Sleep is important. If you’ve been skimping on sleep because you feel overwhelmed by everything you need to do, then stop it. Sleep (and taking breaks) actually helps you get more done each day.
When you’re tired, you’re not efficient.
You make mistakes.
You’re slower both physically and mentally.
So go to bed.
Before you go to bed though, spend some time thinking about your evening routines. What can you do at night to make your mornings better? Pack lunches? Pack backpacks and work bags? Set out breakfast?
Ok. Now that you’re getting some sleep, start thinking about your morning routines. Are you getting up earlier than your kids? What needs to happen in the morning to make the rest of your day easier? Run the dishwasher? Put dinner in the crockpot?
Spending some time getting your morning and evening routines working helps make the rest of your days easier!
Have you ever played the game of Mousetrap? I remember sitting in my grandparent’s house, putting the game together. I don’t think we ever played the game as designed. Just put the pieces together and sent the marble through the system.
There’s cause and effect. If something goes wrong, the end result is different. But, when things go smoothly, you get what you want in the end (unless you’re the mouse being caught).
It builds on itself. You need the pieces to connect in a certain way for it to work.
The same can be said for systems (and routines) in our own life. Pieces need to connect in certain ways. And when something is off, things can go wrong.
What routines in your life need some work? What systems can you create?
I’ve blocked time on my calendar for my marketing tasks. I sit down every Monday morning and work my way through a checklist of tasks related to marketing. I tackle the ones I don’t want to do first because I know I won’t do them otherwise. If I don’t sit down on Monday morning with these tasks, they’re less likely to get done for the week.
If I don’t do laundry on Sunday afternoons, I have to create time for it somewhere else in my week. I prefer to get it done on Sunday and do my best to keep that routine. And, if the laundry isn’t in the dirty laundry hampers, it doesn’t get washed!
What do you need to put in place? What needs to be tweaked?
Here are a few to think about.
Processing emails (personal and work)
Recurring work tasks
Routines, once put in place, can take so much work out of our days. They clear up our brain for other things!
It’s 5 pm. I’m staring at the fridge, wondering what we’re going to have for dinner. I don’t like to cook. If it’s not planned or prepped, we’re having frozen pizza.
Once we started weekly meal planning (and prepping) our weeknight dinners got easier. Veggies and potatoes were prepped and the meat was defrosted. All I needed to do was turn on the oven, toss everything in a pan, and roast it.
Sunday is laundry day. I refuse to wash clothes any other day of the week unless absolutely necessary. If you want your clothes washed, they better be in the hamper when I start. Otherwise, it waits until next week.
I’m working on implementing certain days of the week for certain work tasks. Something like marketing Monday. Where Monday is focused on all my marketing tasks. Maybe you have planning meetings on certain days of the week or focus on specific projects at specific times.
Do you find routines stifling or helpful?
Do you think that having routines in your life helps with your creativity? Or hurts it?
It is possible to have routines in your life and also flexibility. When your days are planned and structured down to the minute, any disruption throws things into disarray.
When you have routines and structure with space for the unexpected, everything flows smoothly.
What routines do you need in your days?
Below are a few areas to add routines to your life.
Meal planning and prep
Recurring work tasks
Ask yourself the following questions related to building routines.
What are all the steps needed to complete this routine?
When does each step need to happen?
Who is responsible for each step?
I also recommend spending the last 30 minutes of your workday cleaning up your workspace. Check your calendar and tasks for tomorrow. Celebrate what you accomplished today. Process emails. File paperwork. Check your physical inbox, if you have one. Prepare yourself for tomorrow.
Routines can make your life easier! And when your brain knows that tasks are taken care of, it can solve other problems!
Have you ever dreaded a task because it felt like it would take too much time? Then once you finally tackled it, it wasn’t as bad as you thought?
I felt that way about laundry (don’t we all?!)
So I decided to time myself one day. And I learned something valuable.
I realized that it was taking me too long to fold laundry because my kid’s clothes are often inside out. I was spending too much time turning everything right side out.
So I stopped.
My daughter recently wore a pair of pants wrong side out because that’s how they came out of the drawer.
I’m not taking the time to fix that and apparently, my kids don’t care! And next time they’ll be correct because they turned right side out again when she took them off!
It seems to only bother the adults when kids wear something wrong-side out or backward. Let’s let it go!
And now I know that it takes me less than 10 minutes to fold a load of laundry. I can make that happen. Especially when I think about how much time we’ll spend digging through the laundry trying to find something if I don’t deal with it!
(Side note: I don’t put away my kid’s clothes. I don’t even fold them. Their clothes get put in individual laundry baskets and they deal with them).
I’m sharing this story because your task list is long. And it could likely be shorter. But you’ve said yes to too many things. And you’re doing too much.
Do you know where your time goes? Not just guessing, but truly knowing?
And have you ever timed your tasks so that you know how long a recurring task takes?
Even if you think you know where your time goes, it’s helpful to track your time. Over the course of a week, document each task, in 30-minute increments. This doesn’t mean that you sit down at the end of the day and write down what you think you did. You stop what you’re doing every 30 minutes and write it down. Use these resources to help with this.
Then go back and review your week. How much time was spent on social media? What time was wasted on activities that were unnecessary? How much time are you spending on work tasks? Were there any surprises or did it make sense to you?
Or, if tracking your time sounds like too much work, identify the tasks you do most often, for work or home. And time them. How long does it take you to write your weekly newsletter or monthly report? How long does it take to empty the dishwasher, take out the trash, or plan your dinners for the week?
Use this information to change your future scheduling. Identify what’s working and what’s not.
What about making time to do those things that aren’t high priorities but are things you’d like to do someday?
The things you know would make you happy or contribute to society in some way, but you’re too busy cleaning the house, completing work tasks, and entertaining the kids to get to?
What if you made appointments with yourself that you kept as strictly as you would a client meeting, doctor’s appointment, or coffee with a friend?
I’ve had several people ask me how to make time for things they’d like to do but aren’t high priorities. Taking digital classes (personal or professional), volunteering, and doing things outside of chore and work lists.
I suggest spending just 30 minutes taking a class. It’s not much, but over time you will make progress. Treat the time you schedule for yourself with as much respect as you would a client appointment or coffee with a friend.
Another suggestion includes letting go of the need to keep up with all the household tasks all the time. I’m not saying let your house grow mold. But what if you spend one afternoon a month volunteering? Your house isn’t going to fall apart during that time. Volunteering can be something social, where you meet new people. It can be something you do as a family.
And at the end of your life, you’re not going to remember having a spotless, well-maintained home. Or how many things you crossed off your task list. You’re going to remember the things you did with your family and friends. The experiences you created.
I’m not saying you should skip out on your priorities. But we also need to make time for ourselves and time for fun. And it’s ok to schedule it. You should schedule it, otherwise, it’s not going to happen.
And, when you take breaks from your task list, you just might find yourself more productive when you come back to it. You might find that doing something else helps you solve some big client problem or gives you an idea for something at work.