideal Week just… I wish everybody could see my hand motions with that.
Blake: You did a magic poof, like, everything gets easier, more simple, more rested, at least if you subscribe to the Courtney Baker approved way of childbirth and child-rearing. No hiccups. Right?
Courtney: Exactly. And you can be part of that for a small fee of $5.99 right now. Just hit me up. Venmo me. Gosh, if that were true, think of how many babies there would be in the world. But no, I think this is going to be a great episode and a good reminder for me, too, just walking into this new season.
Blake: The idea is that living with people is a challenge, even if you have an ideal child-rearing plan such as Verbs and Courtney. Even if you have a great person, if you live with roommates, a significant other… Living with people, even working with people, if your life is really dependent, interwoven tightly with someone else, things just get complicated. It gets challenging at some point or another to have things go smoothly.
Courtney: I think especially as it relates to our Ideal Week… We’ve said before, you’re most likely never going to hit your Ideal Week 100 percent of the time. That’s not the purpose. It’s called the Ideal Week for a reason. But what I find is, a lot of times, if I were left to my own devices, I could hit my Ideal Week. It’s all of these other people who kind of mess up my Ideal Week, and I kind of want to say, “Don’t you know that I have this Ideal Week?”
I don’t know about you guys, but I find with Chase, my husband, that sometimes it can be something simple, like he has a work engagement… Actually, this happened recently. He had a work engagement. He had to be there at 6:00 a.m. Especially if you have children, all of a sudden, everything a child needs to get up and function in the world is then on you, so you have to totally… It’s like everything goes out the window from what we normally do. Do you guys run into that too?
Verbs: Yeah, because they have an Ideal Week as well. It’s normally a whole lot different from yours. Yeah, I agree.
Blake: It’s certainly a challenge. Every season brings with it a challenge. I feel like, for me, in my experience, there will be a big change (maybe it was having a baby), and then there’s this long adjustment period. Or even at work, for me, I’ve experienced this, where there are competing priorities or there’s a dependency I may have with somebody else, so I can’t do the deep work on the project because I’m waiting on such-and-such thing, but they’re not planning on doing that until later in the week.
I think the danger with this is not addressing it or addressing the wrong thing, learning the wrong thing from that frustration, like, “This person just doesn’t get it” or “This person is inconsiderate” or “I can’t work with this person” or “I can’t live with this person.” That’s not really the lesson. In all of our cases, it’s more a function of the plan, the tool we’re trying to use to coordinate our lives together.
Verbs: Blake, would you say, is it possible to just create a better plan so we don’t fall into that mindset of “Hey, everybody else, you’re messing up my week”? What can we do to create a better plan in general?
Blake: Well, I have tried that, Verbs, extensively. I’ve tried telling people just how much better than them I am. And you know what? Some people just can’t see the light.
Verbs: By the way, listeners, Blake is actually joking.
Courtney: Yes. He’s being very sarcastic there.
Blake: Eh, 60/40, you know. I do think, though… Verbs, I’m glad you asked. That’s the purpose of this episode. We want to talk about that. How do you plan better? If you’ve ever used our Ideal Week tool (we’ve referenced this phrase Ideal Week; it’s actually in the Full Focus Planner), this tool to design your life and create a recipe for success every week, you can actually expand that tool to encompass the people your life is inextricably linked to. Maybe it’s a spouse, a roommate, family, a business partner. You can actually build a shared Ideal Week.
Courtney: If you are out there and you’ve never tried the Full Focus Planner…maybe you’ve held off, maybe you’re listening to more of this podcast to find out more…we actually have a free resource to do an Ideal Week, and you can do that even if you don’t have the planner. You can find that at fullfocusplanner.com/idealweek.
The really cool part about getting your Ideal Week set up and then syncing it, you know, collaborating with whoever you’re living with…again, we’ve said spouses, it could be a roommate, it could be your coworkers…really syncing up your Ideal Week, is at the end of it, you’re going to feel more connected and supported by those relationships, which is a really helpful outcome across the board. Like you said, Blake, what you don’t want is this underlying tension of, “You are messing me up.” That’s not good for anybody.
