time management

5 Ways to Be Happy and (somewhat) Calm In a Busy Season of Life

Some of my friends are getting married, and some of my friends are starting grad school, and some of my friends are having babies, and some of my friends are starting grad school WITH babies.  Amidst all this, sometimes I wonder, “What am I doing?”

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The answer, of course, is that I’m student teaching. AND I LOVE IT.  It’s really the best thing I’ve ever done.  I miss my students over the weekend.  I miss them when they’re absent.  Sometimes (depending on how the block went), I even miss them during recess.  I love planning how I’ll teach them and how I’ll make everything sound like the most exciting thing ever.  No joke–the other day we used colored pencils instead of crayons, and the class literally clapped their hands and yelled “yay!!!”  It was the most precious thing.

But this season of life is a busy one.  From the moment I got home a year ago and started school at BYU-Hawaii (18 credits, working, and commuting an hour each way every day) until now (full-time student teaching), there hasn’t been much of a break.  (Aside from winter semester, which was a tender mercy in SO many ways).  The past few semesters have taught me a lot about curating a happy, organized, and calm life.  I’d like to say that  I’ve learned how to adult, but 1) I’m not sure I can say that yet, and 2) I’m not sure if the things I’ve learned are adult skills or just like, life skills I maybe could have picked up if I’d like read “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens” or something…Anyway, I’m documenting them here to distill what I’ve learned, and perhaps to offer some inspiration to any who may need it.

So here goes:

Haley’s Top 5 Ways to Be Happy and (somewhat) Calm

In a Busy Season of Life

  1. Meal prep.  This is #1 because I love food, and I am the worst hangry person. Coming home from a long day and not wanting to cook or not knowing what to eat can be so frustrating, and then it gets way too tempting to reach for the $.69 frozen Totino’s party pizza…or cheetos.  Those vending machines in my dorm were rough on the bod.

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To combat this I normally spent a couple of hours on either Saturday or Sunday getting meals prepped for the week.  I typically roast and store two types of vegetables, cut up and store 2-3 types of fresh vegetables, pack fruits in individual containers, and make a few entrees for the week.  I like to do wraps as little pinwheels for lunch with veggies and hummus or this ranch, and I’ll make things like turkey meatballs (which I make in bulk and freeze) or roasted chicken or tilapia to go with the roasted veggies.  I like to do 2-3 different types of entrees because, let’s be real, those meal prep pictures on Pinterest with rows of the same food look really appealing and organized, but eating the same meal for five days straight is too much for me!  I have to mix it up.

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(Disclaimer: this is a bit of an extreme photo–this was food for a whole DAY when I was off dairy/grains/processed foods.  But you get the point 🙂 )

Meal prepping makes life easy because all I have to do to pack my lunch is grab a meal container (I alternate bringing hot food and fresh food to work), grab a greek yogurt (breakfast on the go is my friend), grab a container of fruit and boom!  That’s it.  In fact, I normally pack my lunch for the next day as soon I get home.  I empty my lunch bag, put the containers in the sink to wash, and then load up on what I’ll eat tomorrow.  My lunchbag is flexible and lightweight, so I just tuck it into a corner of my fridge.

This brings me to number two…

2. Prep the day before!

I’m a last-minute person who is trying to change that about herself.  I really like to just do things when they need to be done.  As I was once told, “It only takes a minute if you leave it to the last minute.” 😉  But I had a classmate who really inspired me to work ahead and be proactive.  When we would tell her how impressed we were with how far ahead she was, she’d just say, “I have to be on top of things or I get super anxious.”  I thought about what she said and realized that my own anxiety can be triggered by not feeling prepared.  So these are the things I do the day before in order to have a successful, and prompt, morning:

  • Pack my lunch
  • Choose my outfit
  • Shower

I never used to be a shower-at-night person, unless I felt really gross from the day.  I always thought that showering in the morning helped me feel more alert and ready for the day…but when I started student teaching and had to leave my house at 6:50 AM on the first day of school, I realized that showering in the morning was a thing of the past.  It’s worth staying up fifteen extra minutes when I’m tired, because it’s way easier to stay awake longer than it is to wake up earlier.

Speaking of sleep…

3. GET ENOUGH REST.  

I can’t say this one enough.  If there is one thing I would go back and tell my high school self, it would be to sleep.  When I got to college and suddenly had more time on my hands (funny how that worked), I realized that being well-rested is VITAL to my emotional, mental, and physical well-being.  I had more time on my hands my first year of college, but as my schedule has intensified, I’ve learned how to prioritize my sleep.  My roommates used laugh a little at me when I’d say good night to them at 9:30 like the grandma that I am…but it makes a huge difference.  I go to bed even earlier now (when I can) since my mornings are even earlier.

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If I know I’m going to be tempted by group chats blowing up and Snapchats coming in and Messenger chiming, I just put my phone in airplane mode.  Then I don’t check things in the middle of the night and forget to respond, or spend time in the morning laying in bed getting caught up when I should be getting ready.  I can take my phone off airplane mode when I’m on my way to school so I can call my mom, and I can check all those other notifications later.

4.  Plan around your priorities, not your to-do list.

I used to plan my week around to-do lists.  I’d get things done, but in the end I wasn’t any closer to reaching long-term goals.  Those goals–like being a better daughter, sister, or friend; or exercising; or applying for that research grant–were the things that were nice to do if I had time, but weren’t totally vital to my daily survival, so they normally got pushed to the back burner.  In Stephen Covey terms, they were important but not urgent.

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(Source)

The real way to win is to plan your life, and therefore your weeks and days, around your priorities.  This is what Covey refers to as putting first things first, and that’s changed my life.  You HAVE to go read about it here.  Seriously.  It’s the best.

Thinking about things in terms of urgency and importance really changed my perspective.  Now when I plan my week (and yes, a wise man once told me that people who get things done plan their days, so I’ve done that for years) I start by making sure that I am addressing all of my most important priorities first.  Then I fill in the rest of the time, still making sure I accomplish all that I need to, in order of importance.  The time management matrix also helps you to weed out things that aren’t urgent and aren’t important, so are really just time-wasters. Planning my time in this way has helped me to be much more thoughtful and meaningful about my time and my choices.

5.  Get out and have fun!

I know that my life sounds very structured and planned–and it is.  But that doesn’t mean that it’s boring or that I don’t let myself have any fun!  In fact, because I know that I can get hyper-focused and a little myopic, I make sure that I plan things that force me to get out of the house, stop planning lessons, and socialize with people above the age of 7.  A lot of times my introvert tendencies will start to hold me back, but I make myself have fun the way some people make themselves exercise: I do it because I know it’s good for me, and I’ll be better for it in the long run.  (Now if only I could convince myself to do that with exercise too…)

Having fun is very, very important in a busy season of life.  And guess what? Having fun IS productive.  Recreation done right leads to rejuvenation, and I wrote extensively about that here.

This doesn’t have to be a weekend at the spa.  Just a quick daytime nap on the weekend can feel like such a treat!  Or meeting a friend at the gym or for dinner turns a routine thing into something where you get to catch up and spend quality time together.  Find ways to have fun and recharge, and you’ll do better in every area of your life.

Now, work when you have to work, yes.  But if you’re prepping and planning ahead, getting enough sleep, and focusing on your priorities, you’ll have time to relax too.  Promise.  🙂

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Possible upcoming topics:

  1. How to work ahead of the syllabus without losing your mind
  2. Simple meal prep routines
  3. Nail salon hacks?
  4. Outfits that are functional, professional, and CHEAP for student teachers (or other interns)
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