It is incredibly easy to let the constant challenges and demands of life drag us down. This year, let’s look for easy ways to keep that from happening.
Here is practical and savvy advice in five key areas of life: Time, Stuff, People, Health, and Self. Each of these will help you streamline work, reduce tension, and sharpen your focus on the good things in your life that create more happiness.
Designate a specific amount of time for challenging or difficult tasks or projects, says coach Sally Eames, of Chicago, Illinois. Set the timer on the phone and forget everything else while concentrating solely on the project. The more unpleasant the task, the shorter the time designated for it, at least until the project gains momentum.
Every night, Eames also sets an alarm on her phone to go off before each of the next day’s appointments. That gives her ample prep and travel time, and the alarms run her schedule, letting her focus on work worry-free until the alarm sounds.
Focus on Today
What will you eat? How will you work out? Focus on the present, said Darren Pierre, author of “The Invitation to Love: Recognizing the Gift Despite Pain, Fear, and Resistance.” If you want to lose weight, don’t look at Dec. 30, 2017. Look at Jan. 10, 2017. “The big goals of tomorrow are accomplished in the small wins of today,” Pierre told LifeZette.
Control Your Schedule
Never schedule more than 60 percent of your day, so you can respond to life as it occurs — emergencies, unseen needs, a sudden revision, equipment malfunctions, a flat tire. Dump unnecessary meetings. Delegate.
Know Your Priorities
Deadlines over which you have no control are obviously first, but be sure priorities include personal and self-care time, as well as family commitments. If you see more than four items on your to-do list in addition to a full work day, say no.
Store orphan Christmas ornaments in egg cartons and label appropriately and you’ll never lose another ornament again to breaking or chipping. Line a drawer with the egg cartons to separate costume jewelry, large earrings, chains, and color coordinated items.
Try Some Color
Mount a keyholder or organizer with separate hooks for every family member by the door. Color code the keys in each set with nail polish, so it’s instantly obvious which key goes to the garage, the house, the office.
Contain the Kids’ Things
Streamline the kids’ “keepsakes” by choosing one or two pieces of art and one or two assignments from each grade level. Throw the rest away. Going year-by-year makes it easier to do.
Do a Rapid Recycle
Sort mail daily with a recycle bin and shredder at the logical point for mail — kitchen counter, table by the front door, or home office.
Spend $8.99 on Every Room in the House
Use over-the-door shoe holders with clear plastic pockets to store cleaning supplies in the laundry room; socks and other delicates in the closet; packets, seasonings, and small items in the pantry; bolts, screws, and small tools in the garage; office supplies in the office.
Experts agree couples often talk ad nauseam about topics that never change, wearing each other’s empathy muscles raw. A good boundary might be: “Talking every night about the same problem you have at work is not helping. You solve it. Let me know how it goes.”
Hold Meetings That Matter
Work pow-wows can be big time-wasters, but coach Sue Bock, of San Francisco, California, suggests more home meetings. “Meet with family and be open and honest about schedules and responsibilities. Cover all the bases for home, family, school, work, and upcoming holidays or travel. Include contracts or agreements if that makes responsibilities more clear.”
Keep Limits on the Activities
Limit kids’ extracurricular activities to one artistic/creative class and one sport. Don’t force them to do both, if they don’t actively choose it, but that doesn’t mean more time on the couch — add another structured chore or physical activity at home.
If it doesn’t add to your life, or get you closer to what’s important to you — let it go. Wave to the negative neighbor instead of having a 10-minute chat. Make one call to your mom on a Saturday rather than making many calls during the work day. Gossip less.
Clear the Air
Relationships can be messy. Don’t leave stressful or nagging items dangling. Call your sister or father and clear the air about a disagreement. Or agree to disagree with respect. If you’ve hurt someone, apologize.
“I figured I spent one to two hours a week shopping for the family, plus driving, and always spent money on impulse sale items,” Kate Peters, of Dunham, North Carolina, told LifeZette. “Now, I order online through my phone, set a pick up time, press a button, and my grocery shopping is done in 20 minutes. I also spend a lot less. It’s simple, and effective.”
Choose a Prep Day
Take 30-45 minutes on one day to set up a week of healthy eating success, health coach Jill Ginsberg, of Seattle, Washington, said. “Make a pot of whole grains. Roast a pan of your favorite veggies. Make one sauce or dressing. And create a mini salad bar in your fridge with pre-washed lettuce, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, sliced peppers, and cucumbers. Make salads, burritos, or grain bowls by simply adding a protein of your choice like salmon, chicken, or tofu.”
Kate Franklin of London, England, doubles everything she cooks and freezes the leftovers. “It halves the hours in my life I spend cooking, and means there’s always a healthy meal available in minutes when I get home and am very tired.”
Prepare to Succeed
Early morning exercise is the most beneficial, giving you a clear outlook and great energy for the day. It’s also the easiest time to hit the snooze button. So, set an automatic coffee maker. Pack your gym bag with work clothes, set it by the front door (or in your car) and sleep in your workout clothes – minus the sneakers.
Have a Bottom Line
Have an exercise option you can do, no matter the time, weather, or schedule. It might be a home DVD workout, a home treadmill, or a set of calisthenics. No excuses!
Make a Mantra
Your mantra can be as simple as one word you are focusing on for the month, or year: love, health, energy, fun. Or you can make an intentional theme mantra. Say your mantra softly to yourself as a way to breathe, meditate, or refocus.
Write a Note
Life coach Lindsay MV, of Halifax, Nova Scotia, suggests a one-sentence-a-day journal. “It creates a pause and a fun record to look back on, without the pressure of filling out a full-page in a journal.”
“Technology should be a tool and not the ruler of your day,” stress reduction expert Melissa Heisler told LifeZette. “Stop playing Pavlov’s dog every time you receive a text. Decide on certain times when you will respond to emails, calls, and texts. Turn off laptops and smartphones during family and personal time, and at least an hour before bed.”
Have Money Power
Run a budget and cut the fluff (are you really home enough to pay for cable television?). Automate bills, but check them every month. Many companies raise rates without automated billing customers realizing it. Knowing your account balances at all times gives you power when it comes to a purchase.
Stop Keeping Score
Stop caring if you give someone a gift and they do not give one in return, or if they give one of lesser value, Donna Cameron, of Brier, Washington, told LifeZette. “Stop paying attention to whose turn it is to call, pay for lunch, or do the dishes. Get rid of any mental ledgers on which you track what you do for others and what they do for you. This is a surprisingly easy resolution to keep. It makes giving joyful, frees the mind from grudges and resentments, and creates more space to recognize and enjoy our blessings. I think it’s one of the secrets to a good life.”
Pat Barone, MCC, is a professional credentialed coach and author of the Own Every Bite! bodycentric re-education program for mindful and intuitive eating, who helps clients heal food addictions.