Blake: Agreed. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Verbs: I would agree as well. Especially with the year we’ve had and everything seeming so uncertain anyway, we’re trying to cling to those things we can count on as anchors and stability, so when others mess with our weeks, we feel some sort of way about that kind of thing. But what do you suggest or what are some practical ways we could integrate our Ideal Week with, let’s say, another person’s, whether it be a spouse, whether it be a roommate, or even maybe a business partner?
Courtney: I think we should say before we get into this that this episode was a request from one of you, our listeners, about how to do this well. Once you have an Ideal Week, how do you make sure those relationships closest to you are on board? The first step of this is really key, and I think a lot of times we miss this one. It kind of seems obvious but so important.
The first step is to communicate your nonnegotiables. What I mean by nonnegotiables are just the parts of your Ideal Week that are most important to you. Obviously, it’s an ideal week. We call it that for a reason, but there are certainly parts of it that are more important to you than other parts of it. Some of them are like, “This is nice but not critical.” The first step is figuring out what those are for you and then communicating it to those relationships that it would be important to be in sync on.
Blake: Exactly. One of the nonnegotiables my wife and I discovered when we first tried to integrate each other’s Ideal Weeks was I had to be at my desk at work or, if I was working from home, I had to be in work mode by 8:50. The reason was because I have calls scheduled at 9:00. Not every day, but we wanted to plan as if that was a possibility every day. I needed to be there. Otherwise, I miss calls, I get fired, Courtney loses a podcast cohost, which may be the greatest tragedy of it all, and then we’re on the street.
My wife was like, “I agree. Let’s not end up on the street. Let’s get you to work at that time, but can I share a nonnegotiable for me, then?” For her, she works freelance, but she also is the primary caretaker of our daughter while I’m at the office for this sustained amount of time. Courtney, I’m sure you can relate to some extent, and any mom or dad who is the primary caretaker for a toddler for hours on end. It is an undertaking.
So, she communicated, “What would be really helpful for me…” I think the way she phrased it (and this is a tool for you listening) is “It feels like if this doesn’t happen, the rest of my day is just downhill. It tanks. This is very important to me.” For my wife it was “I need at least 30 minutes or more, ideally 45 minutes, where I can just be…” My wife says it this way: “…where I can be a person.”
In other words, “Before I go to work, can I take a shower? Can I take a moment to do some journaling? Can I just orient myself to the day and have some alone time without you or our daughter having needs on my time or my resources at that time? Can you give that to me? That would be a nonnegotiable. I’d love to accommodate you getting to work on time, but could you do [X, Y, and Z] so that I have that time in the morning?”
When we finally synced up on that, it was a great example of “This person is making my life hard” or “Being a parent is just too hard, and it’s so complicated” to all of a sudden it was… I hesitate to say it was overnight, but it kind of was. When you fix your plan, when you fix the mechanism or the tool that you’re doing something, it really has an impact right away. We experienced that. The first week we did that, it wasn’t flawless, but it was like, “Whoa! We like each other a lot more at the end of the week and we have more energy.” So, that’s just one example in my life of a nonnegotiable exchange.
Courtney: I think what’s really key about what you said is when you were saying, “I really have to be in work mode by 8:50,” you didn’t just say, “I have to be in work mode at 8:50.” You said, “I don’t want to lose my job.” You were probably being sarcastic, but you did focus on how it helps the other person.
I think that’s what’s really key, is saying, “Hey, my day feels totally wrecked if I don’t get to work out in the morning. When I get done with my workout, I’m going to be totally ready to help get our daughter ready. I’m going to be a happier person. I’m going to do all of these other things.” That really puts it in light of how it helps the person you’re talking about. I hate that this is true, but everybody wants to know what’s in it for them. If you can spin your nonnegotiables that way, you’re going to be golden.
Blake: Take it from the chief marketing officer. You want to communicate to what people want. So, step one: communicate your nonnegotiables. Step two is prioritize supporting your partner. This goes right in line with what you were just saying, Courtney. You want to talk through each of your partner’s nonnegotiables and really consider “How can I support them in that?” Courtney, you mentioned working out. Are there any other examples you can think of of either you supporting Chase or vice versa going well or maybe not going so well?
