12 Ways to Stay Sane and Productive When Life Gets Crazy


Sometimes, life really ramps up and takes you for a ride.  Everyone experiences that occasional tidal wave of stressful life events, whether it’s an enormous project at work, sick kids, or moving cross-country. It can be difficult to maintain your workload at the office with the extra stress in your life. Something as simple as a line at the post office can sap your time and energy fast! Check out this list of 12 tips to keep yourself together when the you-know-what hits the fan.

To-do list

Flickr/Alan Levine

1. Make a list

Lists are the best. (You’re reading one right now!) When lots of tasks are looming, we are all easily overwhelmed by the pressure in times of increased stress. Spend 20 minutes at the start of each workday to make a list and prioritize what needs to be done today, tomorrow, and this week. Use an app like Do It Tomorrow, plain old Post-Its, or another note-taking strategy that works for you.

2. Check it twice… and setup for success.

Once you’ve prioritized and organized your tasks, organize your space. Get whatever information and materials you need to accomplish a given task ready for action, so the act of completing your task doesn’t involve hunting down a missing folder (or a missing co-worker!) for 30 minutes.

3. Delegate (and don’t be afraid to say no)

Whether it’s asking your kids to take on extra chores, or asking co-workers to assist with a project, delegating tasks to other, less busy people means you can put more energy into what you need to get done. This is also the perfect time of year to exercise your “no” muscle: Sometimes it’s okay to say no to your boss! Especially if saying yes means you’ll be missing hours of sleep.


4. Reduce your email

Use a simple tool like unroll.me to capture all those inbox-clogging promotions, and trim down the size of your inbox. Just seeing a big number of new emails can send your mind into a tailspin, so reduce the panic of opening your mailbox in the morning.

5. Use those personal days

Personal days exist for a reason, but we all hesitate to use them for fear of seeming selfish to our team. Instead of cramming in personal errands during the workday, take one day to get everything taken care of. You’ll be amazed what the post office looks like at 9:30am. Taking a full day for personal errands will allow you to concentrate and focus more at work, instead of worrying about long lines during your lunch break.


6. Sync your calendars

If you haven’t already, sync calendars with your loved ones. When life starts moving at 100 miles an hour, events that aren’t in the forefront of your mind can easily be lost in the shuffle. It’s easy to forget about your child’s spring concert when your boss is keeping you at the office 55 hours a week. Share your calendar with your family, and make sure you’re using it!

7. Don’t stop exercising

You don’t need a treadmill desk to stay active when you can’t make it to the gym. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park in the far end of a parking lot, or take an extra lap while walking the dog. Use a pedometer app like Breeze to track your activity, and see how “small choices add up”.


8. Wake up early

The sun may not be out, but the early morning hours are often a gold mine of productivity. Wake up early and get in an extra run, a few quiet moments with your coffee, or get to the office before the noise and bustle begins.

9. Choose your outfit the night before

Follow the President’s example, and eliminate the small decisions so you have energy for bigger issues. Michael Lewis recently wrote in Vanity Fair:

You also need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” [Obama] said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions.

Something as simple as choosing your outfit for the day can suck time and decision-making power from your limited energy supply. Don’t wait until you need to rush out the door to decide that your pants don’t look right or your once-favorite shirt is too small (see #7!).


10. Be generous with kindness

Don’t forget to be generous to those around you, whether with money or a smile and a kind word. A generous attitude can be a lifesaver when you’re going through a difficult or stressful period. Getting upset by inevitable inconveniences will only add to your stress! Generosity is good for you, and could make a world of difference for someone else. “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you!”

11. Breathe

Five minutes of zen can truly save your day. You don’t need to be a yogi to enjoy the benefits! Take the time to breathe deeply, and relax your body and mind.

Large family eating Christmas dinner

12. Enjoy it.

Take the time to hug your friends and family, and tell them how much you appreciate them. Your spouse often bears the brunt of a stressful season in your lives, and in the midst of a big move or major life event can often feel forgotten and undervalued. Take the time to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you, even if they’re the one who dropped the box full of glasses in the back of the moving truck.

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