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

 

 

 

 

 

Organizing Your Life 102: Reclaiming Your Time

The Advantage of Learning to Budget Your Time

In the inaugural lesson of OrganizeU, entitled “Getting Organized for a Good Night’s Sleep” we explored steps toward establishing a foundation for better time management. In this installment, we will begin to focus on adding more detail to the way we structure our time by creating a schedule. The ultimate objective of creating a schedule is to gain the ability to optimize the way you utilize the hour you are awake. Budgeting your time will allow you to readily examine which activities add value to your life and are, therefore, more worthy of your energy and attention. I will note that in this case, “worthiness” does not necessarily correlate to “enjoyment.” There are some activities that are not very enjoyable for most people, yet they are of a high level of importance; therefore, we must do them. An example would be standing in line to renew your driver’s license. By creating a schedule and evaluating potential opportunities to maximize your time, you will be in a position to make better decisions in advance such as reminding yourself to renew your license online, thereby avoiding long waits at the DMV, or to better manage your time waiting in line by bringing a book to read or a work task you can complete remotely.

Before You Make a Schedule

For most people who have never operated on a self-generated schedule and stuck to it, structuring their day into preset time slots may seem like a very daunting, possibly stifling task.  Therefore, I recommend individuals spend one week simply assessing how they currently use their time. For seven days, simply keep track of how long it takes to complete each task, from waking up to getting out of bed, brushing teen and showering, getting ready for work/school/other daily activity, mealtimes, even downtime. The time expenditure record can simply be a list of notes regarding all daily activities and the start and end time for each.

Week 2: Create a Schedule

At the end of the seven day tracking period, review the notes, and create a rough schedule based current time expenditures. While the goal is to devise a schedule that overall works with your current lifestyle, some opportunities for time savings may already be evident. Adjustments may be made at this time; however, the schedule can and likely will be tweaked as time passes and more opportunities for better time manage are discovered.

Week 3: Follow the Schedule

Over the next week, do your best to follow the schedule. Expect that you may not be able to perfectly adhere to it, but always try to get right back on track if you exceed the allotted planned time. Also recognize that you may need to adjust your parameters if you find you need more or less time to complete certain tasks.

Week 4: Maintain the Schedule

By Week 4, you will have had time to create your new schedule and tweak it to increase practicality. From this point on, proceed to use your new self-made schedule as a general guide for performing daily tasks as well as for scheduling appointments and social activities. You may find that your confidence grows as you observe all the tasks you are consistently able to complete along with your ability to communicate your newly optimized schedule to others. As outlined in the previous lesson, your schedule should begin with your self-established wake-up time and end with your designated pre-bedtime preparation (shower, reading, quiet time, etc.) followed by sleeping at bedtime.

Adjusting to a schedule may not happen instantly. The key to success is to continue to work diligently in spite of mistakes and to remain patient with yourself.

Lesson 103 will feature customizable sample schedules for those who may have difficulty deciding where to begin when attempting to budget their time. See you in the next installment of OrganizeU!

**In the meantime, check out this handy supplemental list that condenses this entire lesson into four streamlined steps.

Organizing Your Life 101: Getting Organized for a Good Night’s Sleep

There is a subset of people who describe themselves as “very disorganized” and generally feel the need to start completely from scratch when attempting to bring order to their lives. For individuals who relate to this sentiment, I recommend the idea of gradually creating structure. The key is to do so in a manner that does not feel “confining.” Keeping track of the changes you are implementing and recording their effects will help you determine if your new system is truly beneficial and whether further adjustments are required.

The Importance of the Wake-Up

For many people, a critical point of origin on their road to getting organized may be simply defining a set time to wake up each morning. Waking up at the same time has a way of defining and setting the tone for most other activities that take place throughout the day. On the first few mornings of adhering to a new establishing a wake-up time, a person who regularly stays up too late will likely notice the negative effects of not getting enough sleep. The wake-up time can be adjusted, but the person will eventually realize that waking up later may result in limited time to do other things. Therefore, setting a static wake-up time is the also the first step to learning effective time management.

Setting a Bedtime

Once a person finds a wake-up time that allows for completing all planned activities while still feeling rested, the next natural step is to set a nightly bedtime. This is the time at which all daily activities have been completed in addition to a bedtime routine (i.e. showering, changing clothes, and perhaps even having a few moments of quiet time to mentally and emotionally shift gears to prepare for sleep). Like setting a wake-up time, choosing the best time to go to bed may also require trial and error. However, if you are recording the effects your new wake-up time is having on your energy level, it will likely be more apparent when you generally feel the need to sleep.

Creating a Foundation for Better Time Management

For many, establishing the right nightly time frame for sleep can be a giant leap toward organizing the hours during which they are awake. Planning and getting into the routine of an established wake-up and bedtime will help set the tone for a good night’s sleep. However, if health factors make sleeping more difficult, seeking and following the advice of a medical practitioner is advisable. The next post in the OrganizeU series will focus on developing better time management during the daytime and evening hours for improved energy and optimal productivity.