Organizing Your Life 201: Getting Organized to Go to Work – Winding Down at Night for a Better Morning

Rolanda L. continues the OranizeU series by discussing the importance of properly winding down at night to prepare to be more positive and productive the following day.

For many of us, getting out the door and arriving at work on time is one of the greatest challenges we face in a day. Nevertheless, the process of transitioning from home to professional life is also one of the most important tasks we have each day.

The Significance of a Good “Launch”

Leaving the comforts of home to interact with the world outside is a process that is not to be taken lightly. In fact, the morning routine is more analogous to a daily “launch” in contrast to the way many of us typically view our mornings: as a mundane process through we we drag ourselves from our place of comfort to a place of obligation.

Good and bad days both begin with how we prepare for the hours we will spend way from home (or in the home office for those who work from home; that is a separate post entirely). We could even go one step further and say the outcome of the following day is frequently influenced by the preparatory measures we take the night before. These measures may include getting enough sleep, finishing a work assignment the night before OR going to bed early enough to allow yourself time to comfortably prepare the next morning. Therefore, spacing and proximity are critical considerations when planning an effective schedule; a well-planned and executed schedule will consistently lead to better days overall.

Getting Started 

In crafting a morning routine that is most conducive to having the best day possible, the process begins with the here and now. First, think about all your pain points and struggles that regularly occur in the morning: do you you sift through closets and drawers to find the right clothes to wear? Do you skip breakfast and have difficulty concentrating or later resort to eating unhealthy snacks? Do you simply not feel like getting out of bed and, as a result, hit the snooze button too many times? Next, think about the most frequent reasons you may experience a bad day at work: are you too tired to peacefully coexist with an annoying supervisor or coworker? Do you simply not enjoy what you do for work? Do you miss deadlines or feel unprepared when required to complete assignments? Do you lack energy by the end of the work day? Believe it or not, each of these situations may be remedied by investing a little energy up front to execute effective schedule planning and by tweaking your morning routine.

Planning for Improved Logistics

Factors such as getting adequate sleep, getting dressed, having breakfast, and arriving at work on time are all part of the logistics of a successful morning “launch.” Thinking in terms of launching a space shuttle, the support teams don’t haphazardly drag the rocket out to the launchpad and lean it against the platform. A considerable amount of prep work takes place prior to a shuttle launch. Similarly, a well-executed start to your day will also require a degree of preparation.

Because logistical components like showering, dressing, and eating are largely based on effective time management, remedying related issues is somewhat of a straightforward process. Ensuring you have enough time to include each of these important components of your morning depends heavily on creating a schedule that realistically works for you. If you are unsure of where to get started with creating an effective schedule, see Organize U Lesson 103 for an example.

Getting Enough Sleep

To most people, a reminder on the necessity of getting enough sleep may sound cliche. However, ensuring adequate sleep the night before sets the tone for a more peaceful, productive morning, which is more likely to lead to a better day. Getting enough sleep starts with a plan. As discussed in Lesson 103, I highly recommend creating  a chart and dividing a 24-hour day into 15-minute increments. Using the time you are scheduled to leave work as a starting point, think about how you currently spend each 15-minute period from then until the time you typically got to bed. Then look for opportunities to optimize your afternoon and evening schedule to allow you to get to bed at a reasonable hour. This may require eating out less, spending less time at happy hour, or simply ending television-watching 15 to 30 minutes early to signal your body and brain to enter wind-down mode and fall asleep more easily at the preferred hour.

Crafting the Perfect Wind-Down

Speaking of sleep, many of us have difficulty getting there because we expect our bodies to go from full speed to an immediate stop. While there may be medical and deeply psychological causes that may prevent a person from getting to sleep at night, insomnia is also often caused by lack of an effective pre-bed time routine. For this reason, we must plan a “wind down” period into our nightly schedule. The components of an effective wind down will vary from person to person. Therefore, each individual must think about environmental factors that will help him or her relax. In general, relaxing in a comfortable setting with dim lighting and no electronics will help most people “unplug” from the digital world before going to bed. During this time, lighting candles, reading a book, and/or listening to music are favorable activities. Those who find baths relaxing may wish to use this time to bathe in warm water scented with lavender. Individuals who suffer from muscle tension or other physical ailments may find it beneficial to apply a scented heating pad or other therapeutic treatments to help reduce tension and pain prior to attempting to sleep.

