It is a fact of life in modern society: busy lives. So many things to be done in the day. Personally, some days I wonder if everything will happen. We have SO many responsibilities! How can we make it happen?
Let’s see: I am a wife and a mom, which I consider to be full-time jobs unto themselves. Then, I also work full time as a physician in an academic hospital (which has added research and teaching responsibilities), I write my blog posts, have my little wellness coaching business and volunteer with/edit the newsletter of a non-profit helping with recovery efforts of my post Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico (shameless plug here: check out Puerto Rico Rise Up to know more).
Phew! Just writing it made me feel a bit lightheaded. However, at the end of the day, my lists get done and I still manage to sleep 7 hours on most nights (I do work some night shifts).
As my friends will attest, I am very Type A and organized , which certainly helps me get things done! But I have several techniques that help me stay organized and on top of everything I have to do. So, in this week’s lifepost, I thought I would share those with you.
I hope that if you are feeling overwhelmed, or sometimes feel like you are drowning (been there ), this helps you feel that you have more control.
MY TOP THREE TRICKS TO MAKE IT HAPPEN
1. Find an agenda or planner you love
The first step is to find one that you truly love so that you will be motivated to use it! I have used in the past Cozi’s electronic family calendar as well as Apple’s iCal and Google calendar. All are solid calendars for your mobile or computer. I don’t love the e-planners, so I haven’t explored many more than those mentioned. However, there are tons of options out there, so you can explore and find one that works for you. If you have a favorite calendar app, please share it below in the comments!
Personally, I really like those old-school agendas where you can write on with a pen. I love writing in different colors, highlighting more important items to prioritize and just being able to sit down with a pen and write without having to type. I have tried TONS of planners (much to my husband’s chagrin ). For the past two years, my favorite has been the Passion Planner. You can see a picture of its interior below, and I will talk a bit more about the features I find most useful.
2. Do a weekly brain dump
Ok, this has been incredibly helpful to me. Whenever I start feeling anxious about having too much to do, I do a brain dump. Either way, I do this at least weekly, usually Sundays in preparation for my week.
What is a brain dump? It is spending 10-20 minutes emptying all the things you have in your brain that you have to do during the week. Now you can do this on a paper or on your phone list. I like to put it in my old-fashioned planner. The Passion Planner has space incorporated for my brain dump! Check out the weekly view on the planner below. On the bottom left hand corner, I write out all the things I need to do this week, divided by personal and work affiliated. This has been immensely helpful to me. It lifts the responsibility of having to remember things and the anxiety of forgetting something. I literally feel a weight has been removed once I do my brain dump.
Also, I love that it helps keep you motivated by making you think about the good things that happened that week. In addition, you can put a weekly and daily focus. Another plus? It has little check boxes. I love checking things off .
3. Schedule everything
Schedule non-negotiables first
So, once I have everything in my brain dumped, I spend the next 10 minutes making sure everything is in the agenda with times: clinical service, meetings, conference calls, times to work on projects with approaching deadlines, after school activities, special events (for family or friends), personal appointments. I first write in everything that is set and has little wiggle room. This part is easy because I have usually written it in as I scheduled it. This includes the week-end, btw.
Schedule the must happen, but flexible timing next
Next, I put down all the things that have wiggle room, but I need to make happen. These I fit in around the no wiggle room items. For example, going through my e-mail, weekly meal planning, grocery shopping, self-care. A big one that we all have to do and should always include in our schedule is exercise! I will always schedule at least 30 minutes of exercise per day 5 times a week. Usually, my best time to do it is in the morning, when everyone else is still sleeping, which means waking up around 5:30am. However, sometimes I have to be somewhere really early, at which point I would have to compromise my sleep. This is non-negotiable for me, because I already compromise sleep when I work nights . So, on those days, I will work out in the afternoon or evening. The point is, that if you schedule it and make space for it during your day, you are much likelier to do it.
Exercise is part of self-care, but getting a haircut, a massage or meeting up with a friend are also important parts of self-care. Make sure you schedule time for these! Remember, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy .
Schedule those things that have some wiggle room
Lastly, I schedule those things that have wiggle room and I don’t need to make happen that week. Like a project that is due in three weeks, but I want to start researching. If there are slots available, I start filling those in with these types of activities.
By the end, your week is organized, you have a solid idea of what you are doing and you can stop wondering about how you will make it all happen. BTW, make sure you almost always allow time for proper sleep! Don’t over-schedule.
By spending approximately 30 minutes a week doing a brain dump and arranging your calendar, you can ease the stress and anxiety that comes with a crazy schedule. You can confidently approach your week head on knowing that everything is scheduled. You just have to be there and focus on what you have to do in the allotted time.
Remember to check in with your calendar to see the next day’s schedule every night. This way, you know what you are doing in the morning and at what time you have to wake-up and be ready.
Finally, remember that sometimes, in spite of your scheduling and organizing, life happens! Don’t be too hard on yourself! When you get thrown a fast ball and everything goes to hell, take a deep breath. Remember, you get a fresh start tomorrow .