If you are anything like me, you struggle to relax. You have a long list of things to do, and you never feel like you get enough done. Despite the fact that you are always busy, the list in your mind doesn’t seem to budge.
You know this isn’t healthy, nor will it help your productivity. In order to accomplish tasks, you need to de-stress and focus with a clear mind. Always a work in progress, these are three of my personal daily practices that have helped me feel less stressed, while also feeling more accomplished.
1. SET DAILY INTENTIONS
Each morning when I arrive at work, I write in my notebook* (more on this later), and create a list of what I intend to accomplish for the day. I include tasks that must get done (the purple asterisks), what I’d like to get done if time allows, and what can get done sometime over the next day or two (pink asterisks).
As the day goes on and I cross things off the list, I not only feel accomplished, but I am better able to maintain a positive attitude towards everything in my life, including myself. While I use this list to stay focused and organized, I also use it to allow myself the time I need to take breaks without feeling guilty (something I tend to do, unfortunately).
When I see that I’ve set daily goals and worked towards completing some of them, I feel more open about the idea of taking time to not feel pressured to accomplish anything. Instead, I allow myself time to just sit, walk, breathe, read, talk with friends, etc.
Here is my list of today’s intentions. Notice that I don’t separate work and personal life. This is done deliberately, as I think it is a more holistic approach to life.
Note: My notebook is a hardcover artist sketch pad where I write my goals, my plans, random ideas, and daily notes. I keep a log of what I do each day, have flow charts showing my 1, 3, and 5 year plan, a summary of my business plan, and my various strategic planning maps for my business and personal life. I use colored pens to make it look nice, organized, and to help inspire me. I suggest you use one.
2. MAINTAIN A SCHEDULE, (AND INCLUDE YOUR “DOWN” TIME)
I have found that unless I maintain a schedule, I feel completely unproductive, disoriented, and frustrated. My stress level goes up immensely when I wake up in the morning with no plan. In contrast, maintaining a schedule helps me feel accomplished, productive, and perhaps sounding counter-intuitive, much more relaxed. Knowing that I have designated times to accomplish certain tasks, much like my intentions list, allows me to feel accepting of down time.
We all maintain a schedule differently, but here are a few things that I would suggest you pencil into your schedule:
– A set time to wake-up that doesn’t change much, even on weekends. (This specifically pertains to those who work from home, or are their own bosses where it is too easy to not have a scheduled time to start the day).
– Time to exercise (even if it’s short and simple).
– Time to go for a walk (this is not the same as “b”.) This walk is to relax, or perhaps ask a friend or family member(s) to join you. No phone, no music.
– Time to eat breakfast
– Time to read (I would recommend at least 30 minutes a day).
– Designated times for social media and email, and not to check throughout the day (!!!)
– Time for 5-10 minutes of meditation, or just sitting still and noticing the world around you. (I like to walk over to the Boston Public Garden and just look around at all the flowers and landscape).
– Time for a coffee/tea break (a few of these). This doesn’t mean drinking at your desk. This is time you simply sit, enjoy your cup of choice, and not be in front of a screen. Perhaps sit outside or in a cafe.
– Time to watch/listen to the news
– Time for a hobby, TV, or a movie
3. THINK LIKE A MINIMALIST
Not too long ago I was reading an article (can’t remember where) about the stress so many of us seem to feel in our lives. We feel overworked, over-scheduled, and overwhelmed. The writer stated that part of the reason we feel this way is because we have too much “stuff” in our lives. We buy more than we need, acquire more than we need, collect more than we need, and all this stuff needs to be cleaned, organized, and taken care of, which really eats away at our time and causes us stress.
I started to really think about this concept and how I believe she was on to something. Ever since, I have tried to follow this advice. I ask myself if I really need something before I purchase it, and I look at what I have and see if I can donate anything I no longer use. Do I really need a closet full of high heels I am never going to wear again?
Most recently, I attended an event with Boston Women Connect and the featured speaker was Doreen Dove, an image consultant. She gave great advice on how to build your wardrobe to be simple, yet sufficient and classy. She spoke of the idea of having a few good pairs of pants (mainly black), some standard neutral tanks, blouses, and turtlenecks, a few colorful sweaters, and just mixing and matching what you have. Add some jewelry and accessories and you can create different outfits with just a few items. Not only will this reduce closet clutter, but also will make it much simpler to get dressed each day. Think of Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs with their t-shirt and turtleneck, respectively.
We spend too much time making insignificant decisions. Think of how you can minimize the stress of making such decisions, by reducing what you have and what you use.
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