I am a huge fan of systems as a way to make my life easier without affecting my budget. As a full-time teacher, momma, real estate investor and blogger, I rely on my systems to get me through my day without looking or feeling like a complete idiot.
Sure, I could make my life easier by paying someone to do everything for me, but I can’t afford that nor would I find any satisfaction in that.
For me, the best life hacks are ones that decrease the amount of active mental brainpower I need to use. With all the demands on my time as a working mom the more things I can automate or semi-automate the better.
I’m not trying to be supermom and wake up before dawn to meditate, run 5k, and worship the sun as it rises. This does not sound like an easy life for me. I’m just trying to get through my day without forgetting to eat, paying my credit card on time in order to avoid interest charges, or realizing late into the afternoon that I’ve had puke on my shirt all day.
One of the most difficult things I’ve ever done was returning to work after maternity leave. Yes, I missed my daughter but I was also exhausted. My brain capacity was running at like 1% and I was walking around feeling drunk all the time (yet hadn’t had a drink in years).
These are the tools, tricks, and systems I learned to adapt and use in order to get through my day. Some of them I had been using previously but I rely on them way more now as a working mom.
If you are someone with more than one demand on your time, then I’m guessing that you too can benefit from the secrets I’m about to tell you (if you aren’t already).
Anything that we can do to make our lives easier while still making it look like we know what we’re doing is a plus for me.
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How to Make Your Life Easier Tip #1 – Systems
A system is something that you put into place in order to automate a process. Systems may include checklists, routines, procedures, tasks and time batching, habits and to-do lists. And they are best created for repeated tasks or those not requiring a lot of application type thinking.
An effective system is one that can be easily delegated and is all-encompassing.
Some of my colleagues laugh whenever they ask for my help with something because I often tell them: “I have a system for that.”
Benefits of Systems
The benefit of a system is that it removes the need to have to think about things. You just have to follow the steps or process and trust that everything will get done. But this only happens if the system is strong.
You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.James Clear
Creating effective systems is key to making life easier. Often when I am busy and not productive it’s because I have strayed from my systems.
There are also psychological benefits from creating effective systems. Knowing that I can rely on the systems that I have created for certain tasks means that I don’t have to spend precious brainpower trying to think things through. I’ve thought about the tasks in length when I created the system. Now, every time I implement the system, my brain can go on auto-pilot.
Good systems free up mental space. And there is also something so satisfying about crossing things off a to-do list.
Outsourcing tasks (either physically or virtually), also becomes much easier with systems already in place.
How to Make Life Easier Tip #2 – Checklists
Checklists are beneficial for any task that has a series of steps or components. Some tasks that work well with checklists are property inspections, house cleaning lists, chore charts, and packing lists.
The best way to make a checklist is to write down all the steps of a task as you are doing the task. Then the next time you do the task, look back at the list you created and add or subtract anything you want to alter. The more times you go over and refine your list, the more confidence you will have in it.
Checklist Example – Real Estate
This is one of the most common systems that we implement in our real estate investing business. When we bought our first rental property we wrote down and kept track of all of the steps of the process. From this list, we created a chronological list.
Then the next time we bought a property we went through the list, adding detail and removing things that no longer applied. In our first year of real estate investing we bought 4 properties and really perfected our property buying checklist.
Now that this checklist has been developed and refined, the next time we want to buy a property we won’t have to think about it. The next time could be years from now and we have confidence that we won’t miss anything.
Other Checklist Examples
When I go grocery shopping I often use a checklist. I can keep a running list of all the staples we buy once a month and then cross of things we don’t need. This saves me hours every month because I’m not constantly trying to think of what we need. Or going to the store and forgetting to get everything.
Years ago I traveled a lot with work. In order to not forget anything every time I traveled, I created a packing checklist. This gave me confidence that I could not forget something and that I had everything I needed.
How to Make Life Easier Tip #3 – Automate
Personal finance is a great place to automate in order to make life easier. The benefit of automation is it really is a set it and forget it. Once it is set up you do not need to think about it again and it will just run its course.
Here are some of the ways that I automate my personal finances:
- Automatic bill payment (so that I never miss a deadline, some of my bills even offer a discount for setting this up)
- Automatic credit card payment (in order to avoid interest charges)
- Saved passwords on my phone (so that I do not have to think about what a particular password is)
- Automatic Savings (every month money is automatically transferred from my chequing account to my high-interest savings account)
Even just these few simple things eliminate the need for me to think about them. I never worry about these tasks because I have set them up to occur automatically. So however busy my day, week or month gets those tasks are taken care of.
