Nope, don’t panic. I’m not going to start by telling you to get up earlier! As an Integrative Nutrition® Health Coach, I firmly believe in bio-individuality. This is the idea that we are all unique: just as some people can’t tolerate gluten and some can, there are early birds and others are night owls. Neither is wrong – they’re just different.
So yes, just as our measures of success look different, how we structure our days for success will vary as well. However, I believe that there are some things in common.
For the sake of having a starting point, let’s agree that success is showing up in your life (career, relationships, physical activity, etc.) in the most biologically effective way possible (i.e., you are healthy in every sense of the word).
So, how would you organize your day for success? Here are seven ways to do it:
7 Ways to Organize Your Day for Success
1. Wake up without an alarm if possible (see also #7).
Jolting awake to an alarm is a sure-fire way to feel like you’re off to the races first thing in the morning. Instead, learn how many hours of sleep you are naturally inclined to. Then try to get that every night.
Waking up naturally prevents that influx of fight-or-flight chemicals coursing through your veins: nobody needs that kind of stress at the start of the day! Chronic stress can wreak all kinds of havoc with your body, starting a cascade of poor health outcomes.
2. Start the day with screen-free “me time”.
The moment you check your email or social media, you are giving others power over how you spend your time. There will almost always be an email that just can’t wait or a post that brings on a severe case of #FOMO. Before you know it, you’re sucked in.
Instead of reaching immediately for a device, consider starting a new practice that can take as little as 5 to 10 minutes (or less) or as much time as you create for it: breathing, meditation, mindfulness, gratitude, journaling.
The Web is full of resources for these – just don’t go looking for them first thing in the morning! Are you an early bird? Use this gift of time to work out, meal prep, read, etc.
3. Create time blocks (see also #5).
As much as we think we can multitask, research shows we really can’t. “Task-switching” – what we’re really doing when we think we’re multitasking – can cost us as much as 40 percent of our productivity.
The solution: block out specific times on your schedule for tasks that require your full attention. During those times, close all other tabs and turn off all your notifications – and I mean all of them!
In between these blocks and not before, take a break to check email, make some calls – take care of some smaller tasks. Set a timer that indicates your next productive block is starting.
4. Schedule your workouts and meals.
We seem to have time for everything but what really nourishes us: fuelling our bodies well and moving them regularly. As a health coach, when you tell me, “I don’t have time to…” what I hear is, “I don’t prioritize…”
I see you rolling your eyes. Let me tell you: if you do that enough, they’ll stick back there. But seriously – it comes down to this: if you wouldn’t cancel on your work, your client’s needs, your spouse’s needs, your kids’ needs, why would you cancel on yourself?
Meaningful self-care is putting on your oxygen mask first so you can help those who depend on you. Organize your day and put those blocks on your schedule. Treat them as unbreakable appointments with yourself.
5. Multitask…intentionally (see also #3).
Yes, I know I told you not to multitask. Now I’m telling you it’s okay if you do it intentionally. What does that mean?
In my work, I talk a lot about primary foods – all the other things in our lives that nourish us (or don’t!) besides what we put in our mouths. Think sleep, career, spiritual practice, physical activity, time in nature, etc.
The multitasking I encourage is the kind that helps us nurture ourselves on the primary level, NOT the type that tries to manage a staggering number of little tasks that make our schedules so overwhelming.
What this looks like:
- Need to spend quality time with family members? Instead of adding an outing (with all the planning, preparation, and consensus-building it requires), combine it with another area that needs some attention: take suggestions on the week’s meals, shop together, do some meal prep, etc.
- Missing time with your girlfriends? Combine it with a workout or better yet, a walk in nature.
- Desperate to do a little meal prep for the week? Invite a few friends over to cook so that you all get to stock up for the week. (There might be wine involved?)
- House feeling like a hardhat zone, but you’d rather read? Clean while you listen to an audiobook.
- Time constraints making you choose between a workout and your spiritual practice? Take a walk in nature or practice walking meditation.
6. Make a plan for tomorrow
You don’t have to organize your day down to the minute (although that works for some people). Instead, write down 1-3 large tasks to be done tomorrow and prioritize those once you’re done with your “me time.”
Are the tasks unpalatable? Brian Tracy has written about this concept in his book ‘Eat that Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time’. He calls the tasks we are most intimidated by (and therefore put off doing) as “frogs”.
His recommendation: start your work – not just the day – by “eating a frog”. If all the frogs look big and ugly, eat the biggest, ugliest frog first.
7. Get to bed on time to get the sleep you need (see #1).
Once you know how many hours of sleep you need, organize your day and figure out when you need to get to bed. Make sure to end the day as you began it: NO screens for at least 30 minutes before bedtime!