Sometimes I look up on Friday and wonder what happened to my week. I've stumbled through the days, dealing with whatever is urgent. As a result, I lose sight of what is important: My family, my health, and even fun.
Now I take a few minutes to think ahead on Sunday and reap the benefits all week. Research shows that decision-making saps our self-control. And if there's one thing all parents need, it's more self-control!
I prep these 10 things on Sunday, so I'm not feeling overwhelmed by Friday:
1. Double-check kids' laundry
I know I'm not the only person who has sent a kid to school wearing pajama bottoms instead of underwear…I hope. If I had checked the laundry situation, I would have seen that we were a little low on undies and run a load earlier in the week.
My family likes to rest on Sundays, so I don't actually do the laundry then. Instead, I put the kid with the pending undergarment emergency at the front of the line for Monday.
2. Autopilot your breakfast
That avocado toast looks great on Instagram, but I shouldn't use knives at 6 am. I save my decision-making by serving only two types of breakfast. My kids get whole-grain waffles with sunflower seed butter and a side fruit, or else cereal and fruit. That's it.
On Sunday, choose a couple of simple breakfasts, assign them to days on a Post-It, and slap it to your fridge. Automatic breakfasts allow me to feed my children and save my brain-power for later.
3. Put your "ugh" on your calendar
We all are procrastinators about something. For me, it's dealing with scheduling repair people. Put those things on your calendar before you add anything else. Having it in writing—"I'm going to call the cable company on Thursday at 10 am.!"—creates a commitment.
Planning ahead takes out the anxiety of a task because when Thursday at 10 am rolls around, I have already decided to do it. I don't have to wrestle with myself. It's much more difficult to muster up the energy to do it from scratch.
4. Practice gratitude
I get discouraged when I'm juggling a hundred things a day. Writing down—or even thinking about—what I'm grateful for gives me perspective. Gratitude helps me appreciate simple pleasures and small moments, even if I'm going through a tough season.
There's plenty of evidence that shows a gratitude journal improves your mood and outlook on life. Not a bad exchange for something that takes thirty seconds.
5. Prepare for the snags
I have a worst-case-scenario brain, so I always assume my amazing plans will go wrong in some way. I always have a box of mac-and-cheese in my panty so if all else fails, I'm 10 minutes away from dinner.
It's helpful to think through the worst—just in case. Put an extra pair of pants in your car for your potty-training kid. Toss some granola bars in your purse. Building a buffer into life lets us breathe a little easier. Hopefully, you won't need any of it (especially the extra pants), but it's nice to know they're there.
6. Plan ahead for fun
If I don't plan ahead to include fun, I often get caught in drudgery. On Sundays, look ahead and see where you can squeeze in an activity. It doesn't have to be showy or expensive—it might be a trip to a new playground or story time at the library.
"Friday pizza party" is on my calendar this week. Friday pizza night usually means, "I'm wiped out and don't want to cook," but building it up ahead of time makes it seem special to my kids. Add some fun music and boom, party.
7. Carve out time for quiet
Whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, you can benefit from a little more time to yourself. But where exactly is that time supposed to come from?
Quiet time, no matter what that looks like for you, regenerates you and gives you more energy. Taking some time out for yourself makes you less frazzled and more present when you are with your loved ones. Schedule a mini-vacation, even if it's only fifteen minutes.
8. Go over appointments and logistics
Sunday is the perfect day to go over your week's commitments. Be sure everyone in your family knows what's coming up. This might include doctor's appointments, sports, big due dates and don't forget your fun!
I recently found myself in an empty meeting room the day after the meeting was scheduled. If I had been a little more thorough at the beginning of the week, I might have caught that I put it on the wrong day in my calendar. Whoops.
9. Rethink meal planning
Do you drive home with a vague idea of what is for dinner? It's stressful. On Sunday, plot out what you'll eat when. Doing so when you're looking at the week's schedule will keep you from cooking a complex dinner when you're supposed to be at a soccer game.
Lowering the bar is okay, too. Depending on my season of life, I've used convenience foods, meal-planning services, sandwiches for dinner, or extra leftovers. Do the best you can.
10. Prioritize people over plans
No matter how good your schedule looks on Sunday, it won't go perfectly. I take a moment to remember that the people in my life are more important than tasks. For those of us who are task-oriented, it is tough to remember in the moment. I try to be open to the opportunities that come up, and build in margin so I can help others.
My week goes much better when I think ahead. I don't make good choices accidentally—they come from aligning my calendar to my values. I fit the important people and tasks into my schedule on purpose. And when the hiccups come, I will still enjoy Friday pizza parties with the people I love.