How to Make Life Easier Tip #4 – Routines
Routines are great for creating new habits and are best applied to tasks that are repetitive, especially those that occur at the same time or the same circumstance daily. Routines have consequences and can either be beneficial or detrimental.
Brushing your teeth, hitting the snooze button, washing your sheets on Sunday, tracking your expenses every Tuesday evening, putting your keys on a hook when you enter your home or having a glass of wine at dinner are all examples of routines.
An integral routine for me is to always put my work things in the same place. My work keys have a specific spot in my work bag, as does my laptop. That way when I’m rushing around in the morning trying to get everything (and everyone ready) I can trust that things I need for work are exactly where they are supposed to be.
On the few occasions where I have put my laptop or work keys somewhere else, sure enough, those are the days that I get to work and realize I forgot them (or can’t find them).
Make life easier on yourself, create routines for common things you do every day.
How to Make Life Easier Tip #5 – Eliminate Decision Fatigue
Decision fatigue happens when we are faced with a number of decisions to make over a period of time. As time goes on our ability to make sound decisions deteriorates, and life gets harder.
Ever get home after a long day at work and have no idea what to make for supper? That’s decision fatigue.
Meal planning is a great way to eliminate decision fatigue. There are 21 meals (not including snacks) a week. Without having to make a decision on what to eat 21 different times throughout the week, you create more mental bandwidth for other decisions.
Personally, I have always struggled with meal planning. In theory, I think it is a great idea, but in practice, it always falls apart for us. One way I have been successful with meal planning is to have the same thing for breakfast every day. This has helped immensely with my morning routine.
Bonus – meal planning is also good for your budget and will help you to save money every month by not wasting the food you bought and didn’t eat.
How to Make Life Easier Tip #6 – Batch Tasks & Time Block
Batch tasking is using blocks of time to do one specific task. Instead of being distracted by everything on your to-do list, batching tasks involves focusing on one specific task during that block of time. I’ve found batch tasking to work best for administrative tasks.
Some of the most productive people I know are productive because of their ability to batch tasks. They create time blocks in their calendars and complete specific tasks during those blocks.
Checking email is one way I batch tasks. I am very easily distracted by my email and want to check it like 100 times a day. This is a massive waste of time. Instead, I try to have specific times in which I check my email and respond to any messages that require my attention.
This has freed up my day and my mental capacity to focus on other (more important) things. Because I have set aside time to do the task I am less distracted both during the day and while I’m checking my email.
Although batch tasking and time blocking are not easy tasks to automate or delegate, they are both ways to make life easier.
How to Make Life Easier Tip #7 – Use Phone Reminders
The phone reminder app makes me look like a genius.
Whenever I think of something that I need to do in the future I create a reminder for it. I have reminders for the birthdays of everyone I care about, to take my vitamins every day, renew my passport, and for specific work tasks that have a deadline.
You can set up your reminders to not only appear on your phone at a specific time and date but also at a specific location. This is great if you have something you have to remember to do when you get home or get to work.
Often the things I need to remember to do come to me while I’m commuting. I use the hands-free function in my vehicle along with the virtual assistant on my phone to create reminders while I drive.
Everyone always wonders how I can remember everything, that’s easy – I use my phone reminder app to make my life easier.
How to Make Life Easier Tip #8 – To-do Lists
To-do lists are one of the easiest systems to implement and are very similar to checklists. They consist of taking some time every day, or every week, or every month, to write down what you want (or need to do). Just the action of writing down your list makes it more likely that you will achieve it.
The benefit of writing down your to-do list is that now your list is out of your head. You no longer need to think about everything you need to do because it is written down.
I keep a notebook and pen on my nightstand in order to write down my to-do lists. This way they do not keep me up at night. I can just do a big brain dump before bed, and that way I can sleep soundly (or at least try to).
Listening to a podcast one day, I heard the genius idea of having waterproof paper and pens in your shower so that you can jot down your ideas as they come to you in the shower. I have yet to try this, but I do love the idea. If you have ever tried this please let me know how it went in the comments below.
As a busy mom, I am always looking for ways to optimize and make my life easier. But I don’t have tons of money in which to do so. I always tell my husband that when we are rich and famous, I would love to have a personal driver. He would like to have a personal chef.
Because I’m not rich and famous I’ve learned to make adaptations to make my life easier. This allows me to spend more of my time, energy and money on the things I love. It also enables to me look like I know what I’m doing. Even though, to be honest, most of the time I have no clue.
Your turn, what are some of the ways you make your life easier?