End of year planning. Back to school. Fall Festivals. The holidays. Days seem to get shorter and the hours magically disappear. It seems to sneak up on me every year. I’m finally drinking a lemonade sitting by the pool and – poof – summer is over. I find myself swamped at work and failing at my personal to-do list. An article I recently read stated that people Google ‘stress’ more often in the fall than any other time of year. I confess, I was even late completing this blog article!
Despite the chaotic period of autumn, things still must get done. Meetings occur, presentations are completed, kids get on the bus, and articles are written. These may be at the expense of our free time, our sanity, and a messy house, but life still continues. We can make it better, however, with a few practical tips and preparation. Consider these simple tricks to help you get the most out of your day…
How to get more out of your morning!
Hello 5:30 a.m. – we meet again. It’s not personal, but I hate you. I wish I never had to see you unless I was boarding a plane to Bora Bora for the entire winter. But alas, you and I must continue our courtship, so I need to make the most of you. I will start by making my bed or tackling something small to set the tone for my day. This one little act can make or break my behavior. Begin with one win and it will organically lead to more wins. And on that note, end with a win. Wash your face, read a chapter in a book, find your car keys!
Next, I recommend eating breakfast and creating the ritual of ‘beginning your day.’ This isn’t rocket science, but I find it easy to do and extremely impactful. I even have a 15-minute recurring calendar appointment setup with instructions on how to begin my day. I start by doing a ‘mind sweep’ and getting all the lagging to-dos and ‘don’t forgets’ out of my head. Then I empty my collection points. I review voicemails, new emails, my notebook, etc. I look at my Outlook Today and review my calendar and tasks due that day. I make a note of the first three items I am going to tackle. The more often I begin my day this way, the more I get done and feel like I am the one in the driver’s seat.
How to get more out of your afternoon!
Do you ever have days where it feels like 10:30 a.m., yet you look down and it is 3:30 p.m. and you wonder where the day went? I often have those days when I spend too much time in my inbox and don’t maintain my system. When this happens, I take a 15- minute strategic disengagement. What the heck is a strategic disengagement? It’s a fancy word for taking a break, but it works. You physically and mentally need to disengage from your environment. Get out of your seat, stretch, or take a quick walk outside. You need to reset for a few minutes so you don’t implode!
When I get back to my desk, I check in with my tasks and calendar again. What absolutely has to be completed before I leave? What can wait? What should be delegated? I move appointments, tasks, or project work accordingly and ensure I finish strong by devoting a solid 25 minutes to something meaningful to my priorities. And then I empty that head again before I leave, so I don’t take work home with me!
How to get more out of your evenings! (And in turn, your mornings too!)
Get home. Eat. Chores. Work. Sleep. Wake. Repeat. If this sounds like you, we have to break you out of this funk! Don’t let the couch suck you in completely – give yourself 30 minutes of time to get things done. If everyone in your family spends 5 minutes cleaning up or prepping for the next day (think keys, purse, shoes, that thing you need to drop off at that place) then everyone wins! If you have a family of four, you just accomplished 20 min of cleaning. Better yet, extend this 5-minute shared task to other items like cooking dinner; everyone can help and they’re more likely to do so if they only have to commit to 5 minutes.
Make your note-taking device a part of your evening ritual. As you are prepping for bed or laying down to sleep, the to-do’s and ‘don’t forgets’ will appear. Slay them by immediately writing them down in your notebook. You may have heard the phrase, “if you think it, ink it,” before (and if you haven’t, then you need to email me ASAP!). Writing down these tasks will remove the worry from your mind and allow you to actually rest. If you are like me, you may also write things down half asleep – deciphering them in the morning is fun and entertaining. My latest gem, “Can you still trade in your breakfast for a Dannon Frusion smoothie?”
How to get more out of your weekends!
Ahh, doesn’t just hearing the word ‘weekend’ make you smile? But you know what doesn’t? – feeling the dreaded Sunday blues. Avoid them by committing to do something over the weekend that makes you truly happy. It can be attending a social event, reading an entire book, or grilling outside with the family. Bonus points if you have it planned out by Thursday – allowing you to spend extra time feeling excited or happy and mentally extending the weekend happiness.
Don’t make Saturday your errand day or, if you have to, schedule them strategically or around fun events. If you need to head to the post office and the hardware store, do it after going to brunch with your best friend. Your weekend should be fun, relaxing, and as rewarding as possible.
These tips and tricks may seem small, but I promise if done regularly, they are enormously helpful and make a positive difference in how you spend your time each day. It’s normal to fall off track (see earlier when I was late with this article), but connecting your time to what matters most is what it’s all about.
~ Stephenie Rockwell
Engagement Leader and Program Manager, Effective Edge