A little advice from my experienced sister, aka katheats
When Larbs asked me to do a guest post for her this week about making the most of life while working at a desk job, my immediate answer was “But I don’t work one! I left mine for a different career!”
But then she reminded me that last year I completed a six month dietetic internship, where I had to work full time in four different rotations while still keeping up with my other fulltime job as a blogger and writer. And I still enjoyed life!
Similarly, when I was an account executive at a public relations firm before I went back to school, I may have not loved my day job, but my life felt pretty balanced.
So you might love your job or hate it. You may not get to decide how you spend your 40 hours at work. But you can choose what you do the rest of the time you’re alive. Here are a few of my tips to making the most of the hours you are not at work.
Have your exercise done by 5PM. One of the keys for my happiness was the freedom to leave work in the evenings and do “adult” things like meet a friend for a drink, go out to dinner on a weeknight, or simply enjoy a nice relaxed evening at home with my husband. If you have to rush to the gym and spend an hour with the other sweaty monkeys there, you’ll miss out on the rest of the world’s evening activities and feel left out! If you can’t fit in exercise on your lunch break or streamline it into your day with multiple walks or hiking up and down the stairs in your building, my advice is to workout in the morning. Here are some KERF tips from way back when! It’s not fun, per se, but it’s not all that bad. Use visualization to help picture your day when your alarm goes off. And be sure to get in 8 hours of sleep! Getting up at 5 to exercise (even if it’s just a YogaDownload.com session on your bedroom floor!) will never be fun if you stay up too late.
Which brings me to point #2: Save TV for the weekends. Yes, it’s fun to discuss last night’s shows with your coworkers in the morning, but TV is the biggest waste of weeknight time. Pick one night a week for your very favorite “can’t miss it” show to watch live. But save all the rest to watch online or via DVR on the weekends (bonus points if you fold laundry or do your weekend cleaning while you watch!)
Speaking of cleaning, Set up systems that work for you. Put your cleaning supplies near the things that need to be clean. For example, Method wipes next to your sink. Every morning when you get out of the shower, wipe down the sink and perhaps the bathroom floor. Then you won’t have to clean on Sunday! Similarly, put all of your bills on auto billpay. (Have you ever used your banks online billpay? It’s a lifesaver!) Unsubscribe to any emails you don’t LOVE to see arrive in your inbox. Go ahead and sort mail when you get it – recycle the junk and take letters out of envelopes, then recycle those. When it’s time to go through the important stuff, you’ve already gotten rid of the excess paper. Also, unsubscribe yourself to those catalogs that go straight to recycling so you won’t even have to see them! Mentally prepare extra portions of dinner so your lunchbox will practically pack itself with leftovers. The more mundane tasks you can automate, the less you’ll have to do.
If you are so lucky to have a spouse, partner or roommate who cooperates, enlist them for a little teamwork. Figure out what tasks and what time of day work best for both of you and offer to swap. For example, if you work late on Tuesdays and they have dance class on Thursdays, see if you could do a double lunch pack for each other those nights. That way you won’t have to come home late and still pack a lunch. During my internship I asked Matt to pick one night a week to make a soup for me, and put those right into my calendar. Or perhaps your mailbox is far away to pick up the mail in the evenings but the trash take out is on your way out in the morning for work. Set up a deal with your roommate so you both don’t have to go to the mailbox every day. The more tasks you can share, the less each of you have to worry about. If you live alone, see if you can recruit a friend at work to do a lunchbox swap or a neighbor who will mow your grass every other week if you alternate and mow theirs too.
Use a meal plan. The number way secret to healthy eating is a meal plan. If you don’t have healthy food in the fridge, you won’t eat it. And there is nothing worse than coming home from work hungry and not having a clue what you should make. If you have any inkling on what’s for dinner, you can double up and make extras one night. Chop all of your carrots at once and get the cutting board out only once. Double up on rice one night and put it in your soup the next. If you don’t have a plan, these little time-saving tweaks are harder to realize. I swear that the easiest lunchbox to pack (other than leftovers from dinner) is a salad. Much easier than a sandwich! And never, ever pack your lunchbox in the morning. It’s way too stressful of a time to put thought into an important meal! I packed my lunch before we made dinner each night so the cutting boards were about to get dirty anyways. And if you’re strapped for breakfast making time, you can make one giant batch of stove-top oatmeal to reheat during the week!
Lastly, and this one should come as no shock, keep yourself super organized. Use whatever tools you like. I am partial to all of Google’s organization tools – Calendar, Tasks, souped-up Gmail because they are accessible anywhere, but figure out a system based on what you prefer. [I’ve got tips for all of these in my NERD KERF video section!] Delegate tasks that can wait to a “weekend list” to look over on Sunday morning instead of worrying about something late on a Tuesday night. If they are no longer important to you on Sunday, they aren’t worth your time. Set up a multiple inbox in Gmail so you can sort important and unimportant emails as they come in. Put your meal plan right into your Google calendar.
One final thought: don’t make your life harder than it has to be. If there are things you hate doing that are somewhat optional, figure out a way around them. If they aren’t optional, figure out a way to make someone else do them! Or shift where you put them in your day. Think outside of the box – things don’t have to be done the way you’ve always done them.