The objective of the wind down period is to focus on calming sights, sounds, and smells to shift the mind from work responsibilities and other stressors to a place in which both mind and body can rest through the remainder of the night. Those who have difficulty shifting their thoughts may find it beneficial to repeatedly remind themselves that all work, personal, and social responsibilities will be there when they wake up the following day and may be addressed in due time. Moreover, an individual who has a well-rested mind and body is more capable of  finding and implementing solutions than one who is exhausted in both mind and body. After winding down, proceed directly to bed, allowing an extra 15 minutes prior to the scheduled bed time to actually fall asleep.

The next lesson will discuss setting the tone for the a successful, less stressful day by creating an efficient and enjoyable morning routine.

 

Organizing Your Life 103: Creating a Schedule – Sample

Rolanda L., Professional Organizer illustrates a sample schedule and discusses recommendations to add balance to each day.

When creating a schedule, there are four major components I personally believe are non-negotiable elements: food, hobbies, spiritual time, and relaxation. A healthy individual is a well-rounded individual. Many of us are prone to forgetting to make time for the things that keep us well-rounded; therefore, making an active effort to schedule these activities is a positive step toward adding balance to our lives.

Schedule your meals.

Many of us are attempting to cram entirely too  many tasks into 24 hours. Consequently, we skip breakfast. Workers often so busy, they miss out on having an adequate lunch period. At the end of the day, we may be more prone to overcompensating with a dinner that is too calorie-dense and lacking in essential nutrients. Scheduling meals, and sticking to your schedule, can help you consume your meals in a more timely fashion, have more energy throughout the day, and become more intentional about the food you eat. Weight loss, fewer nutritional deficiencies, and a better sense of overall well-being are direct results of effective meal planning.

Make Time for Hobbies

In addition to nutritional and health disorders, modern humans may also develop stress-induced disorders as a result of the way we plan and utilize our time each day. Although working and earning a living or studying and earning a degree are important, most people also require time to “refresh.” Participating in the leisure activities we enjoyed before we were required to work or study full-time every day can help keep stress at bay. These activities may include any productive activity such as playing sports, arts and crafts, taking a class for fun, reading, attending social events, watching a limited amount of television, watching movies, etc.

Plan Time to Get Spiritual

Many refer to their spiritual time as “quiet time” set, usually aside to pray, read holy scripture or other religious books, meditate, or simply reflect on general life questions and be thankful. Even people who are not “religious” may benefit from setting aside time and using it to ponder the great mysteries of life and the universe before getting into the their day-to-day routine or prior to winding down at night.

Relaxation

Each year in the U.S., more than 3 million people report experiencing insomnia or difficulty sleeping. The underlying cause of the condition varies from case-to-case; however, for many, lack of a proper sleep time routine makes dozing more difficult. I highly recommend at least a 15-minute relaxation period prior to getting ready for bed and attempting to go to sleep. The 15-minute period may consist of any activity that allows for transition from the regular daytime pace to a more tranquil nighttime state. Examples of relaxation activities may include listening to music, reading, watching a relaxing TV show before bed, dimming the lights and lighting candles, infusing oils for aromatherapy, etc.

Sample Schedule

The sample schedule I created was based on a person who is slightly more of a night owl and works from 9 to 5 during the day.  The schedule begins with the person’s morning routine and picks up later with the afternoon routine when it is time to leave work. When creating your own schedule, I recommend starting by working in 15-minute increments for greater flexibility and accuracy. If you are unable to create your own schedule “from scratch,” you may use the sample as a general guide and adjust the times and activities to fit your current needs.

 

Sample Schedule

 

 

 

 

 

How to Avoid Getting Stuck “In the Meantime”

Rolanda L., explains how to avoid common pitfalls associated with getting stuck in “in the meantime” situations.

