I'm a sucker for productivity and efficiency and thankfully those two qualities come in reaaaaaal handy when you're both a designer and organizer. I hate wasted time, but I definitely love having days off. My days off usually consist of getting household things done like laundry, cleaning or tidying, running any errands and getting myself ready for the week ahead. I actually really enjoy those things when I have the time to do it and I can move at my own pace without having to think about work that needs to get done along with all of those things in the same day or couple of days. When I mix both household/personal with work, I get very stressed (FAST!) and to be honest I'm not the loveliest person to be around.
...I promise I do enjoy more traditional means of fun and I'm not as boring as I'm making myself seem. Hah!
I think it's so important to schedule your week for both work and personal, in advance, so that you can mentally and physically prepare for all of those "things" that need to get done but also enjoy life and not feel like it's a constant rat race, even on weekends or days off.
Now, don't get me wrong I'm sure there are still days or weeks where you or I feel as though the rat race NEVER ENDS but it's important to remind ourselves that we're the only people in charge of our happiness - whether happiness comes from work, leisure activities, lounging on the couch, time with friends and family, what ever it may be, we are in charge of planning our days so that we can manage them well and in a somewhat balanced way.
So let's start with my first tip and habit...
I am a chronic iCal user. My life is scheduled in my iCal. I love the app for so many reasons but mostly because it's extremely accessible and is linked to all of my devices. It's on my iPhone, laptop and desktop computer. Since it's operated using the Cloud, whether I update it on my phone or laptop, those updates are synced to all of my devices.
I also love it because you can create different calendars. So for me I have a personal, household bills, personal bills and multiple House of Paige calendars so that I can keep client work (billable work) separate from marketing, blogging or networking.
For each "event" on each calendar you can set an alert to go off. So for bills or clients appointments, I set alerts to go off as they make sense. I usually set my client appointment alerts to go off one hour before the scheduled appointment time. I even put in events that are not 100% confirmed. For instance, if I suggest to a client or colleague to meet on a specific date(s) and I have not yet received their confirmation then I put the suggested time into my calendar and I type, "TENTATIVE" before the person's name. This allows me to hopefully never double book (although that has happened a time or two before because well, no one is perfect!) and I can still plan out my schedule accordingly even if I'm not positive that that meeting or appointment is happening. Once the client or colleague confirms, then I edit the event name so that "TENTATIVE" is removed.
And because I rely on my iCal so much, it is like second nature to check it the night before each day or the week before each week so that I can see where I'm supposed to be at what time and prepare myself for the week's to-do's.
I also really love the Reminders app. I use this app for random things that I absolutely cannot forget to do, like if I have to stop at the store before returning home at the end of the day or mail a package by a certain date. Even really silly things like, remembering my paint fan decks for a client appointment. It's also really helpful because when the reminder alert goes off, it doesn't disappear from your home-screen (on your phone) until you go into the app and manually check it off as complete. So every time I look at my phone, the reminder will be there unless I check it off as complete.
The Notes app is another solid way to jot all of your things down. I LOVE the Notes app and have found it helpful to keep track of all my thoughts, ideas, even my grocery list. Some people love to actually write with a pen and paper but I find that by using the Notes app, I'm never misplacing any information.
Plan out your daily to do list
This doesn't always apply to me as most of my days are spent on the road going from client to client, but for my days when I work from home and have what I call an "admin" day, I find it so helpful to write down my to do list the night before or the morning of while I'm having my coffee. Having things written down, and this time on actual paper!, ensures that I get those things done and don't forget anything. I also find crossing off each to-do so effing satisfying. I know I'm not alone here...
Plan out weekly meals + grocery list
This might seem a tad cray to a lot of people BUT this habit works for me and I couldn't go a week without doing either of these things. First I plan out dinners for each night (Monday through Thursday) and then I create my grocery list based on those meals. My husband and I typically eat the same snacks, breakfast and lunches each week so those items just roll over from the week prior. I go through our cabinets to make sure I have all of the items that don't need to be bought each week - oils, spices, canned goods, breadcrumbs, etc. and add those items to my list as they're needed. And then because I plan out our meals, our fridge is so sad and empty come Friday that we never really have any waste. Sometimes, there will be a serving of leftovers or a random vegetable left but for the most part there is no waste which makes me feel good about the money spent on groceries and the effects that food waste can have on our planet. I know, I sound all earthy but it's true! Every little bit that each person does to reduce waste CAN make a difference.
Planning out your meals can also be a fun thing to look forward to. It can create some sort of small level of excitement for your kids or you and your spouse!
All in all, this is a great habit to get into and it honestly doesn't require a lot of time. I do it while I'm sitting on the couch watching bullshit reality TV. And if anything, this will alleviate some of the stress and pressure when you come home at the end of the day and you're exhausted, stressed and famished. Instead of asking yourself or your family, "what do I want to eat tonight", you already have it planned out. I don't know about you guys but most nights, I don't even want to think when I get home. So to not have to think about what I'm making for dinner is a HUGE relief.
This brings me to my next tip, meal prep where you can! Whether you're trying to eat healthier or save time later in the week when you know you'll get home late, prepping your food on Sunday or a day off will 100% help you feel organized, productive, efficient and prepared for the week ahead.
Open + Sort Mail Immediately
By opening and sorting mail right away, you reduce the dreaded paper trail. 90% of the mail I receive is pretty easy for me to decipher what the "next step" is, whether it's recycling, throwing away, or keeping. I recommend doing this while you're standing up near your trash and recycling bins that way there aren't piles of mail scattered about. For any pieces of mail that you need to hold onto, move them to an office or command center where you have a proper system to return to it. If you'd like to read more about my tips for clearing the paper clutter, check out my Home Office Decluttering Tips post here.
MAke your bed every morning
You've heard me say this before and I'm saying it yet again, getting into the habit of making your bed every morning will help you mentally and emotionally feel ready to conquer the day. And if you feel as though it's "too much work" to make your bed every morning then maybe you should swap out your existing bedding and pillows for a look that is easier to quickly pull together! So instead of dreading to make your bed with the 3+ throw pillows that ultimately live on your floor 95% of the time, then opt for one long lumbar pillow that is so easy to put on a made bed a 3 year old could do it.
Iron clothes after they've been dried
Now, this tip might not apply to everyone because many people dry clean all of their clothes that would otherwise require an iron or you may not even care to iron your clothes at all but for those in between folks, try ironing your clothes once they've gone through the the dryer or air dried on a rack. This definitely requires a little bit of time but I find that not having to iron my shirt, jeans, or entire outfit every morning is a time saver and makes my morning run much smoother.
It's okay to say no to plans
I think I speak for everyone when I say that there is just not enough time in the day, even weeks to do everything you want to do. Instead of jamming your week with something to do every night after work or filling your only days off with lunch dates, shopping trips, gym classes, parties to attend, try allowing some time for you to do NOTHING. By filling your only days off or time off for that matter with something to do whether it's a gym class, party or dinner with a friend, you're not allowing yourself to ever decompress physically and more importantly mentally. Try it this weekend - give yourself a chunk of time (morning, afternoon or evening) or even a whole day to not do much of anything. You will feel the difference!
I hope you've enjoyed reading my tips. Please know that I realize these may not work for everyone but I bet each of you could walk away from this post with at least one tip that will reduce stress and increase productivity.
Thanks for reading!