1. Get up early. Yeah, it’s fun to lounge around in bed, snuggling under the covers, perhaps reading a novel for a while, and playing the 5-more-minutes game (I’ll get up in 5 minutes!). But 5 more minutes often turns into 10, 20, 60 minutes of nonproductive time. Well, maybe not completely nonproductive. You may be producing copious amounts of guilt! Me, I’m up by 5:30 most every morning, though I sometimes sleep until 6:30 or 7:00 on the weekends.
But Suze, you say. I’m a night owl. Maybe you are. Maybe your Circadian rhythms run differently than most people’s. But I want you to be honest with yourself. Are you routinely staying up late working on your novel? (Acceptable, if that’s truly the only place you can fit writing into your waking hours) Or are you staying up until the wee hours playing Candy Crush and cyberstalking your old boyfriends? (Unacceptable) Seriously, folks. Get to bed at a decent hour, and get yourself up early. You’ll be surprised at how much you can actually get done in the morning before you get the kids off to school or get yourself off to work.
2. Do the basic household stuff. Now, this is different for everyone. These are the routine tasks that need to get done so your day will run smoothly, and/or are the energy-sucking daily tasks that nag at you if they aren’t done. For me, these are:
- Make the bed.
- Make sure dishes are done and put away.
- Put in a load of laundry.
- Know what’s for dinner.
For me, all 4 of these items take no more than 15 minutes total. I don’t usually obsess about vacuuming, or dusting, or wiping down the kitchen cabinets (unless there’s something I really, really don’t want to do that day!). These are just the automatic things I do that help me feel in control. Think about what those are for yourself and make them a habit.
3. Know what you have to do each day. A to-do list is invaluable here. I divide my list up into short projects (make an appointment for mammogram, for example) and longer-term things (investigate new internet provider; start holiday shopping; figure out how to finance a trip to Scotland). Don’t whine to me that you’re a creative type and a free spirit and you feel constricted by the confines of a list. Trust me, you need one more than anybody else!
PJ said she makes a to-do list and makes sure she does the 3 most important things before she moves on to anything else. But some days, even 3 tasks is too much and you feel like a failure at the end of the day for having not accomplished anything.
For me, I only require myself to do ONE thing every day. I look at my list the day or night before and choose the ONE thing that is most urgent that I get done, and I make it nonnegotiable with myself that I do it. Sometimes I play a little game and do some small tasks first–the easy ones, that take less than 5 minutes to accomplish, such as scheduling a hair appointment or putting the new Bridget Jones book on hold at the library. This allows me to feed my inner procrastinator, or gets me in the rhythm of getting stuff done, depending on how you want to look at it. But I do my best to get that ONE thing done before dinnertime. If I can check a few more things off, great! I’m ahead of the game for the next day.
So how do you prioritize these items? First off, as you are going about your day, keep a small notebook with you or figure out how to use the to-do list feature on your cell phone. If you’re anything like me, you will have flashes throughout the day of things you need to do–or want to do. As they come to you, write them down. Don’t worry about putting them in the “correct” order. The point is to memorialize them. Because if you can’t remember what you need/want to be doing, you can’t accomplish those things.
I move all the long-term or nonurgent stuff over to a separate list. Then I look at what’s left. My gut tells me which item to make my priority for the next day–there’s always something on that list that produces a little tug (or possibly a pang of guilt), and when I feel it, I know that’s the one. Often, once that task is accomplished, I feel motivated and energized to move on to the next item. That wasn’t so bad, was it?
But here’s the kicker: In addition to the one thing you NEED to do, you should also take a babystep toward something you WANT to do. This keeps you in balance and from feeling like a martyr (like all you do is work for somebody else, or that your wants are unimportant). There’s room for both NEED and WANT in your life–and both of those things need to be fed.
How about you? What are your non-negotiables? How do you balance your dreams (wants) with your needs and make sure both get addressed in your life?