tips

Mindset

Celebrate the Small Wins

I get it, you are working towards big goals but those goals lie in the distant future. And amidst the daily grind, it’s easy to get discouraged and feel like you’ll never get there!

I would encourage you to start taking note of the small wins you experience daily. It could be a small improvement you noticed, like you are getting really good at making tasty salads for your lunches, or generally small good things that happen throughout the day, like a nice stranger holding the door for you, or getting to sit in your favourite spot at your go-to coffee shop.

Not only should you take mental note of those small wins, but I would suggest you also write them down. Keeping a journal dedicated to your daily wins (among other writing exercises you might want to undertake - more on that another day) is an awesome stress management practice! A few years ago, I started noting the highlight of my day and daily wins on small pieces of paper, which I would then fold up and store in this great big glass vase on a shelf. A few months into it, I was left with a jar of memories and tidbits that gave me the warm fuzzies every time I reached for one.

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Reward Yourself For Your Achievements

In my opinion, setting SMARTER goals is a great way to ensure you are being intentional about who you are becoming, but let’s not forget to treat ourselves! Rewards that are commensurate to the size of the achievement will keep you motivated to keep striving.

Embrace the process

You know that feeling once you hit a PR in the gym? Sure, you celebrate for a minute, but the next thing you know, you’ve already set another goal for yourself, so that satisfaction is temporary. I think of it as a treadmill: there is always another goal to strive for.

To avoid burnout, why not learn to embrace the process rather than focusing on the outcome? If you learn to love the tasks associated with achieving your goal, you are much more likely to not only stick with it, but actually enjoy yourself in the process!

Create white space

Do you ever get the feeling that you are so busy your brain is actually spinning in circles, and threatening to melt out of your ears, and you can barely string an intelligible sentence together? Yeah, been there too.

One way I like to combat that feeling is by creating white space throughout my day: I will look at my time audit and carve out small (5-10min, sometimes even less) pockets of peace where I can just be still, breathe, and calm my brain down a touch. This can mean pulling into the driveway and not exiting your vehicle immediately, but rather taking a few deep breaths, or hiding in the bathroom for a few minutes (I know of a few introverts with chatty extroverted partners that have been known to use this tactic when coming home from work, so they can recharge their batteries without upsetting their partner), or going for a walk around the block.

What techniques do YOU use? Or what do you struggle with when it comes to feeling overwhelmed and getting it all done?

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Rest

Prioritize Your Sleep

If you want to squeeze as much as you can out of your day, you need to be taking measures to ensure your days don’t leave you feeling like a squeezed lemon!

Establish and enforce solid shut-down time each night: Establish what time you would like to be asleep by, then use your time audit to reverse engineer how much time you need to wind down, and set that time as your nightly shut-down time. I like the app Offtime, which automatically turns my phone to Do Not Disturb mode at a specific time.

Clean Up Your Sleep Hygiene

Steph Gaudreau laid it out better than I ever could; why not just read her tips on optimizing your sleep routine!

Think Of Your Mornings, Too

Shave time out of your morning routine by banishing phones from your bedroom. This way you won’t be tempted to check your email + refresh your IG when the alarm goes off, so you can be up and starting your day quicker. The simple act of using the alarm function on my smartwatch allowed me to shave 30min off my mornings!

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Productivity

Get a Planner

Maybe you’re one of those weirdos who can keep all their ducks in a row using Google Calendar or iCal and phone reminders, but I am not one of those people. I need to write tasks, commitments and appointments down, so I carry a planner pretty much everywhere I go. I was a diehard Passion Planner fan for a long time, but I found the structure started to feel a bit limiting to me, so in 2019 I switched to bullet journaling. This way, the physical planner can be smaller and more convenient to carry around, and I get a bit more freedom with it. My BuJo set-up is not particularly artsy, but it works for me! I can track upcoming events, tasks and appointments, as well as business metrics, habits, goals of various sorts, etc. I also have pages dedicated to reading lists and brainstorming for upcoming blogging content, so I keep it all in one place!

