“There’s so much free time on my work calendar this week” said No SAS Employee Ever.
For most of us there's never a lot of downtime at work but there are certain times of the year that we consider our ‘busy season’. For Work/Life it’s January, right after the holidays. So we know to take full advantage of our time off during winter break. During your busy season at work the demands of your job and home can feel insurmountable. During these times, it's extremely important to manage your stress levels in order to avoid burnout.
When thinking about stress management, one of the factors to consider is what you have influence or control over and what you do not. During a busy season at work you might not have control over how things are done at your job but you do have some control and influence over what goes on at home. This post is a recommendation that you take some time before your busy season at work to get your life outside of the office more organized. That way, once you've left work for the day your time at home can be restful and restorative and not a compounding stressor.
Here are some tips for how to get organized at home in preparation for your busy season at work:
Stock up on Supplies. Plan a trip to your local wholesale club, Target/Walmart or use an online service like Amazon Prime Pantry. Stock up on things you find yourself running to the store for during the week: toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper, dish detergent. Also include non-perishable meal ingredients that can help with last minute dinners and, if you have a teenage boy at home like me, lots of snacks: rice, pasta, cereal, granola bars, taco dinner kits, frozen fruit, waffles, trail mix, pretzels, etc.
Limit Laundry. Can you limit laundry to 1 day a week? Gasp! Can someone besides you do the family’s laundry? Double Gasp! In my house, the rule is that all dirty laundry is to be in hampers by noon on Saturday (Saturday is the day my son has to clean his room and bathroom before lunchtime). If it’s not there, it doesn’t get washed that week – at least, not by me. I do 4-5 loads of laundry on Sunday and one load of towels on Wednesday. This is an easy one for me because there are only three people living in my house. If laundry one day per week is not possible for you, how about 2?
Plan your meals a week ahead.
- Start a Pinterest board for healthy dinners that are 30 minutes or less and make-ahead healthy breakfasts ideas. Tip: Check out SAS Nutrition’s Blog for lots of ways to make family meals healthier.
- Divide dinner responsibilities among household members: one to cook, one to clean up, one to prepare lunches for tomorrow (switch roles as needed). Even young children can participate.
- Try to only grocery shop once per week. If every meal for the week is planned ahead of time, you can purchase everything in one trip. Post the weekly menu in the kitchen to help keep you on track. Also, keep a list of items needed for your next grocery store trip (we have a small white board on the fridge for this).
Hire Help. This tip costs money but, if your budget will allow for it, it can be totally worth it. Consider whether or not you can pay someone to clean your house, take care of your lawn, walk or groom your pets, pick up your children from school, deliver your groceries, or check in on a family member for whom you are a caregiver. Even if the help is temporary, until you get out of your busy season at work, this can be tremendously helpful. Tip: hiring cleaners can be very expensive. If this is not in your budget, online home organizing/cleaning experts like FlyLady can help.
Delegate and Communicate. Do not attempt to take on everything by yourself. I know you CAN do it all but you should not HAVE to do it all.
- Use a shared family calendar like Cozi or Google Calendar. My family uses Cozi and we get weekly email updates with our schedules. My husband and I know each other’s work schedules and our family sports and social schedules for the week. You can also create shopping and to-do lists.
- Create a “Stuff that has to get done this week” list and have all household members sign up to do their part. Double check this list and see if there are any things that you can eliminate or be flexible on. When time is scarce and stress is high, do you really have to have the cleanest house on the block or will skipping a week of vacuuming be ok? This is a tough one for some of us control types (who, me?) I recommend the book Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu if you want to get a little better at letting go of your need for perfection at home.
Schedule time on your calendar for exercise.
- Wake up 20 minutes earlier for a short jog or bike ride?
- Schedule Walking Meetings during the week?
- Go for a walk while your child is at soccer practice or piano lessons?
- Attend an exercise class at lunchtime?
- Go for a walk, bike ride or play a game of tennis as a family after dinner?
- Try yoga with your kids as a way to wind down in the evening? (this one earns you extra points for modeling good stress management!)
Sleep! If you do nothing else on this list of suggestions, please make sure you allow at least 7 hours of sleep for yourself each night. Need suggestions for how to make that happen? Check out this article for sleep tips for the whole family.
Embrace Rain Checks. This is not the time to volunteer for another PTA committee, host a dinner party for the neighbors, or finish War and Peace in time for your bookclub meeting. You need time in the evenings and on weekends to rest, even if that means saying No (for now) to some social obligations - oops, I meant social invitations.
Talk about it. If you are starting to feel overwhelmed, please talk to someone. Your partner, your best friend, your therapist, a counselor from your company's Employee Assistance Program or Psychology Today…anyone that you know will be supportive. There are times when life is just too busy and the juggle to manage it all feels like too much. Sometimes simply talking about it can help bring down your stress level.
I’d love to hear from you! What do you do to stay organized at home during your busy season at work?