I’m feeling the change in the air, hearing the birds chirping on my morning run, and seeing the sun much later in the day. It’s a glorious feeling to know that our part of the world is warming up and that pretty soon we’ll be ditching our coats, putting our hats and gloves into the storage box, and spending more time outside.
After so many months of staying indoors, rarely getting together with friends, and doing the same things over and over week after week, I’m ready for a change. I feel like we’ve gotten a little bit stuck in our habits, that we need a change of pace. To that end, I’ve come up with some ways to freshen up our lives and “spring clean” our schedule so that we can take advantage of the new season and all that it has to offer — in a way that is manageable and comfortable for everyone in my family. Maybe there’s something helpful in here for you, too!
1. Have a Routine
Having a basic schedule for each day — knowing when meals, naptime, and bedtime are — gives wide-open days some structure. And having that routine set makes it easy to see where you can add in playdates and errands, or to know when it’s okay to throw the routine out the window and do something fun and spontaneous.
2. Give Your Phone Some Boundaries
Parents are spending a lot of time with their phones these days — even at family mealtimes. Always being “on” and checking inboxes, social media statuses, or RSS feeds can be a drain on your time and energy (and disrespectful to your kids!). Giving your phone — or other device — a break during mealtimes and having other “analog hours” during the day can keep your mind fresh and able to focus more fully on other tasks.
3. Say No to Something
If you’re feeling especially overwhelmed by the length of your to-do list or the fullness of your calendar, go through and see if there is something you can say “no” to. Or if something else comes up, don’t put it on the calendar in the first place. Know your limits and stand by them — not only can it keep you feeling more in control and less stressed out, it can even keep you healthy so you have to take fewer sick days.
4. Use a Timer
Some tasks are easy to get through, while others are so compelling/relaxing/endless that we could sit there for hours “working” on them. Whether it be a hated task (for me: responding to e-mail) or just something you get lost in (like Pinterest), set a timer to let yourself know when it’s time to stop for the day. This way you’ll be more conscious of the time you spend on it and can really focus on it. Otherwise, you’ll keep whiling away your whole day with nothing to show for it.
5. Get Moving
Exercising just a little bit each day can help increase your productivity so that you spend less time on the other things you have to do. Plus it’ll make you feel awesome, even if it is the only thing you actually accomplish at the end of the day.
6. Write Down Your Priorities
At the beginning of the day, take a minute to write down exactly what you need to get done by the end of it. I know that sometimes I feel like my day is really full and busy, but when I actually look at what I need to do, I’m surprised to find that it is completely manageable. Not only does that reduce my stress level, it also helps me focus my attention so I’m not flitting from one thing to another and not actually doing anything.
7. Get Rid of Stuff
Clutter creates confusion, and confusion clogs things up. Emptying the trash, putting away loose shoes, or finding homes for orphan objects (even if it’s the local thrift store) can open up space in your home, your mind, and your schedule — and reduce distractions so you’re able to focus.
8. Take Your Time
Rushing through things can leave you feeling frantic and stressed — and can also cause you to do things poorly. Slow down, be thoughtful, and give yourself (and your kids) a chance to enjoy whatever it is you’re doing, whether that be a trip to the playground or a meal-planning session.
9. Go to Bed 30 Minutes Earlier
There are lots of reasons to prioritize sleep, not the least of which is that it can help you think more clearly and be more productive when you are awake. Being tired and sluggish means you may spend 30 minutes doing what should take you 10, or make a normal, everyday task like vacuuming the floor seem insurmountable. The extra sleep can more than pay for itself in increased awareness and productivity.
10. Look Back at Your Day
At the end of the day, take a few minutes to notice what went well and where you could improve. Make some notes, brainstorm some solutions, and go to bed knowing that you have planned for tomorrow to be even better than today.
Photo credit: Lizzie Heiselt