Let’s face it. Sometimes, it’s just not your day. Your mood is off, you feel more tired than usual, and it somehow feels harder to get things done. Maybe it’s because of a stressful week, the dark clouds looming overhead, or you just might not be feeling like yourself.
If you’re having one of those days and you need a way to find your footing once again, then you’ve come to the right place.
Here are some habits to help you get organized, especially on days when you need it.
1. Prioritize the most important tasks of the day
Make a list of the 5 most important things that need to get done. Place it somewhere it will be easy to see, on a notepad or on a post-it. You don’t also need to finish every single thing in this list. It simply helps you prioritize your tasks and keep it manageable.
By being intentional with what you choose to do, you can be more focused with accomplishing it.
“Life will become less about efficiently crossing off what was on your to-do list or rushing through everything on your schedule and more about changing what you put out there in the first place” – Greg Mckeown, Essentialism: The disciplined pursuit of Less
Once you determine what you need to do, reevaluate your calendar to reflect your tasks at hand. As much as possible, clear out your schedule for meaningful and focused work.
To help you on this prioritization process, ask yourself: “Is this important?”, or “Is this urgent?”. Eisenhower’s matrix following the urgent-important principle will help you better focus on tasks that need to get done immediately, those you can delegate and those you can park for now. Here, you’ll learn to prioritize what is important and deprioritize things that do not require your immediate attention.
That also means learning to say, “No” to people and using that time instead to work on your priorities. By gatekeeping your time and creating boundaries, you won’t always feel like you’re being spread too thin. This also helps you focus more deeply on your own important tasks instead of having a brain that’s trying, and failing, to multitask.
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2. Focus on one thing at a time
It can feel incredibly overwhelming when you’re faced with a mountain of tasks that you need to achieve. And, even more difficult when you’re not in the right headspace to tackle it with the same finesse you usually muster on our best days.
Although, tempting to do everything at once, doing so can prove to be counter productive to getting things done.
So, to manage all of your tasks, deconstruct and break them down so it can feel more achievable. Then, instead of diving head first and multi-tasking, prioritize your tasks and strive to accomplish them one by one. In other words, engage in single-tasking as a much better practice in the long run. Unlike multi-tasking, pouring your efforts into one task at a time rebuilds your focus, making you more productive.
By focusing on one thing at a time, you’ll feel less stress and you can even get more done. The best part? You can even end up enjoying what you do more than usual when you do immersive work and be ‘in the zone’.
Remember, small wins can make all the difference. In a study by Amabile and Kramer featured in the Harvard Business Review, they found that of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.
Pro-Tip: Focusing can sometimes seem easier said than done. For starters, you can be easily distracted by a text message, social media notifications, or the irrational need to know what your friends posted online. So try putting your phone or devices that would typically distract you, in another room. It might sound simple, but it can make a world of a difference.
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3. Declutter your surroundings
You often hear the need to, ‘declutter your space to declutter your mind’. That statement is actually, quite true indeed. Research has found that physical clutter in your surroundings can compete for your already limited attention.
Decluttering will not only give you more space to breathe, but simplifying your life can also help you free yourself of things that do not add value to your life.
Photo source: Actuaries Digital
In line with doing one thing at a time, you can do the same here by decluttering one area of your room, closet, or table before moving on to the next. This way, you won’t overwhelm yourself by taking on too much at once. Tackle the mess one step at a time and you’ll start to see some progress.
By taking small steps, you’ll also start to see that an organized space can give you peace of mind. You’ll get a renewed sense of satisfaction every time you accomplish organizing an area similar to how you feel satisfied upon finishing an important task. Doing this helps you get into a momentum to accomplish the next task.
Through decluttering and organizing, you are effectively choosing to create a space by your own design. One that can assist in maintaining good habits, reducing distraction, and cultivating joy.
“From the moment you start tidying, you will be compelled to reset your life. As a result, your life will start to change. That’s why the task of putting your house in order should be done quickly. It allows you to confront the issues that are really important. Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order.” – Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
Photo source: The Tiny Canal Cottage
Pro-Tip: If you find it difficult to start decluttering, try the 2 minute rule, a productivity and habit forming strategy coined by David Allen. It’s simple, really. Whenever you have to do a new task, like decluttering in our case, just tell yourself that it will take around 2 minutes. This self talk can help you overcome the slump and just do it.
4. Take a breath and reset
When you’re irritated, stuck, or unmotivated, it can help to take a step back from the problem. Sometimes, all you need is a break, a pause to breathe and pivot to a different frame of mind.