We often commit to things for which we lack passion. We take jobs that aren’t in our intended career field because we need to make ends meet. We spend time in less-than-ideal settings with an incompatible social group because it’s “better than being alone.” We go on dates with people who probably aren’t appropriate matches from the outset because “you never know who will be the one (…debatable…you can often tel who is NOT the one).” We remain in dysfunctional relationships of all varieties because “it could be worse.” This sort of thinking has its time and place. Unfortunately, for many of us, it is often applied virtually all the time in many of the wrong places.

Choosing “in the meantime” situations is only appropriate when combined with an exit plan that leads the individual closer to his or her ideal goal. “In the meantime” is not an adequate substitute for the lack of a goal or plan. While it is true that plans are sometimes delayed or even derailed, an exit strategy must also be malleable enough to accommodate the unexpected hand life may sometimes deal. Otherwise, there may be a great temptation to remain focused on the immediate term instead of looking out onto the horizon and making plans according to the terrain that stretches forth. It is when a person submits to the temptation to remain focused on the immediate term that the risk of encountering long-term lack of fulfillment sets in.

Unfulfilled Life Ambitions Often Lead to a Vicious Cycle

Remaining in an “in the meantime” situation that is not congruent with your overall desire for your life may seem comfortable at first, but eventually, the effects of not actively working toward your goals will emerge in other areas. Working a steady job, but uncompelling may pay the bills at first, but spending large chunks of time in a role that does not feed into a greater passion is oftentimes accompanied by added stress or even feelings of “numbness.” People often utilize their hard-earned income to alleviate stress and avoid numbness by pursuing other outlets, including expensive vacations, drinking, gambling, shopping, or other activities to create a greater separation from “work” during off-duty hours. There is nothing inherently wrong with leisure activities. However, knowing that you are committed to working 5 days a week in a capacity that is in conflict with your life goals can intensify the urge to get as far away from work as possible when you’re not working. The cycle becomes vicious when you realize are spending so much of your income on activities to get away from work, that you find yourself having to work more to maintain your basic, everyday needs throughout the work week (i.e. food, shelter, clothing, electricity, transportation, etc.). Entering the cycle often means having to delay your desired goals even longer.

 

Avoiding the Cycle of Unfulfilled Ambition

The cycle of working to make ends meet and spending the rest on activities that help us forget about work is alarmingly common among many of us. While most people mistakenly think the key to avoiding the cycle is to either be independently wealthy or very lucky, it is not only feasible for some people to avoid the pitfalls of working in an unfulfilling job altogether, but it is even possible for those who absolutely must work an “in the meantime” job and leverage it to pursue a life goal.

 

The Role of Detailed, Yet Flexible Planning

Plans are made and broken all the time. However, attempting to reach a desired destination without utilizing a map is the least efficient way to get there. Similar to traveling to a new restaurant or shop on an unfamiliar side of town or visiting a friend in a new city, employing the use of a “map” when working toward a goal can be very beneficial. When working to achieve career goals, an action plan or “career map” might include the level of education required to achieve the ultimate goal, schools that award the required degrees or certificates as well as their entry requirements and tuition costs. In addition to education, a plan might include related part-time jobs that will not only help cover the costs associated with achieving the goal, but also help develop skills that can be used in pursuit of the ultimate career destination. Internships and related postgraduate entry-level positions may also be included in the plan.

Planning is not only helpful when working toward a fulfilling career. “Mapping” is also effective when navigating the road to personal and relationship goals. A person who would like to dedicate more of their resources to philanthropy may wish to map out a course to working for a non-profit organization or create a detailed budget to determine how to achieve a goal of giving a certain amount to charitable organizations each month or year. An individual who wishes to allocate a certain amount of time to community service projects may start by creating a detailed schedule and determining changes that may need to be made in the interest of freeing up time to do volunteer work. When seeking new friends or a romantic relationship, mapping out shared interests you would like to have with a potential friend or partner and planning to participate in related activities is an excellent starting point for meeting like-minded people.

Conclusion

Whether you are feeling stagnant in your job, relationships, or any other area in your life, take a step back, evaluate where you are in relation to where you would like to go, and plan accordingly. By continuing to reassess your current whereabouts and reevaluate your plan, you will eventually end up where you would like to be.