Courtney: Actually, I do. It’s funny. That was one of my examples. I just know I need to work out every morning before I get into my day. Where that gets challenging is, a lot of times, I do that outside of my house. I’ll go out and do it, even if it’s just on a walk, or in non-2020 years I like to actually go to the gym…those kinds of things. It becomes challenging when he has to leave really early. Then I basically don’t get that time outside of the house.
Honestly, in 2020, being outside of the house, for me specifically, being pregnant, is like a dream. Like, all the music goes off. I just feel like I’ve been in this house so much this year. One thing we are doing this year, and one way he’s helping kind of support me, is by getting us a better setup here in our house so that if it is a day where I can’t go out, it’s not like the whole day is ruined. I have this great setup upstairs, even to the point (I can’t use it for a while) of getting a Peloton. We’ve turned into those people.
Courtney: I’ll keep you posted on that, everyone. The key is, and one thing I really appreciate from Chase, if it’s a nonnegotiable for me, it feels like a nonnegotiable for him, and vice versa. I want to do the same. In the morning, he likes to get his coffee, journal, read. That’s his thing, and I want to make sure he’s able to prioritize that as well. For both of us, those are nonnegotiables.
Verbs: Courtney and Blake, as we talk through this, I’m just listening and wondering what this sort of dynamic can look like between, let’s say, people who are business partners who kind of depend on each other to get work done, and what does it look like to actually prioritize them in this situation?
Blake: I think this starts with getting clear on your goals. If you’re working in a business, you have to get clear on the goals of what you’re trying to accomplish for clients, or whatever else, your individual roles. You probably wouldn’t want to use business speak with a significant other, but the truth is it’s the same kind of principle. If the goal of my marriage is connection with my wife, if the goal of us being parents is to see our daughter grow up healthy and reach her potential and have joy in life, that really frames what our nonnegotiables are.
It’s hard to discuss those nonnegotiables in reaction to client problems, I think, so I would probably start with your goals. But to your question more specifically, something I’ve found that works is clarifying with your business partner, “Okay. Here are the goals. Here’s what we’ve agreed I’m supposed to be doing. In order to crush those goals, here’s what I think I have to do. Do you agree? Could you see this going better for me one way or the other?”
I have a boss, Chad, and I have agreed-upon goals. We’re not equal partners. He’s my boss, but even so, I run my Ideal Week past him because he has more experience than me. He knows our business better than I do, and I know we both are going after the same thing. It’s interesting. We just had a one-on-one right before this recording, and I was sharing, “Here’s my process,” and he said, “Oh, well, why don’t you do it this way? You’d probably save some time and get that result even faster.”
So, you can cultivate that with a business partner the same way you would a significant other, which is clarify the goals, and then share “Here’s my plan,” and then “What do you see?” Similarly, you want to value the other person’s thoughts or opinions, like, “Do you agree?” What do you think, Courtney?
Courtney: I was just reminded… I guess we should say this for every relationship. You probably don’t want to go into it saying, “Hey, here’s my Ideal Week, and here are my nonnegotiables,” because they’re probably, right out of the gate, going to be like, “Excuse me?” So, maybe don’t use those words exactly. I think part of it is just following these steps. They’re really similar to any important relationship in your life. We’ve always encouraged anybody listening to share their Ideal Week with people they work with.
It’s so helpful to know somebody on my staff who is really committed to picking up a child from school each day, that that’s really important for them, and how they’ve set up their Ideal Week around that, but it allows me to also prioritize that for them. I’m going to be mindful of if I have to call them about an issue, to try to get it in before they’re going to go do those things. Again, I think just following these steps is really going to be the key to that as well.
Blake: You need to create a strategy for problem areas. That’s step three: create strategies for problem areas. This is an important next step, because what you may find when you compare notes is my nonnegotiables conflict with your nonnegotiables. What do you do in that case?
Courtney: Fight it out?
Blake: Arm wrestle.
Verbs: Challenge you to a duel.
Blake: Best two out of three…
Courtney: Coin flip?
Blake: Thumb wars.
