Sometimes life can feel messy and chaotic.
The small things pile up. And those small things start to feel like big things.
But you can’t let it overwhelm you.
No matter what is going on in your life right now, you need strategies to help you get out of bed and get on with the day.
Below I’ve listed 10 strategies and tools that I highly recommend.
1. Make the most of the last hour of your day
A really good day starts the night before. The last hour of your day plays a critical role in determining how well you sleep, when you wake up, and how mentally prepared you feel to take on the day.
In the book ‘The Gap and The Gain’, the authors state:
“What you do during this one hour has effects that far outweigh what you do with the other hours of your day. It determines how productive and purposeful you are, as well as influences how well your brain functions. If you use this one hour powerfully, the next 24 hours will be successful.”
In the last hour of my day, I like to do things such as:
• Prepare my breakfast (overnight oats)
• Lay out my exercise clothes for the next day
• Do some gentle stretches
• Tidy my work desk and set things up for the next day
• Fill in my gratitude journal
• Write a short to-do list for the next day (only three things)
• Read a book to calm my mind
I avoid screens an hour before going to bed, too. Locking my phone in a Kitchen safe helps with this.
2. Create a barrier between you and big tech
Being constantly bombarded with notifications, never-ending feeds of information, click-bait, and endless entertainment options can leave us feeling mentally fatigued.
If you want to feel more in control and less exhausted, you need to find ways to stop running to your devices for quick shots of dopamine (instant gratification). Don’t rely on your willpower to do this.
We don’t have superhuman willpower. I’m fairly disciplined but I know I can’t take on the armies of industrialised persuasion (e.g. social media, Netflix, and YouTube).
This is why I have invested in tools that create a solid barrier between myself and my digital devices.
One of these devices is a Kitchen Safe.
When I work and sleep, my phone is away from my body and locked in this safe. It needs to be locked away because it’s just too tempting otherwise (especially when I’m doing challenging work).
If you don’t want to spend $100 on one of these devices, I get it (it’s a lot of money). A free alternative is to hand over your phone to someone you trust. Or place it on silent in another room.
3. Electronic timers
Electronic timers can help you cultivate time awareness. Setting timers can help you keep track of how long you spend on tasks. They prompt you to wrap things up and move onto the next thing you need to do.
I have various timers scattered all over my house and office. Depending on the task, I usually set them for 10, 20, or 30 minutes before I give myself a break.
4. Walk yourself to a better place
Stressing about something? Go for a walk to clear out the mental cobwebs.
Walking is a great way to get out of your head, clear your mind, and refresh yourself.
Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, I put on my sneakers, I head outside, and I walk. Usually after a walk, I have a fresh perspective on things. I realise the thing that was upsetting me isn’t such a big deal after all.
5. Invest in a low cost, mini personal assistant (aka a diary)
Diaries are super handy. They are the ultimate life management tools.
I think of my diary as being like a mini assistant. I open up my diary, I look at the week ahead and it tells me what I need to do, when I need to do it and where I need to be.
I’m going to share a simple trick to make using a diary simple and easy to do:
As soon as you know a test or event is coming up or an assignment is due, write it down. This takes less than 30 seconds to do.
Then have a set time each day when you open up your diary and look at it. That’s it.
Write stuff down in your diary. And look at it.
6. To-do lists
When you’re stuck in a rut, you need to pull yourself out by being in action. A to-do list can help you with this.
I use an app called Complice to create my to-do lists. I like Complice because it helps me set intentions/tasks that are aligned with my goals.
But you don’t need to use a fancy app. A piece of paper and a pen will do the job.
7. Play the lucky dip game
When I need a break from my work or I’m not sure what to do next, I pull out a random game I created (inspired by my friend and Tiny Habits coach Val McKinley).
This game involves a pile of old defunct pens placed in an old jam jar (but you could use pop sticks or little bits of paper). Here’s how the game works:
Each pen has a sticker attached to it. On the sticker is a tiny task (e.g. do one push up, put away one item, hit play on an upbeat song, clean whiteboard, sigh 3 times). When I’m not sure what to do next, I randomly pick a pen (like a lucky dip). I read the task and then I count down . . . 5 . . .4 . . . 3 . . .2 . . . 1! And then I go do that thing.
8. Tiny is mighty
Every decision you make takes effort and mental energy. But you can conserve some of your mental energy by creating habits.
I’m a huge fan of Professor BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits Method. He has made the process of creating habits feel fun and easy.
You can practice the Tiny Habits Method by taking Professor BJ Fogg’s free 5 Day Tiny Habits Program.
9. Capture tools
If you have lots of thoughts swirling around in your head, get those thoughts out of your head and down on paper or onto a whiteboard. This frees up your brainpower and helps you get back on track with what you need to do. Once the idea is captured, you don’t need to worry about it. You can come back to it later.
This is why I have notepads and/or whiteboards strategically placed in locations where I sit and think. For example, by my bed, in the kitchen, on my desk, in my bag, next to the toilet, and in the car.
What do I do with all these ideas that I’ve scribbled down?
Every few weeks, I collect them all up and go through them. Ideas that seemed great at the time but now don’t seem so amazing, I toss. But any good ideas or bits of information, I’ll file away for future projects or action them straight away.
10. Coping cards
Psychologist Dr Faith Harper recommends creating a set of coping cards to get through tough times. These are cards that contain quotes, mantras, grounding exercises, images or actions that calm you down and/or make you feel better. When panic hits, reach for your cards and go through them.
Dr Harper acknowledges that this strategy is cheesy stating, “It’s cheese with extra cheese sauce”. But it works when it comes to rewiring our brains. Your coping cards are a simple and effective way to help ground you in the present moment when you’re hit with a tsunami of powerful emotions.
To sum up
Whatever it is you’re currently facing, you can find a way to get through it. These strategies help me to get going and get into the day, regardless of how I feel.
I reckon there’s at least one strategy in that list of 10 that you could benefit from. The key is to try them out and see which strategies work for you. So, why not choose one now and see how you go?