Face it, it’s just one of those weeks. Work is crazy, you are up to your ears in commitments and you never seem to have enough time to get everything done. Cowering from a busy week and creating fear around it will not only affect your mood, but can allow stress to manifest itself physically through injury or illness. But facing your busy week head-on and balancing your life around it will help you stay motivated and create a zen mindset.
1. Leave white space in your week.
If you’re anything like me and live and die by your calendar, it can be overwhelming to see a colorful week and realize you’re booked solid from 8am-8pm every night. Intentionally scheduling white space in your calendar for at least 30 minutes a day can help recharge your creativity and ambition. It’s important to realize that not every day needs to be productive. In fact, some of the best days are not.
2. Set firm hard stop deadlines (and even firmer second deadlines).
As someone chasing career or life goals, you’re likely someone who has a hard time setting boundaries around work and the rest of your life (or maybe that’s just me). When I started my first job as a dietitian I was no stranger to 9 or 10 hour work days, even though no one expected me (or even wanted me) to be at work that long. I soon realized setting a hard stop time goal not only provided more balance in my life, but actually allowed me to be more efficient with my work to finish in a shorter amount of time.
3. Make your home your haven.
For those of us that blend work and living space, home can often remind you of your growing to-do list. Carving out a space in your home that is solely devoted to work can help, but packing up your computer and other work materials can give new life to the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ saying. Make your home your haven by putting your work away at a certain time and allowing yourself to enjoy down time at home instead of staring at your computer thinking of the 501 things you think you must do.
4. Do that one thing that’s weighing on your mind.
Have you ever heard the expression “Eat the frog?” Eating the frog means doing that one thing that is weighing your mind first, or that thing you don’t want to do that is hindering you from all of the other things you might actually enjoy doing. When you eat the frog you take away the impending ‘doom’ of that one task you’ve been putting off. Not only will the task be over and done with, but you’ll feel accomplished and ready to take on other tasks knowing you’ve gotten the hard part out of the way.
5. Take 5 minutes to do that thing you love to do.
Love thumbing through magazines while drinking your morning coffee or painting your toenails while watching trash television, but never get around to doing them because it’s not as ‘important’ as your other to-do tasks? Do it! Sometimes all it takes to get your motivation back is spending five minutes doing that one thing on your list that you actually enjoy doing. I’m the kind of person that will do the things I don’t want to do first and save the fun stuff for later, but sometimes the fun stuff needs to be done now or else it’s only the not-fun stuff getting done. So bump up that enjoyable task to first on your list and improve your mood!
6. Develop morning and evening routines.
While I advocate for for fun, adventure and exploration in everyday life, the routines you set for yourself in the morning and evening can be calming and keep you centered. Developing healthy daily habits can help to not only keep you zen, but keep you organized for the coming day ahead. Evening routines can include turning off electronics at 9pm, laying out clothes and organizing your bag for the next day, and reading for 30 minutes to calm the mind before turning off the light. Great morning routine habits include a daily meditation and stretch, journaling to set intentions for the coming day, and drinking a glass of water and taking a probiotic first thing in the morning. Whatever you choose, make sure your routine includes at least one task that doesn’t directly apply to your day and is instead meant to rejuvenate your mind. You’ll thank yourself for the rest of the day.
7. Plan your meals to reduce decision fatigue.
Decision fatigue is a real thing. From 15 ways to order your coffee to customizable salads out the wazoo, we are inundated with decisions every day that can add unnecessary stress to an already taxing work day. Creating a weekly meal plan and shopping for and making only what is on your list can help streamline your work week and reduce the mid-day ‘how am I a going to fit in lunch!” fiasco. And not to mention it can help you be a more sustainable consumer!
8. Go to bed earlier, even if it seems counter productive.
With a list of tasks that must get done tomorrow, you may think staying up later to get a head start on the day will help you be more productive. Nope! Burning the midnight oil will do nothing for your day tomorrow other than make you less productive and more prone to making mistakes. So skip the late-night work session and get in bed early to be fresh and ready for the day ahead.
9. Limit caffeine (yes, I did just say that).
In addition to nixing late-night work, nix that second (or third) cup of coffee to make sure your head is in the game. While it’s no secret I love a good caffeine rush, there’s a fine line between just enough coffee and way too much…and way too much will do you no favors in the mental clarity department. Instead opt for a big glass of water; staying hydrated is important when stress is high and will your mind stay clear and focused.
10. Take your ass outside (yes, I did just say that too).
There is a reason sunlight makes you feel happier and that reason is vitamin D. Even a 10 minute walk outside on a cloudy day can improve your mood and help you stay on track during a particularly grueling work week. Taking 5 minute outside breaks in the morning and afternoon will help you remember that sitting on your ass for 8 hours a day isn’t what our bodies were intended to do and that it’s important to tear yourself away from the screen for fresh air now and again. Your mood (and your ass) will thank you for it.