Courtney: An example of this… And this has happened maybe in my household, maybe not. Especially once you lay out when you want your evening ritual to begin… I’m like, “All right. Yeah. I’m going to change my evening ritual, and it’s going to start at 9:00, and there’s this whole process. I have my steps I’m going to do.” And my husband turns on the TV and has the Atlanta Braves game on.
You would think I would just be like, “Okay. That’s fine. I’m going to continue on with my evening ritual,” but I get sucked into it. It’s like his process of “I’m going to sit here and chill and relax and then get on with my…” It’s like our times are off. Again, you would hope I would just be strong enough to keep going. The truth is I also love baseball and want to watch the game, so it just blows the whole thing up.
Blake: I get it. I love watching the Braves lose as well. It’s very satisfying.
Courtney: Oh gosh! It hurts. It hurts. Why? There may or may not have been a big game here recently that’s very painful.
Blake: This is important, because if you feel stuck, sometimes it stops there and you go, “Well, this tool isn’t going to work for us. Let’s move on.” But then you’re just stuck with the same problem you already had. So, if you feel stuck, I think your perspective is huge. The questions you ask when you reach that point with the person in your life where you’re trying to integrate an Ideal Week… The questions you ask are key here.
For instance, “Why can’t you just do [X, Y, and Z]?” Not a great question. Or “Why do these tools work for everybody else but won’t work for us?” Your brain is actually going to try to answer that. “Well, it’s not going to work for us because we’re so special, and we’re so busy, and we have 14 kids,” and whatever. If you do have 14 kids, okay, you get a pass, but for the rest of us, I think a better question is where this starts.
I learned this one from Michael Hyatt. He has a lesser known podcast you might have heard of. He asks this question: “What would have to be true for us to get that result?” In this scenario, what would need to be true for both of us to have our nonnegotiable? Now, all of a sudden, you’re using your creative powers to your advantage. You’re setting your brain there to go, “Okay. What would have to be true for us to both have our nonnegotiable?” I can think of some stories in my own life, but I don’t want to… Verbs or Courtney, have you had experience with that?
Verbs: I just had a thought when you were saying that. Especially in a year like the one we’ve been having, where things can change week to week, just the pre-work that goes into communicating that with whatever that relationship is… If it’s a spouse, you know, sitting down during your Weekly Preview time and saying, “Hey, what needs to be true in order for this week to happen the way we would like for it to happen? What needs to be true for both of us?” Things have been changing frequently, so we may not be doing that first step as great as we’d like to be as far as communicating those things.
So, I think part of that strategy is checking in on a weekly basis to say, “What needs to be true for you to be able to work out early in the morning or for me to, once I’m done with work, take over with the kids so you can have some human time?” and that sort of thing. That’s part of the pre-work, maybe, that goes into it, which could be a strategy in itself, heading your week off at the pass before it gets too far into it and you realize, “This is not going the way I ideally wanted it to go.”
Courtney: I honestly feel like, for most people, they probably just give up on this before they’ve even tried. They look at it, and they’re like, “That’s not possible.” I think leveraging the power of you and the people you’re closest in relationship to, regardless of if that’s your roommate or your partner or your spouse… Whatever that relationship looks like, together, using this question is really powerful. It opens up a whole other mindset to problem-solve here. I think you would be surprised what you can come up with when you just try. Giving up before you’ve tried is the problem here usually.
Blake: Right. So, we have to create strategies for those problem areas. Don’t be afraid of them. Be honest about them, but approach them with a healthy, open-minded perspective. Step four: execute, evaluate, and adapt your plan. So, you’ve created a plan. You’ve created some strategies for problem areas. Now it’s time to give it a shot, to give it a real try. I know, for me, I struggle sometimes with “This is the rest of my life” type of thinking. Like, “If we do this, then I’ll get sucked away, and I won’t be able to escape this new pattern of our lives.”
Or maybe you experience this, Courtney, where you think, “I want to get this right on the first try,” and there’s some emotional significance to that. It’s just in our hardwiring or our personalities. Something that has been helpful for me with this step in particular is to treat tweaking your Ideal Week like it’s an experiment. It’s not a “live or die” situation. It’s not a life sentence. If you get it wrong, that’s actually okay.
