Ask anyone in your life how things are going and you’re likely to get one answer: “Busy.” While living life to the fullest can be fun, there are often ramifications — neglected responsibilities, unhealthy diets, and forgotten dates and events, just to name a few. This is where trusty life hacks save the day. And for the busiest among us — those working several jobs, raising young children, students, and social butterflies — every little bit helps.
These nine life hacks will help you enjoy your oh-so-limited downtime with less stress.
Schedule your weekly priorities
Go beyond your standard to-do list and prioritize your tasks and goals. It’s natural to gravitate toward the easiest and quickest things on the list, but if they’re not a top priority, that won’t get you far in the long run. Choosing your top five priorities at the beginning of the week will help you manage your time better.
Stick to specific times for checking your email
It’s tempting to check your email every time you see a notification on your phone or a new message in your inbox. But although it might seem productive to respond right away, dropping everything to check your email can cause you to lose focus and actually decrease productivity. Set your alarm for specific email checking times, like 9 a.m., lunchtime and 5 p.m., and stick to them.
You can use this hack for anything else that may distract you as well, like texts, voicemails, and social media accounts.
Begin your day with an easy task, not the toughest task
We are often told that the best way to start the day is by completing the task we’re most dreading, whether it’s the most time consuming, challenging, or just plain tedious. But for some people, the hardest part of the day is getting started, so it makes more sense to ease your way in. Do one reasonably quick, simple thing first, then dive into “The Big One.”
Learn the art of the meal prep
Meal prep tips are everywhere these days, and for good reason. Dedicating a few hours on the weekend to cooking and preparing healthy meals can save people tons of time and money during the week.
But researching these tasks can be overwhelming, especially when you see Instagram photos of perfectly portioned and balanced meals carefully placed in matching containers. Start with a few simple tips: Chopping your fruits and veggies when you get home from the store (for easy grab and go), cooking a big batch of soup in your slow cooker and freezing it, and best of all, making two easy and healthy side dishes on Sundays to enjoy with dinner for most of the week.
Keep nutritious pre-packaged snacks on hand at all times
Keeping your snack selection stocked is one of the best things you can do for yourself. When hunger strikes, grabbing a bag of nuts and a banana is much easier (and cheaper) than running to a vending machine, hitting the drive thru, or wandering through the grocery store.
Clean your home quickly
No one likes to spend precious hours cleaning, but not everyone has the option of hiring a housekeeper. The solution: Learn how to tidy up quickly and effectively. Cleaning expert Melissa Maker recommends cleaning in three waves: The first wave is decluttering and organizing, the second is the dusting, disinfecting and polishing, and the third is floors. She also suggests starting at the door of each room and working your way around clockwise so that nothing gets missed.
Start pruning your life
“Let go of what no longer serves you” is a rather broad statement, but it’s important. Decluttering your desk and cleaning out your closet are great places to start, but you should also stop making time for hobbies, behaviors, and friends that no longer work for you.
Studies have shown that the most productive people “clean their closets” regularly and live minimally.
Set yourself up for a successful day the night before
The most successful people among us often lay out the next day’s outfit before going to sleep at night. Having your clothes ready to go, your necessities packed in your bag, and your lunch made will minimize the chaos of your morning. Even something as simple as showering at night can give you a little more time to linger over your morning coffee (or snooze).
Schedule plenty of downtime. Seriously.
When you’re incredibly busy, scheduling time to relax might seem counterproductive. But believe it or not, taking breaks is essential for your brain to function. If you can’t take a day off right now, schedule in downtime when you can. Even taking a relaxing 30 minute walk through nature (and leaving your phone at home) will help.