Time Audit

If you wonder where your days go and how you are not getting more done, it’s time to perform a time audit on yourself. For at least 2 days this week (1 week day + 1 weekend day), carry a blank timetable around with you and fill it out as you go. The goal is to get a clear picture of how you spend your time; from there, you can see where you can shave down inefficient time use to get more done.

Time Block

Maybe this is a carryover from my high school days, but I live and die by a good timetable. I am a visual person, and I find that laying out all my commitments and tasks for the week soothes my anxiety and allows me to buckle down and get sh!t done. I use a bullet journal so I create this layout for myself weekly, but I find that the task of setting it up is sort of soothing and takes 10min max.

Identify Your Non-Negotiables

What are some of the things in your week that you are absolutely not willing to let go of? Maybe for you this means date night, or your lazy Sunday morning routine, or your Tuesday night yoga class. Whatever it is, get clear about it and then pencil it in!

Put It All On Paper

When I feel my stress rising and I start getting overwhelmed, I like to make a list of everything I have on my mind. Without categorizing or censoring myself, I simply jot down everything that’s on my plate to create the mother of all to-do’s.

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I then ruthlessly separate it into 4 categories, depending on how important and timebound the tasks are.

Once the graph is completed, I have a visual aid to decide what to do about each task. I have 4 choices:

  • keep on my list and address right away

  • defer

  • delegate, and

  • delete.

I know I said I was an old-school paper planner kind of gal, but at times I can be swayed by digital tools. When it comes to task management, I am a fan of Asana. While it was originally created to manage tasks and conversations across team members and department, I actually at times have used it for personal purposes. It works particularly well for tasks you wish to defer, as you can simply move their due dates, but you obviously could also do that with a paper planner as well.

Make A List The Night Before

To make sure you hit the ground running in the morning and avoid spending the first 30min of your day waffling, procrastinating and feeling overwhelmed because you have so much to do (oh wow, can you tell I’ve been there?), take a look at your planner the night before and make a plan of attack. What are the top 3 things you want to accomplish the next day? Clearly list them so that you know exactly what to tackle the next day.

Did you notice how I told you to make a list of 3 things you want to accomplish the next day, not a list of everything you want to get done? The goal here is to create small wins - you are obviously much more likely to accomplish 3 things than you are to accomplish 10 things, so let’s prioritize the list and celebrate if you do get though more than you thought you could!

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Health & Fitness

Having your fingers in a lot of pies doesn’t have to mean you let your nutrition and fitness fall off the way side (foodie pun intended). Here is how I manage to keep up with my healthy eating habits and fitness routine while keeping all the other balls in the air simultaneously:

Batch cook

I normally thoroughly enjoy cooking, so I am not always the biggest bulk meal-prepper, since I like cooking up a nice meal for myself when I have the time. However, when my week is looking packed, I have no problem resorting to batch cooking healthy meals ahead of time. I typically prep things “family style”, meaning I take my fridge into a giant buffet. I just make sure everything is as close to its ready-to-eat state as possible, so I can mix and match things onto a plate come mealtime. I also make sure I utilize as many cooking methods at a time, so that I can be more efficient (though this may take a bit of practice).

For example, I may have some brown rice cooking in the Instant Pot, some chicken + a pan of root vegetables in the oven, and some green beans steaming on the stove, while I am also shredding some cabbage to add to salads throughout the week. Once you have a system, 1hr in the kitchen could be all you need to have your meals squared away for the next few days!

Food Shortcuts

Pre-cut veggies and pre-cooked chicken may be a bit pricier, but they are vastly healthier than take-out. The same goes with meal prep companies!

Make Time for Movement

When you get busy, it’s easy for your training regimen to get put on the backburner. Still, you will feel more energized and sleep better (more on that later on) if you find ways to incorporate some movement into your busy day. It doesn’t have to mean 2hrs in the gym or a super intense interval training class (or run)! When stress is high, you don’t necessarily want to add more stress in the form of hard physical exercise on top of it. Try booking yourself in for a yoga class or going for a walk at lunch!

Pencil It In

The main tip I have if you feel like you don’t have time to cook or move is to put it on the calendar! Eating well and moving your body are acts of self-care, and they need to be honoured like any other commitment. In the next section we are going to talk about planning ahead, and this applies to nutrition and movement, too.

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