If you’re like most people living in today’s warp-speed world, you’ve got dozens of tasks to be handled on any given day, many of them important and urgent at the same time. All of these priorities can leave you feeling a bit (or very) frazzled … and stressed.
To help manage the madness, many productivity experts recommend instituting to-do lists and schedules for virtually every aspect of your life, from work to home to family to school. But there are plenty of ways to keep your life, and yourself, organized and productive—and, hopefully, less stressed. Read on for 10 of the best.
1. Get up early.
Whether it’s to avoid distractions, get some quiet focus time or simply maximize the number of daylight hours, consider waking with the sun (if not earlier) to bring more order and productivity to your life. You can use the time gained for any number of things, whether it’s to exercise, make your to-do list or calendar for the day, or manage your email.
Getting up with the sun also allows you to live your life in accordance with your circadian rhythm, which has been shown to assist with weight loss1 and improve many aspects of your physical and mental health.2
If you are accustomed to a later wake time, start slowly—set your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier for a few days, then another 15 minutes, and so on until you are a full-fledged early riser. You may find your days are better structured and more productive.
2. Consider scheduling virtually everything.
Time-management gurus recommend putting all of your day’s activities into a schedule—not only to keep yourself on track and to eliminate those inevitable “what do I need to do next?” decisions, but to make sure those activities and tasks actually get done. If you have a particularly busy life or a large number of tasks to accomplish, try scheduling your day in 30- to 60-minute blocks.
Doing this type of scheduling can also help you analyze exactly how long certain activities take. For instance, if you allot 30 minutes for email but it takes longer, you’ll get a better idea of exactly where your time is being spent … and where you can trim or extend your time blocks.
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3. Avoid scheduling leisure activities.
While some people recommend scheduling time for fun, research3 shows that doing so can actually turn leisure activities into more of a chore—and just one more item on your to-do list. Instead of allocating specific time for fun, the researchers recommend being more flexible. For instance, you might allocate a specific day but not a specific time to leisure—this ensures that you actually make time for rejuvenation but are making it feel less like work.
4. Create routines for your kids, too.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children need regular, predictable and consistent routines to do their best.4 So establish healthy bedtimes and wake times, and don’t forget to schedule specific times for homework, sports and the like. Also, plan dinnertime with the family—without the distraction of TV or cell phones.
5. Schedule a weekly family meeting.
Sitting down together as a family allows all parties to discuss the goings-on for the coming days so everyone knows what to expect. Priorities can be discussed, as well as challenges and successes—it’s a great way not only to stay on top of things, but to connect with one another.
6. Start a family calendar.
Whether it’s on paper, online, on a blackboard or via an app, having one centralized place for all activities for everyone in the household can keep all involved in the know—which in turn, may alleviate some stress around figuring out who needs to be where and when.
7. Set boundaries for yourself.
If you find you tend to get sucked into certain activities (social media, for example), set limits for yourself on how much time you can spend on them—and stick to those limits.
8. Schedule regular “walk and talks.”
Whether it’s with your significant other or a friend, discussing important issues while getting some exercise can accomplish two important tasks at once. Getting outside may also help clear your head and get those creative juices flowing. You can even give them a ring and connect by phone while walking.
9. Keep your home organized.
You know the old adage, “a place for everything, and everything in its place”? Knowing where things belong, and making a commitment to keeping them there, can be a huge help in staying organized. Think of how much time you may waste trying to find your phone, or your keys, or your running shoes … and how your stress level may spike when you can’t locate them.
10. Consider hiring a productivity pro.
It can be hard to step back and analyze all the different priorities and activities in your life—especially if you’re too busy to find the time to do it! If this sounds like you, consider bringing in an expert to help you organize your home or work life, and to help you come up with strategies to deal with life’s inevitable chaos.
We hope these tips prove helpful and that you are soon on your way to being more productive and more organized, with more balance in your home, work and family life.
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 Longo, Valter D., and Satchidananda Panda. “Fasting, Circadian Rhythms, and Time-Restricted Feeding in Healthy Lifespan.” Cell Metabolism, vol. 23, no. 6, 14 June 2016, pp. 1048–1059., doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2016.06.001
Carole Anderson Lucia
Carole is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California who specializes in health and wellness topics. Her work has appeared in Parents, Fit Pregnancy, Mom & Baby, Yahoo News, Viv magazine and Lifescript. She's won several national awards for her work including a National Science Award and two National Health Information awards. A frequent contributor to Jenny Craig’s Blog, Healthy Habits, she enjoys gardening, spending time at the beach and adopting far too many rescue animals in her spare time.
Favorite healthy snack: jicama dipped in homemade hummus.
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