Stress is an inevitable part of life (especially do-it-all, go-for-the-goal entrepreneurs), but let's be honest: Life doesn't always have to be as chaotic as it seems. There are things that many of us do to amplify those toxic, overwhelming feelings that leave us feeling defeated, exhausted and less productive.
Here are 13 ways to eliminate those small stresses that cause big headaches:
1. Prep for your next day.
This one brings us back to grade school when our caretakers often packed our lunches after dinner and told us to put out our clothes out for the next day. Setting aside 30 minutes the night before to have everything you need ready to go makes sense when you think about the small tasks that bring you stress every morning.
The lost keys, the missing shoe, the struggle to iron the shirt you have just decided to wear or that lunch you begrudgingly overpay for are all a thing of the past with 30 minutes prep. Seems like a fair trade, right?
2. Block your time.
Time-blocking is the go-to habit for the super organized, but for the rest of us, it can be a little tricky to incorporate into brains obsessed with multitasking. If you're ready to become more productive, give yourself a certain amount of time to work on a specific task, set an alarm, and focus on getting as much as you can in that set amount of time and stop.
Whether it's responding to emails, writing "thank you" notes or cleaning your bathroom, you can often get much more done with an extra bit of focus and a desire to beat the clock.
3. Pack your clothes for the week.
This might be a little much for some, but mixing and matching your outfits for the week ahead can work wonders for your peace-of-mind during stressful weeks.
Press and hang your clothes up neatly, and voila--you'll feel like you have your own personal stylist all week. Bonus points for popping accessories in a plastic bag and sliding them over the top of the hanger.
4. Be your own personal assistant.
That bill you never opened is still sitting there, taunting you from the table, your junk drawer is becoming a junk corner and that dry cleaning? It's starting to grow roots. Anyone who has sat with a dozen small tasks sitting in the back of their mind knows that it can cause a big bout of anxiety.
Take control by scheduling some time each week to make those calls. Make your dentist appointment. Put stamps on those well-intentioned cards and mail them out. If you have the extra funds, hire an organized student to help you out a couple of hours a week.
5. Do the things you do not want to do now.
You know what they are, and if you need a reminder, just think about those things you keep putting off. The big talk with your partner, the desk overhaul, those expenses. Set aside two hours a week to deal with these items until they are gone.
6. Dominate your to-do list.
Does it feel like your long "to-do" list never gets done? You're not alone. In fact, 80 percent of people do admit to not completing all of the tasks they write down. Tackle yours by writing everything you need to get done down as you usually do and then group the items (like desk admin tasks, emails to return, or calls to make).
Once you have the tasks blocked, categorize them in order of importance. Take care of what is most urgent and start tackling.
Don't attempt to do more than five things on your list every day. If you have the energy and ability to do more one you've completed the fifth task, go for it, but it's time to stop beating ourselves up while dragging us into burnout territory.
7. Clean up your act.
Be honest: How does your purse/gym bag look? How organized is your desk? When was the last time you gave your electronics a good cleaning?
Take a few minutes to toss old receipts, throw old bottles out of your care, take those coffee cups back to the kitchen and put all of the makeup at the bottom of your purse back into the makeup bag.
8. Connect with someone.
With so much going on at work and summer weekends packed to the hour, it can be hard to catch up with good friends or fun colleagues.
Make a breakfast, lunch, cocktail or coffee date with someone you'd like to see today. Better yet, invite a few good friends and make it a fun group event.
9. Schedule "me time"
Do what you need to do in order to have some space to breathe and be you. Get a sitter for a couple of hours or book a massage in-between meetings.How can you possibly connect with others if you're not connected to yourself?
10. Eliminate the "Sunday blues" once and for all.
I'm pretty sure we'd feel less animosity towards Monday if we felt we had the week under control--instead of being whacked in the face with overwhelming numbers of tasks and obligations we forgot about.
The key to a successful (and manageable) week is structure. Set aside an hour on Friday to organize the week ahead. This small effort will do wonders for your peace of mind.
11. Stay healthy.
What are your health and fitness goals for the week? What activities will you incorporate into your schedule? What foods will you eat? Will you set aside time to meditate or meet a friend for a Yoga class?
Intentional self-care planning is a great way to solidify your health as a priority in your own mind and incorporate it into your diary the same way you would a business meeting.
12. Do something kind for someone.
In her book The Profit of Kindness, author Jill Lublin discusses how kindness can improve interpersonal relationships, boost productivity and protect your reputation. It also just feels good.
Surprise your partner with a date night, donate time or a few dollars to charity, mail a good friend a thoughtful card or simply open the door and smile at a stranger. Acts of kindness, both random and intentional, create an energy that has been proven to reduce stress.
As often as possible. It works.