Best day versus ideal day

Alan Spector is the author of five books and is working on books six and seven. His latest is “Body Not Recovered: A Vietnam War/Protest Movement Novel.” Spector also writes the blog “Retirement According to … Alan Spector.”

By Alan Spector

In my last blog post, “Your Ideal Day,” I suggested that one good way to plan the non-financial aspects of retirement is to identify what your ideal day would look like and then continually strive toward living that day.  I also mentioned that in future posts, we’ll look at adding the concept of ideal week and ideal year.  Those are coming.

But for now, I’d like to address a comment I received about the notion of ideal day.  The commenter said that she is a cancer survivor, and since her diagnosis, it has been unrealistic for her to envision and live an ideal day.  She has dealt with symptoms of her disease, then rounds of chemotherapy, and now remant side effects.  She is in remission and not complaining—she likes the idea of ideal day but can’t figure out what to do with it.

I asked her two questions: 1) Are the times of her day when she experiences side effects reasonably predictable?  2) Are there times of her day when she feels good and has some energy?  She answered “yes” to both questions.  She finds herself profoundly fatigued for a couple of hours mid-afternoon virtually every day, but during the remaining times, she has more energy.  She then admitted she is in a rut, spending virtually her entire day in front of the television or social media; even when she had energy to do other things.

I suggested she could still use the table I outlined in the ideal day post (and will repeat below) by recognizing the reality of her fatigue issue and blocking out those time slots.  Then proceed to fill in the remainder of her day with those activities she would find meaningful and energizing.  When she had the table filled in, it would not be a reflection of what she would love to be her ideal day—the fatigue is real and not something she would choose.  What she would have would be a reflection of her “Best Day”—a day she could continually strive to live.

Are you living your ideal day?  Are your living your best day?  Try this.  Create a table with two columns.  In the first column, list times in half-hour increments, starting with when you would ideally wake up and ending when you would ideally go to sleep.  The second column is where you enter how you would ideally be spending those half-hour time slots.  You can adjust timing by combining table rows.  For example, if part of your ideal day is working out from 8:30 to 10:00, merge the 8:30, 9:00, and 9:30 rows. 


If you have a reality you must deal with even if you would not consider it ideal, like profound fatigue every afternoon, fill that in, then complete the table.  As I noted in the previous blog, if you are struggling to figure out how to best spend your time, visit and learn about the “10 key elements of a fulfilling retirement.”  These can give you clues on what could be meaningful for you.