How to Do It All (in 24 Hours)
Anyone else have a never-ending to-do list? Whether you’re single and living alone or are caring for a family, the 24 hours in a day seem to be stretched thinner and thinner. We’re expected to work longer (and always be available to respond), spend hours commuting, plan and cook healthy meals, work out regularly, drink enough water, be a good friend, spend quality time with your family, date or maintain our relationships, take our vitamins, clean our home, have a social media presence, and work on our side-hustles. That list alone exhausted me – and that’s without kids!
Plus, we’re juggling a thousand little errands and commitments that we never expected growing up. (I finally understand what my mom meant when she said she was “running errands” today.) And within all of that, we’re somehow supposed to get enough sleep, too.
From drinks after work with colleagues to grocery shopping to that downtime you require to keep yourself sane, there are a million essential things to do, and very little time in which to do them. Here are some ways that you can streamline your life to get it all done.
Transform your commute
If you live in a big city, chances are you have a decent-sized commute. I spend about an hour and a half each day commuting on the subway. (And this is much shorter than the 3+ hours I used to spend!) All that time on the bus or train every day is nobody’s idea of a good time, and even if you drive to work, and aren’t pressed into somebody else’s less-than-fragrant armpit, it’s still frustrating to get stuck in traffic while thinking of everything that you would rather be doing.
I’ve learned to turn my commute into something I enjoy and even look forward to. If I’m extra sleep-deprived that day and manage to get a seat, I’m definitely napping. But if I’m not a zombie, I use my commute to read, listen to an audio book or podcast that puts me in a good mood, or catch up on my favourite Netflix show. (Pro tip: download Netflix shows/movies for offline viewing.)
I just finished the new seasons of Black Mirror and Good Girls, and am now cruising through the new season of Brooklyn 99.
Commuting is also a valuable time for getting things done. Get your phone out and start writing that novel or blog post in your Notes app, read an excellent new book on your Kindle, or write out your grocery list. Basically, any boring down time (waiting in a line, walking to the grocery store, or commuting) can be made interesting or fun.
Two podcasts I regularly listen to in the morning while I get ready and on my commute are Whimsically Volatile, by Katya and Craig (that’s Katya Zamolochikova, the fabulous pseudo-Russian drag queen), and Sibling Rivalry, by Bob the Drag Queen and Monét X Change. They have hilarious banter and arguments. I always end up laughing to myself on the subway.
Get better at multitasking
Multitasking is the key to efficiency, and really the only way to cram in everything you want to do in a week.
Learn to combine the things you want to accomplish. For example, instead of going for drinks, go on a hike with your best friend, to combine social time and exercise into one. Make a date night out of cooking at home with your partner, and prepare a fancy dish you can enjoy all week long. Binge-watch your favourite show while you’re on the treadmill, or have an hour-long phone call with your mom while you clean.
Marie Kondo your home
A lot of us lose huge amounts of time to disorganization. Not being able to find our keys, searching for clean (and matching!) socks, or digging around in your closet for that top you wanted to wear to work today.
Make your life easier and carve out a chunk of time to clean and organize your home. It’ll save you precious time later. Say a loving goodbye to stuff that’s just cluttering your space, and to any clothes and shoes you haven’t worn in a year. If you haven’t wanted to wear them in 365 days and 4 seasons, it’s unlikely you ever will. Plus, there’s just no need to keep a dress that you consistently feel uncomfortable or unattractive in.
And finally, when it comes to decluttering: get rid of gift guilt. We’ve all been given things we know immediately we’ll never use, that just sits around, collects dust, and makes us feel awful. Give thanks for the kind gesture by your friend or family member, and free yourself from the item itself.
Donate or re-gift (with full disclosure) whatever you can, and be left with an organized home filled only with things you love and use. You’ll feel so much lighter without the items you don’t need hanging over your head, and taking up your time as you try to find what really matters. A clean space will lead to a clean mind, and much more enjoyable time spent at home.
I do a closet purge once or twice every year, and I always feel worlds better afterwards.
Keep track of your healthy habits
I use an app called Done, which allows you to input whatever habits you want to build (or break), and track your progress. It helps me organize the more mundane (but essential) things in my life, and see how I’ve done over the course of the day, week, month, and year. I track things like how many glasses of water I’ve had, my vitamins, my workouts, and whether I’ve eaten a healthy lunch and dinner, had at least 6 hours of sleep, and more.
It has a really clean, appealing interface that makes me want to check into it regularly and mark things as done. It’s also great for hyper-perfectionists like me, because it gives me much-needed perspective. Even if I’ve taken terrible care of myself that day – I’m sleep deprived, reaching for junk food, and just feeling miserable – in the grand scheme of things, I’m doing okay, and this is just a blip.
Outsource what you can
Please hear this: nobody can do it all, on their own. No one. Something always has to slip, whether it’s visible on the outside or not. And if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford it, use some of your earnings to alleviate your stress. Outsourcing is the key.
Sometimes you need to splash your cash on services that make it easier for you to get the rest of your life done. If you honestly cannot handle the idea of spending another Saturday morning cleaning your bathroom, you could budget for a bi-weekly cleaning, so all you’ll have to do is light touch-ups in between.
If you spend half your life at the post office because your apartment building doesn’t understand the concept of delivering mail, there are alternatives to a standard PO box that you can check out. If you’ve got a super busy week and you don’t think you’ll have enough clean shirts or blazers to last, invest in a laundry service a couple of times.
Spending time on rest and relaxation instead of menial tasks you hate is vital to your mental wellbeing: remember that what you’re paying for isn’t just the service, it’s also your free time.
Hate cooking? There are a ton of meal kit delivery services. Like cooking but don’t have time to shop? There are grocery delivery services in Toronto and many other cities. I’ve been using Instacart since January, and it’s been a game-changer for me. Thanks to the convenience of scheduled grocery delivery, I cook meals at home a lot more often, and order UberEats a lot less. (Savings AND healthier eating, boom.)
At least one of my friends has a personal trainer to help keep her sticking to a gym schedule. Lots of people I know have their homes cleaned professionally.
Outsourcing isn’t a new idea – working parents have outsourced to nannies, family members, daycares, and other childcare providers for generations. So stop feeling guilty, lazy, or ashamed about it and do what you need to do (and what you can reasonably afford.)
More than anything else, try to remember that you are important and that your time is worth something. You need to be able to stop so that when the frantic pace of life picks up again, you’re able to deal with it in a happy and healthy way.
You may have the same number of hours in a day as Beyoncé, but Beyoncé has a whole team helping her get it all done.
Thanks for reading!