You don’t get to the ripe old age of 34 without learning a thing or two. Among my most earth-shattering epiphanies is this: It’s illuminating to closely examine your daily routines, especially the mundane and repetitive ones, and ask yourself, “Is this worth the energy I’m putting into it? Are there any easy ways I can save myself some effort?”
These pain points are easy for me to spot because they’re often tied to last-minute or annoyingly menial tasks (like running to the grocery store for two ingredients). Or they’re the things I feel compelled to do, for no explicable reason, but never seem to have time for. For example, buying things for my apartment. Would my life be marginally improved if I purchased a shoe rack for my closet, or a wood polish spray for my furniture? Sure, but neither of these things are critical, and keeping them on my to-do just adds to the anxiety caused by nagging tasks.
Putting my own routines under the microscope helped me free up brain space and grease the wheels of my day, for a smoother, happier ride. It’s also allowed me to reallocate time to the work and hobbies I truly enjoy. Now, instead of grocery shopping, cleaning, and unpacking my luggage after a weekend trip, my newly optimized routine allows me to put my Swiffer and computer away and actually read before I go to sleep.
If you’re yearning to pare down your day, here are some suggestions for where to start.
Buy separate cleaning supplies for each room
Most people keep a scrub brush next to their toilet and cleaning supplies under the bathroom sink. I say: Take it one step further! Buy a Swiffer just for your room (or one for each floor in your house, if you have a house). My roommate and I share a Swiffer, which we keep in the hall closet. But I bought another, just for myself, which I keep in my bedroom. That way, I can give my floor a quick sweep anytime, almost without even thinking about it.
While you’re at it, buy separate… lots of things
You probably keep a reusable coffee mug at work. Expand on this idea by doubling up on all the things you use every day, keeping one at home and one at your office or school (or in your purse or gym bag): An umbrella. A water bottle. Deodorant. When I’m working at a client’s office, I keep an apple slicer at my desk, because I like to snack on fruit and the slicer is just a tad more convenient than a knife. (No, I’m not lazy. I’m savvy!) Sure, you could carry these things back and forth between home and work/school, but think of what a pleasure it will be to lighten your daily load.
Set text alerts with your bank
Most major banks provide the option to have your account balance texted to you daily. You can usually set up this feature in your online account. It’s a super-easy way to bypass the hassle of logging in and out of your bank’s app or online account. And seeing the balance daily will help you manage your money better.
Buy pre-chopped and -sliced fruits and veggies
Yes, they’re pricier. No, buying them does not mean you’re lazy! The difference between whole and pre-chopped veggies often means the difference between ordering takeout and getting a healthy meal on the table. Get fresh pre-chopped food in the produce aisle (they usually come in recyclable plastic packaging, which you could repurpose for storing office supplies or other household items afterwards); buy the frozen versions when you’re making veggie-heavy soups and stews.
Buy healthy snacks
I always want to have something nutritious on hand when the urge to nibble strikes. A few ideas for snacks that require no prep: pickles (they have hardly any calories!), dried edamame, beef (or turkey or buffalo) jerky, and nuts.
Pick a daily “practice” to help center yourself
Pick something you do every day — touching a doorknob, brushing your teeth — as a reminder to take a few moments to center yourself. Associate that daily act with taking three deep breaths (it’s ridiculous how calming this simple act is) or sending up a quick prayer of gratitude.
Most of us go through our days on autopilot, checking things off some never-ending mental list. Combing through your day for the endeavors (mental, emotional, and physical) that are draining your time and energy is a rewarding way to reclaim some time for yourself. Here’s to doing less grunt work and lessening the burden of chores, so you can get out there and live your real life!
Originally published on August 17, 2020.