Ever feel like you're starring in your own Groundhog Day movie? • You wake up, get yourself halfway straightened, grab the requisite cup of coffee and then hit the ground running. • Lunch? More often than not, that means grabbing something from the vending machine or scrounging a half-smashed granola bar from the bottom of your ever-growing bag. • Then, of course, there's more racing in the afternoon to get it all (or at least something) accomplished before you race home to face the second shift: getting dinner on the table, household chores and, if you have children, dealing with homework, extracurricular activities and bedtime. • Finally, you fall into bed exhausted and feeling somewhat defeated, only to have the alarm clock rouse you from a deep sleep a few hours later just so you can do it all over again.
Sadly, this is a reality for far too many working women. It's a stressful and depressing cycle. Happily, it is one that can be broken without too much effort. The reality is, a little organization is all you need to completely avoid the five biggest time traps working women face. Step off the proverbial treadmill and get more time in your day by planning ahead on these five fronts:
Plan monthly menus: Research has shown that stress levels spike in a large percentage of women every day around 4:30 p.m. Why? If you don't already know what you're serving for dinner, it's something you have to figure out on top of getting your to-do list done for the day. When you don't have a plan, it creeps up on you. Eliminate the daily stress of "What's for dinner?" by planning monthly menus. Once a month, block off 40 minutes or so and sit down with a notebook, a cookbook or a computer if you search for recipes online. Then go to town. The entire project goes much more quickly if you assign a theme to each day of the week, (i.e., Mexican Mondays, Turkey Tuesdays, etc.). Why? Because it's much easier to find four recipes under a daily theme than it is to find 20 to 30 recipes at random. Do this once a month for a year and you'll never have to wonder "What's for dinner?" again. Use a program like Evernote to organize recipes you clip online and store your monthly meal plan on your computer.
Schedule use of technology: Allot specific windows of time to check e-mail or log on to social-media programs you use for work-related purposes. Then use programs like Concentrate (getconcentrating.com) or Freedom (macfreedom.com) to keep yourself honest when you should be working.
Adopt a nighttime ritual: Do you typically head off to bed without doing a sweep of the last room you were in or unloading the dishwasher? Five minutes each night can save you hours of decluttering down the line. Do yourself a favor and take five minutes to do a few things that will set you up for a smoother day tomorrow, whether it's printing that file you know you want to read tomorrow or something as simple as getting the coffee ready to go so you just have to press "brew" in the morning.
Don't skip your workout: When you're feeling crunched for time, it's often the first thing to go. But studies show that workday workouts boost your time-management skills, ability to concentrate and overall productivity. Stop shortchanging yourself and everybody else in the name of saving time. Pick a consistent time to work out each day (or every other day) and stick to it.
Don't be creative: We love creativity as much as the next person, but there are some things, like lunches, that don't need to be that special. You're not winning points anywhere by making a different sandwich and snack every day. At the beginning of the week, buy five of the same thing — yogurt, pretzels, whatever — and then just throw it all together in the morning and you're done.