To do this, have a break in between single-tasking and breathe deeply. There are several different breathing exercises that can help relieve anxiety, among them is box breathing or four-square breathing. Rachel L. Goldman, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, also states that doing this breathing practice can be a great psychological intervention that can help calm you down. Here’s how to do it anywhere and anytime:
- Start by inhaling for a count of four seconds
- Hold your breath for a count of four
- then exhale for a count of four
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Aside from this, if you feel the need ‘to get out’ for a minute, being near nature can help you reset. In our previous articles, we’ve written how being closer to nature, may it be through indoor plants, appreciating the view, or going to a park can help us destress and find quiet time to reflect.
In fact, research shows that turning to nature and greenery allows us to reconnect with ourselves and find some much-needed calm within our day-to-day life. So, when you find yourself stressed, overthinking, and overwhelmed, go outside for a walk, ride your bike, or just simply, step outside and breathe.
Photo source: Plantie
Additionally, for others, relaxing activities like yoga and meditation can be part of their daily routine. At the same time, reigniting a childhood passion for painting, drawing, or photography can help one find relief from mental slumps. Scheduling a time to engage in hobbies can create a positive impact on our mental health and well-being. This also brings a renewed sense of play that we tend to forget when we’re always chasing the next big thing.
With apps like Calm and Headspace available, along with a slew of YouTube tutorials, trying these out can be easy and totally doable. Think of this as your own self-care habit that can give you more clarity, perspective, and satisfaction out of life.
5. Invest in a good night’s sleep
Ever noticed that you feel more energized after a good night’s sleep, and how the day feels like a drag when you don’t? That’s because good sleep is a great way to refresh and re-energize yourself to take on a new day’s tasks. Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist has also shared that, “sleep resets our ability to be focused, alert, and emotionally stable”.
Moreover, studies have also shown that consistently getting adequate sleep can positively impact our attention, cognition, and mood. Meaning, when you are able to get a good night’s sleep, you can think more clearly, improve your ability to learn, strengthen your memory, and regulate your emotions more effectively.
Photo source: No Sleepless Nights
By having adequate sleep, you will be able to protect your ability to discern what is important and prioritize it accordingly.
“Sleep is not an optional lifestyle luxury, it is a non-negotiable biological necessity. It is your life support system.” – Dr. Matthew Walker, Author of Why We Sleep
So, invest in getting good sleep, every night. Set a healthy sleep routine that can help you get ready for bed. Dim the lights, move from your devices to a good book, and take it slow. Perhaps create a comfortable sleep sanctuary to wind down and get ready to drift off to dreamland.
6. Reframe your way of thinking
It can be easy to judge yourself for not feeling your best or not acting better. Like telling yourself you suck when you slip up. It’s so easy that you just want to drop everything and wait for motivation to strike up again.
When you start to utter these limiting beliefs to yourself, take notice and reevaluate your words. Be aware of what you say and how you speak to yourself. Ask yourself if you would use the same words when a dear friend is feeling down.
So instead of beating yourself up, try to be kinder to yourself and drop the negative self talk. Work towards a more positive attitude focused on growth. Understand that everything is a process and you don’t need to be perfect all the time.
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If you find that some days are a little harder than most, then take it upon yourself to have a break. Remember, being overworked and oh-so busy is not a badge of honor. Rather, it’s an unsustainable way to cope with the challenges that come your way.
It is important to realize that resilience is a balancing act that depends on how well you recover and take care of yourself to come back again and again. Pacing yourself to be able to thrive. Being aware of when we need to slow down and what energizes us can help us become our best selves time and time again.
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7. Get some alone time
Perhaps spending some time alone will allow you to refocus your mind and thoughts. Have you tried it before? While you might think this may just make you even lonelier and unmotivated, there is a difference between spending time alone and loneliness.
Depending on your overall personality, you might seek some solitude and enjoy it or you might dislike it very much. This one only refers to voluntary quality alone time – those you enjoy, value and sometimes crave. Because even the most introverted of people will need a network of people to hang out with and talk to.
Although alone time may be challenging to do, there are several researches that show how this could be beneficial for your wellbeing and creativity. Having a space where you can take some mindful quiet time to think more clearly will help you reframe your thoughts and allow your mind to unwind and wander.
Photo source: The Soothe
On another note, as you allow your mind to relax, you give it the chance to think deeper internally and go back into default mode. This default mode network, coined by Raichle, means that our brains are ‘at rest’ – not focused on any goal-oriented task.
As we relax our minds, a setting in our brain lights up, akin to daydreaming, spacing out or boredom. While you might feel like it’s wasting time, this perceived slower movement of the day actually allows your mind to tap inward and block off external simulation. During this process, you can better process your thoughts and activate creative ideas that you’ve overlooked in your distracted state only moments before.
Therefore, getting some quality ‘me’ time can be one of the ways to move away from your unmotivated stupor and get back in the game, better and more energized with new ideas.
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