It's about time!
Rach and I have finally gotten back into a good routine this week after a few months of entrepreneurial chaos that left us both tired, frustrated, and irritable.
Time management and tidiness are critical to lowering your stress levels and doing what you want or need to do with your time. Sure, some people can get away with being a bit messy and it doesn’t bother them, but for most of us (even chronically messy-roomed teens like Rach and I) we tend to be happier when things are tidy and organized.
Needless to say, we are feeling the benefits of this change already!
Please keep in mind that all information in this post is educational in nature and is not a substitute for professional advice from a coach or medical professional.
Below are 6 strategies that we have incorporated into our daily routine. Although 6 may seem like a lot, they are all related to each other and have a sort of domino effect where each one makes the next easier. Feel free to incorporate them one at a time or all at once. It’s 100% up to you and what works for you as an individual!
Many of these tips below may already be familiar to you, (and many are things I have learned from Tim Ferriss - the master of preserving mental energy) but these are the things we can never be reminded of enough. It is my hope that these can spark a recommitment in your to getting your routine going and lowering your stress levels!
Keep in mind that it’s not about doing these habits perfectly 100% of the time. We’ve only been back at this 3 days now and we’ve already broken some of these habits.
The key is not in perfection, but rather in consistency over time.
If we can manage to complete most of these habits most of the time, the overall impact is much more significant than being perfect for a week or two and giving up when that perfection is lost. Life happens. There are unforeseen circumstances that get in the way and we’re human. It’s in our nature to occasionally give in to tiredness or weakness despite our best intentions. (i.e. this morning when we snoozed our alarm 3 times! 😛 - Whoops!)
It’s important to realize that perfection should not be expected so that you do not get discouraged when you inevitably slip up. There’s a fine line between permitting failure through lack of effort and getting down on yourself because you've set your expectations too high. Find that balance.
Now let’s put that January hopefulness and positivity to good use!
1. Prepare for the morning the night before.
You’ve probably heard this one many times before, but a good night of preparation is 100% essential for a good morning. Do whatever you can to prepare for the next day in the evening. It may suck for the first week (most new habits do) but once you get it established it becomes "just part of what you do."
Even if you’re tired when it comes time to prepare for the next day, the amazing feeling of waking up feeling well prepared for your day only needs to be experienced once or twice to reinforce your commitment.
For us, our evening preparation consists of showering if needed, packing lunches, getting our bags and clothes ready for work, tidying our kitchen and bedroom (the two most stress inducing areas when they’re messy), reviewing our schedule for tomorrow and creating a list of priorities with our work time tomorrow.
Pro Tip: Complete this preparation as early as possible in the evening to avoid getting tired or distracted or having to stay up late to do it.
2. Make your bed every morning.
Making your bed everyday is something I’ve heard repeated over and over again. There’s just something about this simple task that sets you up nicely for the day.
It definitely creates a sense of satisfaction when you get home and see the nicely made bed, but more so than that is the realization that no matter how bad things go today, you’ve got this one “win” of making your bed under your belt already.
This is one of productivity ninja Tim Ferriss’ key morning rituals included is his podcast 5 Morning Rituals That Help me Win the Day.
3. Lock down your phone notifications and avoid looking at any social media or email for the first hour you’re awake (waiting until your first morning break is even more ideal)
Again this is a tip I took from Tim Ferriss in another must read post The Not To Do List: 9 Habits to Stop Now. As he describes in his post, checking email (or social media) first thing scatters your priorities and risks creating a sense of urgency to respond to any crisis or a curiosity to view a notification rather than carrying through what actually matters that morning.
When you look at my phone you will see that I never have notifications with the exception of text messages. Even my text messages are blocked so that they do not light up my screen, they just sit in my system tray until I check my phone next.
I actually do not have Facebook on my phone because the messenger notifications cannot be disabled permanently and there is no way to turn of the badge notifications that show up showing you that you have new notifications waiting. I want to see my notifications when I choose to see them, not in the middle of some other important task.
By doing this I maintain my focus and get the task I am currently working on finished exponentially faster rather than constantly being interrupted by notifications.
4. Spend 15 minutes taking some quiet time before you begin your day.
This time can be spent reading, meditating, praying, journaling or doing any other quiet activity that sets your day off to an unhurried start. Personally I usually choose to spend my time meditating and praying as I find the deep breathing aspect of meditating really slow me down and make me realize that not everything is urgent and important right this minute.
If you ever wake up feeling panicked and overwhelmed you 100% need to try meditation.
I always use (and recommend to our clients) an app called Insight Timer and a guided meditation called “A Pause for Presence” by Tara Brach - it’s only 12 minutes (which is the minimum needed for meditation benefits of increased focus and memory) and it's very non-woo-woo. It does a good job of bringing you back to focusing on your breath if you tend to get distracted like I do. Feel free to hit me up on twitter or send me a message if you’d like to know more about it!
Generally the “goal” of meditation is to simply recognize yourself getting distracted and bring your attention back to your pattern of inhales and exhales. It’s not about getting to a state of “quieting your mind” or maintaining focus on your breath for the entire 12 minutes.
5. Get the essentials done first thing in the morning.
You should have already taken care of many of these the previous evening, but anything essential to you getting out the door should be done first thing in the morning after your 15 minutes of relax time.
This avoids the possibility of getting distracted (most likely by messing around on your phone checking email or scrolling social media) only to realize that you now have only 5 minutes to complete 15 minutes of getting dressed, doing your hair or some other non-negotiable morning task, ending with you rushing out the door stressed and late.
6. Leave room for error so you don’t need to hurry.
This is one my dad was always hammering at with me when I was younger and it took a while for me to finally get it.
When you leave yourself some time to relax before you go and leave early enough that you have 5 minutes to do the aforementioned emailing or social media scrolling when you get to work, you massively reduce your stress level. Perhaps you can even use that 5 minutes before work for some deep breathing, gratitude practice or to send a note to a friend you haven’t seen in a while!
A note on forming habits...
I made mention above of the fact that habits tend to be difficult for the first week and then it becomes “just something you do”, and I want to really emphasize this point.
If you can incorporate any habit you are trying to form into your identity and who you define yourself as, it becomes infinitely easier to keep the habit. Instead of being “a chronically messy person” define yourself as someone who always makes their bed. Become “that kind of person." Don’t start with something big before it's true (i.e. a messy person saying "I'm a tidy person".) That won't work. Simply start with something small that you actually can do and incorporate that into who you are so it is “just something you do” rather than thinking of it as a habit that runs contrary to your identity.
In her book Better Than Before which I reference often and highly recommend, Gretchen Rubin calls this the Strategy of Identity. If you’re interested in reading more about habit forming you can check out her site or grab her book.
And there you have it! 7 habits to make you a less stressed, less overwhelmed, more organized and generally happier and nicer person to be around!
If you have any strategies you’ve found especially helpful feel free to comment on the Facebook post here!:
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