Staying Organized (A.K.A., How to Not Lose Your Mind and Work Out Even When You’re Busy)

If you know me at all, you might be surprised to see my writing a post about organization.  At first glance, I might not seem like the most organized person in the world.  And, truth be told, I’m really not.  I’m a little messy and a little scatterbrained.  I’m pretty always a few minutes late (or more).  I’m working on it.  But I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade.  When you’re a full-time working mom, a wife, a friend, a colleague, a health and fitness coach, and the list goes on and on, you learn pretty quickly that if you don’t figure out some kind of system to keep it all straight, you will show up an hour late to a birthday party because you got the time wrong or oversleep and have to face your boss when you’re late for work.  Not that I’ve done either of those things.  Okay, I’ve done both.

Over the past couple of years, especially the last almost 17 months since my son was born, I’ve developed a few different strategies to keep myself organized that I want to share with you in the hopes that they help you.  Since health and fitness are a big part of my life, a lot of these tips will focus on that aspect of life.

The absolute most effective and life-changing thing I’ve discovered in staying organized and prioritizing my health has been to get up early and get it done in the morning.  I know, that sucks.  People ask me a lot about how I fit my workout into my day with a young son, and most of them are always kind of disappointed when I say I get up early to do it.  “I could never do that,” they say.  “I love my sleep too much!”  Please believe me when I say that I AM THE SAME WAY!  Notice that I used the present tense there–I love my sleep too!  I don’t love getting out of bed with an alarm basically every day.  I want to sleep in, too, people!  “So, sleep in!” you’re thinking.  Sometimes I do.  But most of the time I don’t.

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Why?

I was having a hard time getting my workouts in.  I was tired at the end of the day, my kid stopped taking an afternoon nap, I felt guilty about “taking” that time away from my family, and the list of excuses goes on and on.  Getting up early means that I get my workout in with no excuses–what reason am I going to have to skip it?  Sickness or laziness.  That’s pretty much it.  I refuse to be lazy anymore, so up I get.  I have goals that I want to meet, and I have to work out to meet them.

When I saw how effective it was to get up to work out, I decided to get up a little earlier so I could get some work done, too.  So I do at least 30 minutes of a power hour (a scheduled hour during my day where I focus solely on one agenda) for my coaching work every day before the day gets started.  That way, no matter what else happens that day, I’ve at least done some of my responsibilities, the most important of which is my quiet time.  My Bible study and prayer time is in the morning either right before or right after my workout.  It sets the tone for my day and frames my mind in the proper way for whatever happens.

Another essential lesson I discovered was to suck it up.  Yes, you read that right.  I had to SUCK IT UP. Everyone is busy.  Everyone is stressed.  Everyone is overwhelmed by the demands of their lives.  I’m not the only person in the world dealing with busyness and stress.  I’m not a special snowflake–I’m just a woman trying to keep it all together.  I had developed the bad habit of feeling sorry for myself and letting my stress shut me down, and I had to just get over it and deal.  Some of you need to do that, too.  Love you, but it’s true.

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Once I had accepted that fact that my life is busy and stressful, I started to try and take some control back.  I didn’t want a schedule to control me, and I didn’t want to always be stressed.  I started doing a few simple things to help keep everything on track.

  • Use a planner.  If you have an iPhone, there is a free calendar app that is automatically loaded onto your phone.  Use it!  I make alerts for pretty much everything so I won’t forget.  I swear, I have the mind of a 150-year old.  I can’t remember anything on my own because there is too much to remember!  If you are a pen-and-paper kind of person, get a paper planner.  You can spend $10 at Target or Wal-Mart on a cheap one, or upwards of $70 on specialty planners from online stores. I have a cheapo from Target that works pretty well for me, and I also use my calendar app. Sometimes I write the same thing in both places, but a lot of the time I use the paper planner for my coaching stuff and the calendar app for everything else.

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  • Use to-do lists.  I have a to-do list every single day.  I have a list for my job, a list for personal things, a list for coaching things, and a list for household things.  I don’t keep them all separate all the time, but you better believe I have a list going at all times.  For work I just use sticky notes that I keep on my desk, but for general life stuff I mostly use a free app called To-Doist.  I love it! It’s easy to use and I can quickly add something to my list as soon as I think of it to help me remember what I need to do.

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  • Be specific.  When I’m working during the school year, it doesn’t make a lot of since to schedule my entire day because I know where I’ll be for 8-9 hours of it–teaching.  But for days off of school and summer break, I schedule out my days to keep myself accountable.  If I don’t write down what I need to do and schedule a time to do it, it won’t happen, especially when you throw in the chaos that can come with a toddler.  The day I’m writing this, I got all my coaching work done in the morning before Little Man woke up and was so excited to have some free time to watch crappy TV during his nap.  And then he didn’t nap.  UGH.  If I hadn’t scheduled the time in the morning to do the stuff that really needed to get done, I would have been stressing all day when things didn’t go as planned.  Okay, I still stressed, but not as bad.

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These are just a few options for getting organized and figuring out how to prioritize your health, but these are really effective for me at this point in my life.  It may seem like overkill, but I’m less stressed because of this.  After doing these things for a few weeks, it became a habit and now it’s just second nature.

I hope that you have found something helpful in these tips to apply to your own life!  I’d love to hear how you stay organized, too!

