Stress Less: 12 Tested Tasks For An Easier Week
How wonderful would it be to bounce out of bed on Monday morning, excited for the week ahead? Imagine what that would do to transform your day–heck, even your week. But how often does your Monday start with snoozing the alarm 15 times before you even consider opening your eyes and then proceeding to rush to make it to whatever is first on your schedule? Monday mornings are tough, I don't care who you are. Revving your engines for the coming week takes a lot of energy, which can be particularly difficult to muster on a groggy morning. You've read the lists on what you can do on Sundays to have a productive, less stressful week. The problem is, your weekends are usually as busy as your weekdays, and if they aren't, you are taking time for some much needed recharging. You don't have time to experiment with the unending suggestions on the internet.
So with that in mind, we took the guess work out of it for you. We scoured the lists, rounded up the tips from rockstar entrepreneurs to star athletes to the most productive young women, and we tested the various practices in search of twelve tasks even the busiest girl can handle on a weekend and a Monday morning. Imagine what you could accomplish in a week if you could eliminate unnecessary stress.
1. Prep your meals.
Time Required: 1 to 3 hours
The conversation about meal prep is typically in relation to living a healthy lifestyle, but whether you are trying to make healthier choices or not, there's no denying meal prep can help you have a less stressful week. It also doesn't have to take up your entire Sunday. Here's our five step method to easy meal prepping:
- Take stock of your current food inventory, noting what will be expiring soon so it's at the top of your must-eat list.
- List out what you will eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus a selection of snacks for the week.
- Pop over to your local grocery store if you need additional items for meal prepping that week.
- Go through your meal list and find the most time-optimal ways to cook any of the week's foods that will not be eaten raw. For example, if you're going to make roasted vegetables for three different meals, cook them all in the same pan. The same can be done for any proteins.
- Store all meals in containers that you can easily pack for lunch or pull out for an at-home meal.
Of all the tasks tested, meal prepping was the one that was the most transformative. It's surprising just how much time we spend cooking, purchasing, and acquiring food in a week. And it can get stressful, especially when you are rushing out the door. This practice can ensure that you always have food on hand that is energizing and filling, so you aren't grabbing whatever you can find at the most convenient location. Think of what you can do with that extra time and energy (and money)!
2. Empty your inbox.
Time Required: 20 minutes to 1 hour
The truth is inboxes come in all sizes, so the time required to do this is very difficult to quantify from one person to another. That being said, going through your inbox, determining what tasks must be accomplished in the coming week, and simply getting back to everyone before you even start your workweek can be extremely fulfilling. It also ensures that when you kick off your Monday, you are not getting overwhelmed by the onslaught of messages coming in your direction.
3. Tidy things up.
Time Required: 20 minutes
Eva Selhub, M.D., author of Your Health Destiny: How to Unlock Your Natural Ability to Overcome Illness, Feel Better, and Live Longer said it best, “At the end of the day, being organized is about having more time for yourself, and enabling you to live a more balanced life." Bottom line: keeping things tidy leads to better mental health. Sounds easy enough, right?
If you're in a time crunch, set a timer for 20 minutes and tidy up as much of your space as you can. Prioritize getting things off the floor, organized, and in its rightful place so you can start the week not stressing about that pile of laundry in the corner of your room.
4. Flush your brain of to dos.
Time Required: 15 minutes
A big reason #SundayScaries exist is because we get stressed about how much we have to get done in the coming week, recognizing how little we got done during the weekend. To avoid this feeling, and so you don't wake up Monday morning already running through all your to dos, take some time Sunday night fleshing them all out on paper.
Our suggestion? Light a candle, turn on some relaxing music, sit in the comfiest spot in your living space, and set a timer for 15 minutes. Take a big inhale and with the exhale, just flush your brain of all the things you need to get done this week, writing them down in no particular order as they come to mind.
5. Schedule your workouts.
Time Required: 10-20 minutes
Don't leave your workouts to TBD times. It will quickly become the last thing on your list and before you know it, it's Friday and the only exercising you've done is walking to and from your various meetings and obligations. Take a few minutes to schedule exactly when you'll work out that week. If you take classes, call the studio and book your spot.
Have you ever thought about doing a friend date over a fitness class? If you have plans to see your girlfriends this week, see if they'll take a class with you. Now you're optimizing your time, you have fitness goal accountability, and chances are, you'll enjoy the class more.
