Easy Hacks to Make a Busy Work Day Feel Less Stressful

Sometimes, our calendars get so hectic with virtual meetings, deadlines, and assignments that other aspects of life get pushed to the back. Think: forgetting to eat lunch, foregoing a workout, or not leaving the house all day. Especially now when everything from childcare to new puppy training to work presentations are happening simultaneously from home, there are often just not enough hours in the day. So, we put together a guide to make sure those important things still make it onto the daily roster. Of course, this is just a jumping-off point, so no shame if you can’t fit everything in. Do your best and take deep breaths!

Our to-do lists often become more overwhelming than helpful. Staring at a miles-long checklist of things to get done can feel insurmountable and cause stress spirals. Instead, try to organize your tasks in a more productive way. Break them out by urgency, ease, or time spent. You could even break it down further by allocating different tasks to different times of day — get your bigger, more daunting projects started in the morning when you’re feeling fresh and energized, and save the easy, no-brainer line items for the evening when you’re tapped out of screen time. Doing things in batches can help you get into a groove and be more efficient. Basically, find a system that makes sense to you so that you keep yourself on track and you’re able to cross things off quicker.

Blocking off time your calendar for personal stuff will become your workday life raft. Seriously. Don’t be afraid to be aggressive and precious about your time. If you need to take 30 minutes away from the screen to take your dog for a walk around the neighborhood, do it. If the only time you’re able to get in a yoga class is in the middle of the day, set your away message and get to downward dog. Schedule short sessions on your calendar to take breaks away from your screen (this includes your phone!). Making sure that your coworkers know you’re offline for a moment and to hold their questions or meetings until after you sign back on will set needed boundaries — both for you and for them — and protect your mental health.

Speaking of mental health, try to add a quick dose of mindfulness into your morning routine. This can take whatever form makes sense for you. Try doing a guided meditation before opening your computer; you could take a moment when you wake up to set an intention for the day, or take a few minutes to write down some thoughts in a journal. The great thing about these practices is that you can go back to them whenever you need, especially after a particularly stressful meeting or child’s temper tantrum.

Honestly, the last thing you probably want to do after a day full of juggling responsibilities is cook an elaborate meal. Set yourself up for success by choosing options that are quick and easy to prep, while still being comforting and nutritious. Look for recipes that don’t have a ton of ingredients or require multiple steps, like this 15-Minute Chicken and Rice Dinner. Another smart way to get instant gratification when you’re ready to eat is by opting for a recipe that uses a pressure cooker, like this Easy Beef Stroganoff — just throw all the ingredients in the device, forget about it for 40 minutes, and voilà, a no-fuss dinner ready to go.

Forgetting to take a lunch is one of the most common workday issues. And it’s such an important meal! How can you be expected to stay alert and focused for the second half of the day if your stomach is growling? Try to block off the time on your calendar (noticing a pattern here?), even if you’re still working while you’re eating. This will at least remind you to get up from your desk and head to the kitchen. Another way to get yourself to actually take a lunch is by having prepped meals ready that you can either pop out of the fridge and eat or reheat in minutes. Something like these cutie Mini Chicken Pot Pies can be made ahead and reheated for a light lunch or snack throughout the day. Try to spend some time on Sunday meal planning and prepping your lunches before the week gets into gear so you don’t even have to think about it.

Finally, try to make your workspace as inviting as possible. Set up your desk near some natural light if you can, or get a lamp that mirrors the effects of natural light. Add a plant for a calming effect, set up a candle or essential-oil diffuser nearby so your space smells great, keep a water bottle on hand so you can stay hydrated throughout the day, and invest in a really good chair or chair cushion so you stay comfortable for long periods. Even if you don’t have a dedicated home office, little touches can help make any workspace a more pleasant place to set up shop.

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