A couple of weeks ago, my sister mentioned that she would find it really helpful if I wrote a post on how I manage to ‘keep my shit together’. To be honest, this is something I’ve wanted to write about for a while now but wasn’t really sure where to start. I also didn’t feel very confident that my advice would be very helpful, and I was really worried it may even seem a bit fake. I still have a lot of days where I feel like I’m FAR from having my shit together, and I’m fully aware that there are lots of people out there who have way more on their plate then I do. But after giving it some thought I decided that if I can help even just one person coming into adulthood, then I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something.
To give you a bit of background, my sister is 20 years old and about to finish her third year of university. Right now she’s learning how to balance her job, her hobbies, her friendships, and her relationship all while passing her mid-terms. What I don’t think she realizes is that my life’s list of responsibilities sometimes feels just as overwhelming but the difference is I’ve had 5 more years of ‘adulting’ experience to figure out how to manage it.
1. Plan, Plan, Plan.
I am SUCH a planner. Seriously, it’s almost an addiction. Aside from planning out my meals [weeks in advance], I also spend quite a bit of time on Sunday figuring out what outfits I’ll where that upcoming week, what time I’ll be in the gym, what errands I need to run, what events I need to plan for, what meetings I need to prep for, what tasks I need to finish at work, and what important phone calls I need to make. I even make sure I’ve planned time in there for some self-care. I know it seems WAY over the top and a bit obsessive but for me it makes getting through the week a million times easier.
My planning addiction actually started the year we got engaged. Trying to plan a wedding on my own was completely overwhelming and I was having a really hard time keeping track of it all. At the time, I created my own planner out of an old notebook we had lying around, but since then, I’ve gotten completely hooked on Passion Planners. I’ll admit, the name is a bit cheesy but check out how cool they are!
I’ve had one for two years now and I can’t believe how much of an impact it’s had on my life. Not only does it help me keep track of all the responsibilities I have at work, it’s really helped me identify the direction I want my life to go while also giving me a place to plan out what steps I need to take to get there.
2. Get up early.
My alarm goes off at 5am every weekday morning. I know, I know, I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes at me right now, but it has made SUCH a difference in my life for a couple of reasons:
First, waking up earlier gives me time to properly do my hair and makeup, eat a nutritious breakfast, slowly sip a coffee on the couch and still make it to work before 7.
Second, I am a firm believer in ‘faking it until you make it’ so making sure I have enough time in the morning to put myself together means I’ll be walking into the office feeling confident and ready to take on whatever comes my way. Plus, even if my day isn’t going as well as I’d hoped and I’m feeling like a hot mess, everyone else in the office will still see a girl whose got it together.
3. Whenever possible, prep in advance.
This applies to my personal and my professional life. Nothing irritates me more then trying to prepare for something last minute and realizing I needed way more time then I thought.
At work, if I have an important meeting coming up, I make sure to prepare a day or two in advance because I think showing up to a meeting unprepared not only looks super unprofessional, it makes you look really unreliable. I would much rather take the time before hand make make sure I am arriving to the meeting well composed and level headed.
And if I am going to be hosting dinner for our family or friends, I do as much of the cleaning and food prep the night before so that all I have to do the day of is pull everything out of the fridge. The last thing I would want is for my guests to feel obligated to help me because I am still throwing things together last minute or even worse, sit there hungry because I didn’t give myself for enough time to get ready for them.
4. Over estimate how much time you need to complete a task.
Wanna know a secret? I almost always lie when someone at work asks me know long I’ll need to finish something. There have been countless times when a project or task takes WAY longer then I expected. Sometimes it’s because there was more work involved then I thought and sometimes it’s because other, more important things have come up. And I hate feeling like I’ve dropped the ball because something is taking me longer to complete then I promised.
But if I over estimate how long it will take me to get something done, then it gives me some breathing room if something else comes up AND I look like a superstar if I am able to finish a day or two earlier then expected. The other benefit of doing this is if something does take a bit longer then I thought, people are a lot more forgiving and understanding about it because 9 times out of 10, I finish the job on time or even a bit early.
5. Keep all your important items in the same place.
How many mornings have you spent running around the house looking for your keys because you’ve forgotten where you’ve put them? Or worse, have you ever put a pair of head phones through the washing machine because you didn’t take them out of your pockets and put them back where they belong?
As much as possible, I’ve tried to give every item we own a ‘home’ within our apartment [thank you Marie Kondo]. That way we always know where something is. For our daily essentials, I’ve created a ‘drop zone’ at the front door which is basically a table with a bowl for the smaller stuff [keys, gym cards, wallet, headphones] and a basket for the larger stuff [sweaters, lunch kit, purse]. Basically, anything that we use on a daily basis ALWAYS gets put back in the ‘drop zone’ at the end of the day. That way, we never end up running late for work because we had to spend 10 minutes running around the apartment looking for our stuff before we could get out the door.
6. Whenever possible, set one day a week aside for yourself.
A couple of years ago, I had no problem making plans on a Sunday. Who cares that I had to work the next day? I wanted to take advantage of every minute of my time off. But after a while I started to notice that jam-packing my weekends left me feeling super burnt out on Monday morning. The worst part was that I would end up spending Monday night catching up on all the other stuff I would have normally done over the weekend, get to bed super late that night, and wake up super tired the next morning. It made for some really long weeks.
Life only got busier when I met Matt, so after a while we decided we would stop making plans on Sunday all together. Ohmygoodness this has this made such a difference! Setting Sunday aside for ourselves means that even on our busiest weeks, we get to look forward to having a day that we can spend however we would like. Most of the time, I use Sundays to do all of the cooking for the week, but Matt and I also use the day to spend some time together as well. In the summer we love to go for walks in the river valley and in the winter we tend to binge watch ‘Friends’ or the ‘Fast and Furious’ movies. By the time I’m going to bed on Sunday, I am usually feeling relaxed and refreshed and ready to take on whatever the week throws at me.
7. Be mindful of how you spend your time.
Being mindful of how I spend my time has made a world of difference in my life. We all have the same amount of hours in the day, but I think the people who ‘have their shit together’ have learned to be smart about how they spend them. Seriously, I never realized how much time I actually have in the evenings until I stopped wasting it mindless scrolling Pinterest and Instagram. And while I still do a little bit of that, I also manage to fit in a second work out, work on the blog, tidy up the apartment, play with Bean, hang out with Matt, shower, and still make it to bed at a decent time.
Another part of being mindful of how you spend your time is learning to say no. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve come across this piece of advice and I’ve found that it’s made such a difference in my life. There is nothing worse then already feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list only to add one more thing that you’d really rather not do. Obviously there are some obligations you can’t get out of, but one thing I’ve really worked on over the past year is being a lot more selective about what I commit to and who I spend my time with and I’ve found that I’m much happier because of it.
8. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
At the end of the day I’ve learned not to be so hard on myself. Everyone has days that don’t go as planned no matter how much they’ve tried to prepare for them. But I think the people who ‘have their shit together’ are already in a better place mentally before these days even happen, I think they forgive themselves when things do go wrong, and I think they look at these days as an opportunity to learn something about what they could do differently next time.