Time Required: 1 minute to 45 minutes
Everyone from Ariana Huffington to Kobe Bryant seems to be advocating for mediation these days, but that's because it WORKS! Starting the week out by taking a quite moment to connect your mind, body, and soul can have a monumental impact on your energy and stress levels. Whether you want to do a moving mediation, where you walk around the block while playing your favorite song, or try a brief guided mediation on an app like Headspace, or take a 45 minute meditation class online or at a local studio, there's an option fit for everyone. This can be done on Sunday night before going to sleep or even Monday morning. The key is finding a method that works for you, even if it requires going a bit outside your comfort zone at first.
7. Set your intentions.
Time Required: 20 minutes
Around here, setting intentions has become our favorite sport. If you want to have a less stressful week, you need to articulate what that looks like. Plain and simple. Our advice is to segment your week based on your various roles and activities, such as health, work, education, etc., and set individual intentions for each of those areas. That being said, if you feel more comfortable just setting a singular intention, go for it. The importance here is getting into a habit of defining what it is you hope to get out of this week. After all, if you don't ask for it, it's not coming to you.
8. Plan your week.
Time Required: 20 minutes to 2 hours
If you want to avoid unneeded stress this week, start by planning out your week. If you know what's coming, you won't be stressing about what you're forgetting or what still needs to be done. It'll all be nicely laid out in front of you. The time requirement ranges so drastically here because everyone's method is a little different. If you plan out your week moment by moment, it will take you longer. If you prefer daily to do lists and just scheduling any date-specific obligations, it will likely take you less time.
What I learned through practicing this for over eight years is that it takes time to truly find the method that works for you. Scheduling can get overwhelming if you get too detailed because as we all know, no one can plan for everything. So if you're new to planning out your week, think big picture. What do you need to accomplish this week? Who do you need to meet with? What engagements are already on the calendar?
9. Plan your outfits.
Time Required: 10 minutes to 1 hour
You don't have to be a fashion guru to plan out your outfits in advance. Think about it this way: the purpose of any preparation is to avoid the stress of making choices at last minute. This ensures that in the morning, there is one less choice you'll have to make.
Check out the weather forecast and take into account what you have going on in the coming week. Then, plan out your outfits accordingly. If you are planning to go to the gym or a fitness class, set out your gym bag and pre-pack your clothes and anything else you'll need. Have a big presentation? Iron your clothes and plan out any jewelry or accessories that will go with your ensemble.
10. Give yourself a blow out.
Time Required: 30 minutes to 1 hour
If you have hair that doesn't require a morning shower and can last with the help of dry shampoo and a little product, consider taking a shower Sunday evening and giving yourself a blowout. Style your hair as best you can so when you wake up in the morning, all you have to do is spruce it up and you'll be good to go. Again, this supports the idea of one less stress you have Monday morning. Depending on your hair type and plans, a good DIY blowout could last you all week! Pro tip: check out Drybar's YouTube Dry It Yourself blowout tutorials or order their book, Drybar Guide to Good Hair for All: How to Get the Perfect Blowout At Home.
11. Get to bed early.
Time Required: varies depending on personal preference
Getting to bed early on a Sunday is always the goal, but execution is another story, right? But if there's a way to ensure you have the most energy possible to kick off your week, it's getting to bed early. If you struggle going to sleep to begin with, try out a self-care focused night routine. Unplug from your devices, turn off the bright lights in your room, light a candle, turn on calming music, and read a book or magazine. Actions like this will send a message to your body that it's time to unwind and get ready for bed.
12. Wake up early.
Time Required: varies depending on personal preference
To truly get a grasp on what worked best, I woke up at different times for the past four Mondays: 5:30 am, 6:00 am, 7:00 am, and 8:00 am. What I learned is that the only way to effectively wake up early and kickstart an energizing Monday is to get to bed early and coordinate your wake up time accordingly. Waking up at 5:30 am created the best positive energy, but I went to bed early enough that I slept for seven hours. When I woke up at 6:00 am, I had gone to bed at midnight, so I was groggy and in much need of coffee. If you want to effectively wake up early and kickstart your week, plan your bedtime.
If you can get to sleep early, I found that starting your week off by waking up early leads to a productive Monday, which sets a nice tone for the week. Most sleep experts advise waking up at the same time everyday, so don't make drastic changes quickly to your sleep schedule, but opting for an early wake up call will certainly have a positive impact on your energy and it gives you more time in the morning, which will likely help you avoid the stresses that typically come with Monday mornings.
So you want to have an easier, less stressful week...
As with all things, different practices work for different people. It may not be feasible to do every one of these tasks on Sunday, but the key is to find the practices that positively contribute to your productivity and stress levels. So test them out, adjust them to your needs, and see what works best for you. #SundayScaries have nothing on you.
featured image by Kathleen Kamphausen for Cosmopolitan