The point of an experiment is to evaluate a hypothesis, to test that out. That, to me, is a really key perspective if you’re going to try your Ideal Week, as well as if you’re trying to convince a spouse or a business partner or someone to do this. To go, “All right. We need to get up at 6:00 a.m., starting tomorrow, for the rest of our lives” is not going to go as well as “Hey, what if, as an experiment, we tried [X, Y, and Z]?”
Verbs: That helps alleviate some anxiety for your own self, plus those people around you, because if you could happen to be someone who experiments frequently, then that lets them know out of the gate, “Hey, we’re going to try this out. It may be successful, we may hit some bumps in the road, but at least we know it’s not a forever thing quite yet, but we can take the best out of what works.”
Courtney: I love that. Verbs, you kind of already mentioned this, but, you know, making sure you evaluate it, to take the time at the end of the week to review it together. That could just be part of your Weekly Preview if you do that together. Then just ask yourself what you want to keep doing, what you want to improve, start doing, and stop doing. If that sounds familiar, that’s straight from your Weekly Preview process. Basically, you’re going to apply that specifically to your Ideal Week.
Blake: I remember at the start of the third quarter this year treating an Ideal Week as an experiment was key for my family. I’ve probably mentioned it on our show before, but it is not a “one and done” type of conversation and lifestyle change when you’re collaborating with somebody else. If you remember, our third quarter this year was a little unusual. So, something we did was we changed up our schedules. “When am I going to come home from the office? When am I going to go back to work?” So on and so forth.
One of the challenges was I’m in a role where I really have to spend time doing work, because it has an effect on our family’s livelihood, but meanwhile, my wife had her nonnegotiables. She had her own work to do but, on top of that, was the primary caregiver to our daughter. So, it was make one small adjustment, come back… We do our Weekly Preview on Sundays. It was next Sunday, like, “Okay, let’s make another adjustment,” until we finally found a groove of “When you’re going to be primary parent, when I’m going to be primary parent,” and then asking questions.
Just an example… For me, it was a seasonal thing, but I recognized, “You know what? I can do most of the admin work that clogs my daytime workday in the evening.” Normally, I don’t like working evenings, but for this season it was unique. I could actually come home two hours earlier in my workday, and then, after my daughter went to sleep, blast through admin distraction-free. It’s not a forever change, but it was an iterative change that really made a difference in the goals of our family, which was health and connection and surviving a pandemic. It was certainly helpful.
Verbs: So, if you’re here and you’re listening and you’re having trouble achieving your Ideal Week because of the loved ones in your life, the problem isn’t a person; it’s your plan. Together, you can collaborate to create a shared Ideal Week by communicating your nonnegotiables, prioritizing your partner, creating strategies for problem areas, and executing, evaluating, and adapting your plan. So, Courtney, Blake, any more final thoughts for our Focus on This team?
Blake: Verbs, I was sure you were going to say the steps were just “Stop, collaborate, and listen.”
Verbs: Man, I missed the opportunity right there. I’m glad you picked that up.
Blake: It was there for you. The cookies were on the bottom shelf. My final thought is for those of you whose significant other or roommate or business partner just is not interested in the Full Focus Planner that you love and advocate for. Maybe you wish they could get on board, and they will get on board someday. I promise they’ll see the light. Courtney will get to them. But what do you do in the meantime?
I would encourage you, don’t feel the burden to make every part of the system work for them overnight, but just start by taking interest in what interests them, and let that lead to using this as a third-party tool. So, asking them, “Hey, I want to make your life better. Can you let me know…? On the good days, what’s going right? What do you get? And on the bad days, what’s missing? What do you need day to day, week to week, to feel your best, to do your best, to accomplish the goals you are trying to hit? Let me know. I want to know that.” Starting from that place is going to set you up to have a conversation about a tool, like the Ideal Week. So, that’s my final thought.
Courtney: That’s so good and so wise. I love approaching it like that. It’s really key. I am really excited. I hope those of you in the community, if you have any tips or tricks of how you’ve had these conversations, will share them with everybody else. Thanks for joining us on Focus on This.
Verbs: This is the most productive podcast on the Internet, so please share it with your friends. Remember #focusonthispodcast.
Blake: We’ll be here next week with another great episode. Until then…
Courtney & Blake: Stay focused!