13 busy women reveal the small habits that create calmer, more productive days

Sometimes it’s the smallest details of your day that matter the most. Feel energized with these smart tips from women just like you.

Mattia Pelizzari | Stocksy United

It’s 6 a.m. and you’re up and at ’em! Well, sort of. (Often your body is physically upright, but your brain isn’t quite at ’em yet.) Whether it’s your technology or your offspring waking you each day, goodness knows most mornings aren’t easy.

It takes planning and preparation to start each day off right, and morning habits absolutely matter. You may think the details aren’t important, but as lives get busier and faster paced, those tiny particulars become more useful than you once thought. They ground you.

You may have heard the now-famous speech by retired Navy Admiral William McRaven about the importance of making your bed every morning. In a commencement speech at the University of Texas he said that if anyone wants to change the world they should, “start off by making [their] bed.”

“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day,” he said.

The little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right.”

“Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

We asked 13 women what they do to make each day just a little more productive and manageable. For many of them, starting the morning off with positivity and productivity meant making their bed before getting on with the rest of their tasks. For others, the routine was deeper and a bit more spiritual. Some of the rest of their answers may surprise you.

Start off the day alone

Annie Wood Bell, 30, of Anderson, Indiana, knows the value of time to herself before the daily sprint of getting kids off to school. Making sure to have a few minutes alone with her coffee before the madness begins helps her to stay calm and centered as she makes her way through the day.

Don’t hit the ground running

For some busy people, kicking off the day with instant productivity can make them feel stressed and anxious from the moment they wake up. Dani Daniel, 31, Houston, listens to an app that reads the Bible out loud while she gets ready in the morning. This helps center her day, calm her spirit and keep her soul grounded.

Shine your sink

Jasmine, 27, photographer and mom of one, Chicago, said that getting all her dishes done and counter area clean before she goes to bed makes the morning go so much smoother. Something about waking up to a clear space makes her mind feel clear and calm as she enters the kitchen, ready to start her day. The online household management guru FlyLady agrees, saying that “shining your sink”—or cleaning your sink at night so well it shines—will set the stage for a happy, productive day.

Re-think how much time you really need to accomplish something

Annie Linn, 26, mom of two, from Albuquerque, replied that first thing in the morning, she puts the coffee on and gets at least one small chore done while it’s brewing, which takes about six minutes. Whether it’s putting in a load of laundry or wiping down the counters, the double-duty helps her day be a lot more productive. We tend to think that we need large blocks of time to achieve anything significant, but you can do a lot in six minutes. Take a few six-minute chunks throughout the day, and you’ve emptied the dishwasher, paid a couple of bills, and called the pediatrician. It’s almost like you’re a … productive person.

Multi-task—but make it fun

Amber Weeks, 35, Albuquerque, says taking her kids on fun outings while she runs errands keeps her days running smoothly and happily. She’ll frequent the local mechanic that’s next to a beautiful library and rose garden so that she can mix in fun moments with her kids with checking off items on her to-do list. Alternating chores with connection makes the day less of a rat race.

‘Tidy 10’

Amy Groenhof, 31, of Colorado Springs, employs the “Tidy 10” method of cleaning. For just 10 minutes, everyone in the house furiously tidies up whatever they can. When the timer goes off, everyone is done cleaning for the day. A lot can be accomplished in just 10 minutes of super-focused, community-oriented cleaning!

Order off the menu

We all know that actually cooking isn’t that hard—it’s the deciding what to make and the shopping for and prepping of ingredients that makes us feel exhausted just thinking about it. Eryn Beecham, 33, a mom in Albuquerque, plans five meals per week that are interchangeable between days and gets her supplies ready on the weekend. When 5:30 p.m. rolls around and kids are begging for dinner, she can choose one of the five and get cooking—without the “mental bandwidth” drain of making decisions and rummaging around in the cupboards.

MORE TO READ: 15-minute family dinner recipes

Not just stretch pants

Jessica Paul, 29, of Montgomery, Alabama, is a stay-at-home mom who finds that getting dressed in “real” clothes, rather than staying in yoga pants or sweats, makes a big difference. She starts her “workday” at the same time as her husband—making sure she’s dressed and ready for the day by the time he heads out the door for work. A cute (yet comfy!) outfit can increase her productivity and help her feel ready for whatever the day may hold.

The first thing you read matters

Kicking off the morning with whatever horrific news is on the front page can cast an anxious pall over the rest of the day. Carrie Daukas, 34, of Thornton, Colorado, starts every the morning with few chapters of the Bible over coffee. Her family knows she’ll be occupying the same place on the sofa each morning, Bible, and mug in hand. The time to herself to pray and read sets the tone—a peaceful, centered tone—for the rest of the day.

Keep clutter contained

We all love an organized house, but Abbie Claire of Chicago makes peace with clutter by making a kind of a deal: the clutter is allowed to exist, but she confines it to one corner of the kitchen table. By having this “staging area” for clutter, she keeps most of her house tidy, and she deals with the corner whenever she has a few free minutes.

Point your wheels downhill

Leigh Anderson, 42, of New York, uses a technique from the book Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day. She ends her workday in the middle of a thought, instead of abandoning her desk when she can’t think of anything else to do. (Of course, she leaves a note for herself!) As she gets going the next morning, she can just leap back in right where she left off. This keeps the momentum going and prevents her from saying “now what was I supposed to be doing today?”

Designate a time for everything

Renee Overholt, 31, of Phoenix, staggers her chores throughout the day. A stay-at-home/work-from-home mom, she has certain times she gets certain jobs done, and doesn’t feel guilty about the pile-up during the rest of the day. Beds are made and rooms are tidied each morning, but dishes wait until after lunch. Toys are put away before nap time, and she doesn’t worry about the mess until then.

Having clear-cut guidelines as to when each chore gets done cuts down on guilt and stress when things seem a little messy or out of hand. She always knows that when 1 p.m. rolls around, the toys will be in their bins!

Keep your free time free, and for you

The evenings and weekends are supposed to be your free time, right? Well, not if your to-do list interferes. Says Alexis Deise, 42: “My secret trick is to do everything possible in my breaks from work, where it’s quiet and I can get things done quickly with no interruptions, rather than at home. Gym at lunchtime, pay bills during my mid-morning break, deal with school stuff and make appointments when I need a break in the afternoon. It gets done faster and it feels less like an annoying imposition on my time when it’s a break from work rather than an encroachment on my rare free time.”

Ashley Jonkman
Ashley Jonkman
Ashley is a freelance writer and editor. She lives with her husband, two sons and two rambunctious dogs in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Leave a comment: