The beginning of August marked the first week back to school for me. Full school days in addition to teaching weekend college courses, maintaining my health (running/workout routines/meal prepping) and developing side projects which include non-profit work, blogging, posting and oh…ya I think I also have my friends, family and a handful of weddings this year which include quality time and additional to-do lists.
Whoa, that was a lot. LET’S. TAKE. A. BREATH.
Overwhelmed? Over scheduled? Ya, it happens. But here’s the thing. I’ve been incorporating some key routines that have been not only maximizing my time, energy and work ethic in priority areas, but also allowed me to carve out space for self-care and quality time for the fun stuff. Want to hear about it? Keep reading.
Maybe you’re a parent reading this juggling a new routine now that the kids are back to school. Or maybe you’re a high school student about to begin a new semester coming back from summer vacay and now need to shift from Instagram stories to Pre-Calc. Maybe it’s your first year of college and now you have a brand new schedule and an entirely new world to tap into. Whatever phase of life you’re entering undoubtedly there are periods of new expectations, unpredictable trials and a slew of commitments, deadlines and events to follow through with. So how do you manage it all? And when I mean manage I also mean manage successful WITH healthy life choices that give you balance, health and amazing self care for you know…your sanity. Well here you go…things that work for when you’re life is at its busiest:
Having an accessible calendar for the big and the mundane
Have larger calendar that displays the entire month. I use a white board on my fridge but you could also use a desk calendar or a poster on the wall. This calendar doesn’t include ALL of your day-to-day activities, but it has all of your bigger items (trips, projects, deadlines, events, travel, etc.) Why it works? You’re able to see how busy your month is and allow you to visually see when you can carve out downtime, when you need to save energy for big project deadlines, etc.
Syncing my personal and work calendars on my phone. This has been a big one for me. I never connect my work email on my personal cell-phone (I do believe in balance!) I DO connect my work calendar to my ICal. The beauty of seeing everything coming up for the week professionally in addition to my personal commitments, meetings, etc. is that you’re able to weigh commitments and prioritize your time. If I know I have a crazy day at work I may push my dinner with friends earlier in the evening. If I have a lighter day or an early release day I’m able to set up my runs, dinners and additional workload around those pockets of free time.
Being intentional about my activities
I used to watch tv, check social media/emails on my phone during commercial breaks and make notes of things I needed to get done…ALL AT THE SAME TIME. The problem? Well it turns out we’re not that great at multitasking. Really. We just aren’t. Plus my brain is half paying attention, well a third in my previous example, to the activities at hand. It was unfulfilling and mindless.
Being intentional with your activities not only allows you to get more done, but it gives you the chance to enjoy your activities. I know that once I’m home, I’ve completed my workout and prepped my stuff for the next day I have the time and space to sit and either watch a show or read a book. If I watch a show I literally put my phone plugged in the next room and enjoy the show. I’m not only watching less TV, but I’m finding I am more relaxed and entertained. Try it! Being present at the task at hand is incredibly tough. You literally have to remind yourself to not grab your phone…it’s instinctual.
I’ve taken this to my workspace too. I carve out times in my day to check email for a certain amount of time. I also turn off notifications so I’m not tempted to answer something mundane that has popped up on the screen when I’m in the middle of a larger project. I also close browser tabs of anything that isn’t related to the project or information I’m working on. This way if I’m creating a presentation for my students I’m not seeing the tabs open for the trip I need to book, the email I need to respond to and the Amazon order I have to purchase. Clear your screen to the one task at hand, give yourself a time frame and then step away when it’s over. Give your mind a break and be intentional with your activities at home and at work/school.
Creating purposeful playlists on Spotify for my moods
This one’s fun. I’ve always loved music in the background or jamming out in my car, but I’ve now created purposeful playlists for the activity at hand. If I’m deep into a project I’ll put on study music with meditative background music, piano and peaceful, calming white noise. If I’m cleaning my apartment it’s blasting Adele, Lumineers or Bon Ivar. If I’m getting ready to see my friends I’m throwing on some upbeat Country or Pop. By being purposeful with my playlists I literally start to create the experience I want before it’s even begun. I’m setting the tone for how the next activity will go by creating the environment with music. Spotify, ITunes, Pandora…pick your outlet…pick your list…pick your mood and see what happens.
Taking my to-do lists to the next level
Using a to-do note system like Google Keep to store all of your to-do lists in one place is insanely helpful. My to-do lists are separated by categories (work, working out, side-projects, appointments, the grocery store and events) I am able to see it all together and move the higher priority items to the top. Bonus, with Google Keep you can access your list from any device AND you can pin important to-do list categories at the top of the page. It’s easy, it can literally never get lost or thrown away because it’s in your Google account…online…from anywhere.
Small preparation = big outcomes
I wake up and my running clothes are beside my bed. Next to the running clothes are the wireless headphones and gear pack ready to hold my phone and keys as I head out the door. When I get back from my run I have my Keurig set to go off automatically so the coffee is ready to go with a button. I stretch, shower and find my work clothes laid out next to where my running clothes were. I finish getting ready and open the fridge to find a bag with snacks, my pre-made lunches and a water bottle already filled with water ready to go. Small preparations allow the bigger stuff to at least start a little easier. Running late to work/class with no food, deciding if you have enough time to stop for a coffee or not, feeling rushed, sitting in traffic, checking the clock and then thinking of when you can squeeze a workout in sounds exhausting. Not to mention you’re now using more of your precious energy and brain power trying to decide on the smaller things. Take literally 20 minutes and think of what you can do to make your days start off smoothly.
Creating clean, clear spaces in my surroundings
Having less clutter has allowed me to feel calmer, lighter and more at ease just because it’s visually clear. I have less stuff in the areas I really need to focus and work. Take a look at your work space, your study space and ask yourself if you feel calm before you sit down. Can you throw away or organize something? Can you keep one coffee mug/water bottle on your desk instead of four that have piled up? It’s simple and it helps.
Owning where you are TODAY
Some days you will skip your alarm, ditch your run, blow off your project and just feel…off. THAT’S OKAY. Maybe you set time to write your college essay and you just have nothing. Honoring where you are today and not feeling like you need to force, change or adjust too much is a huge part of feeling confident, empowered. Check in with yourself and where you’re at TODAY.
That may be a version of yourself that feels overwhelmed, exhausted and just not ready to start whatever it is the project you have to tackle. And that’s OKAY. Recognize when you’re not in the right headspace to tackle something major and allow yourself the R&R needed to get back into a positive, productive state.
It’s also okay if some of these practices just don’t work for you. Take note on the things that have worked for you in the past and try one small adjustment that just might create BIG impact in how you live your life in a fulfilling and wonderful way. So take the time, even just a minute, and think of one thing you can do that will not only put you in a better headspace, but get you to your goals and accomplishments quicker.
I leave you with a picture that always brings me clarity.