 

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Eating Clean/21 Day Fix: Meal Planning and Prep Tips

I’ve had a lot of people over the past couple of months talk to me about how hard it is for them to get organized with their meal plans.  Everyone seems to agree that if you plan ahead and prepare for the week, it’s a whole lot easier to eat clean and stay on your eating plan and away from temptations.  Actually putting this into practice, however, is easier said than done.

  
I think one of the major reasons that we all have such a hard time with getting organized is because it takes up so much mental energy to figure out how to organize our meals.  We are stuck in bad habits with unhealthy foods, and we’ve been eating that way for so long that it’s on autopilot.  We don’t have to think that much about it because it’s what we’ve always done.  Taking your food choices off of autopilot requires a lot more energy than we’re used to putting into this area of our lives, and it can be truly overwhelming.

I want to share some tips and strategies that I use every single week to plan out my meals and get–and keep–myself organized.  Am I perfect with this?  Of course not.  No one is!  But, I have a system that I took a week or so to think through and really put in some mental energy to set up, and now I’m back on autopilot again–but this time with healthy, nutritious choices!

Here is my basic process:

  • At the end of the week, usually Friday nights, I make a meal plan for the week.  Sometimes I do this in my calendar, but most of the time it’s on a piece of scrap paper.  I write down every day of the week and check my calendar and my husband’s to write down any events that will affect food.  Sometimes I have girls’ night out, sometimes he has a golf tournament, etc.  Then, I pick a dinner for each night of the week.  If I know I have a meeting after work on Tuesday, I’m going to choose a meal that is quick and something I’ve made before so it doesn’t take a long time.  ***I love to cook, and since I’ve been cooking for myself and my husband since college, I have a lot of meals in my rotation.  If you don’t, get on Pinterest and start searching for clean eating dinner recipes.  I have two recipe boards that you can follow–a general recipe board here and a clean eating board here.  I also follow food blogs–one of my favorites is Annie’s Eats.  She has a lot of great healthy recipes that use whole foods, and she has a quick dinner category, too.  Start experimenting!  Ask friends and family for recipes that they love.  Make a Facebook status asking people to share their favorite quick dinners.  Keep in mind that if you’re trying to eat clean, you probably won’t be able to make all the recipes the way that they’re originally written.  Think of the recipe as a guideline that you can change however you want/need to make it cleaner.

  

  • Once I’ve made my dinner plans for the week, I start my grocery list.  I like to start the grocery list before I plan out lunches/breakfasts because I have the dinner recipes right in front of me when I’m planning those.  I am famous for forgetting a major ingredient, and doing this helps me make sure I don’t forget the ground beef for burgers!
  • After I write down the ingredients for dinners, I plan out my breakfasts and lunches.  For ease, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness, I eat the same breakfast every day and I eat the same lunch all week. For my breakfasts, I know that I need banana, peanut butter, unsweetened almond milk, and unsweetened coconut flakes to mix with my Shakeology.  It’s on autopilot and I don’t really have to think about it.  Easy peasy.

  

  • Lunches can be tricky for any working adult.  Some of us (like me) have only 20 minutes to eat.  Some of us have the temptation of eating out with coworkers every day.  Some of us are in a car all day long and need something quick, and often choose a drive thru.  If you have access to a cooler or a fridge during your workday, then you can eat a clean lunch.  It takes discipline to turn down the McD’s Big Mac or your colleague’s guilt trip for leaving her to eat alone, but if you want to eat clean, that is a choice that you have to make.  I choose to eat the same lunch all week because it’s easier to make one meal on Sunday instead of figuring out leftovers every night.  I choose meals that can be put in one container so I can get all my food groups in the quickest amount of time.  I eat lunches like turkey chili with black beans and sweet potatoes, or a salad like this with quinoa instead of beans and shredded chicken added to it.  My lunches aren’t always exciting, but they are flavorful and healthy.  Again, search Pinterest or Google for quick clean lunches.
  • If you travel in a car for lunch, something that you can pick up and eat while you drive is essential.  These hummus veggie wraps would be perfect for that, or a whole wheat sandwich with turkey and veggies.  The internet is full of great and clean eating ideas!

 

To prepare my meals, I do everything the night before.  I put everything, including my snacks, in their containers and set out my breakfast ingredients so it’s faster.  I already get up at 5 to work out before I leave for work, so I’m not getting up earlier to fix a complicated breakfast!  That way I can get ready for the day and put my lunch and snacks in my lunch box quickly and be on my way.

  
For those of you who get home at dinner time and don’t have the energy to cook a meal, there are two great options to use.  One is the crockpot–put it all together the night before and stick the crockpot (with the lid on) in the fridge, and then just set it the next morning and you’re good to go.  Another great option is to make your dinner the night before and just heat it up.  For example, after you eat dinner Sunday night, you make Monday’s dinner.  When you get home Monday, you just heat it up and eat.  Before you go to bed Monday you make Tuesday’s dinner, and so on and so forth.

It’s not always easy, folks.  Sometimes I forget to prepare and run through a drive thru.  Sometimes the recipes I try are nasty and we end up at Chickfila.  But, more often than not, we are eating healthy foods at home because we prepare with this system.  You can do it!  Prepare your mind to put in some extra effort and energy for a few days, and then it becomes your new, healthy habit.

If you want more information on what you should be eating and how much, and you’re ready to invest in your health and fitness, let me know!  I’d love to help you get on track as your health and fitness coach.

I hope you found this information to be helpful.  What’s your favorite clean eating meal?  Share below!