5 Ways to Improve Your Day in 5 Minutes or Less

You’re overwhelmed and the day isn’t going the way you had planned. The house is cluttered. Chores aren’t done. Attitudes (especially yours) are fraying.
5 ways to improve day in 5 minutes

Here are my five favorite strategies to improve the day in five minutes or less:

1. Empty the dishwasher or reload the dirty dishes. (Or maybe start a load of laundry)

I empty our dishwasher every morning while I’m waiting for the water to boil so I can make a cup of tea. This matters because a large family like ours generates a lot of dirty dishes. If the dishwasher is emptied first thing, then we can load as the day goes on and the dirty things don’t pile up on my (limited) counters.

do the small jobsVisual clutter is depressing and can quickly overwhelm. Don’t let it happen. Do the small jobs before they become big ones.

make your bed2. Make your bed. Fluff the couch pillows.

Nothing makes a bedroom look tidier quicker than making the bed. Fixing the couch cushions and pillows (and throw blankets if you have them) does almost the same thing for a living space.

have a snack3. Fix a snack.

Is it midmorning and tempers are fraying? Maybe everyone needs a snack.

Is it mid-afternoon and supper isn’t until Daddy gets home from work at 6:30 PM? Definitely time for a snack.

picture books4. Read a story.

A timeout to read a picture book is sometimes all you need to re-inspire yourself or your children. Sometimes we take poetry breaks. Sometimes I’ll send a big sister to read a picture book to a little brother. This solves two problems: it will get the little brother out of everyone else’s hair, and the big sister gets a change of pace.

There are many picture books that don’t take longer than 5 minutes. You might be able to finish a chapter in a chapter book, or at least make some progress.

When the day is unraveling sitting down together for a reading break may be just the ticket. (I am a firm believer in reading as good medicine!)

IMG_04435. Do something you’ve been putting off.

Set the timer if you need to. Work on big things for five minutes at a time. You can do anything for five minutes. Or, you know, almost anything.

Set a timer and call for a 5 minute pick up. (Or Blitz the House or Beat the Clock or whatever your family wants to call it.)

Teach your children how to do simple jobs (sweep, mop, dust, clean mirrors, wipe sinks, gather trash cans, etc.). Assign each person a job that shouldn’t take more than ten minutes. When five (or ten) minutes are up, assess. Maybe everyone will need another job assigned or maybe you can stop there.

Or maybe you need to work on a hated task (Dealing with an overgrown email inbox? Cleaning out the fridge?). You might finish it in five, or you might not. Five minutes of focused attention will help you assess how much more time it’s likely to take.

Moms, you didn’t make the mess or cause all the stress, but you are the key to helping everyone solve the problem.

If you send a child into a cluttered room and tell them to “clean up” you can expect blank stares and not much progress, even if you leave them there for half an hour. But if you tell a child, “Try to pick up all the toy cars in five minutes or less”, they know what they are supposed to do and how long it is supposed to take.

Clear directions and focused but limited time are some of the keys to getting everyone to pitch in.

A few people have asked me, “How do you do it all?” (I suppose they mean parent 6 children, maintain a house, blog, read, run errands, and spend time with my husband, among other things.)

I have bad news: I DON’T “do it all.” I don’t get everything done in a day.

There has never, in the history of all my days, been a day when I thought, “You know, I did everything I could possibly do today as perfectly as it should be done, in the time it needed to be done, and with the right attitude.”

I may get some of those things right, but I never get them all right.

So, with that confession out of the way, what’s my greatest secret for keeping up with homemaking, homeschooling, marriage, blogging, church responsibilities, friendships, and anything else that has a claim on my time?

Do one thing at a time.

I know, we’re moms. Many of us are homeschool moms. “Multi-tasking” might as well be our middle names. But think through two scenarios with me.

Scenario #1:

I put on the teakettle. Then I put away the plates from the dishwasher. And then I mix up the baby’s cereal and find someone to feed him. I put away a couple spoons from the dishwasher when I realize that the toddler has left toy cars in my utensil drawer.

So I put the cars away and find his PJs abandoned on the floor of his room. And I track down the toddler, get a clean shirt on him, holler at one of his sisters to get him dressed the rest of the way, head back to the kitchen and pour the boiling water on my tea-bag.

I put away another couple of dishes while referring a squabble between daughters. Eat a bite of breakfast. Stir honey into my somewhat forgotten and now rapidly cooling tea.

Put away the glasses. Start handwashing somethings that didn’t get clean.

30 minutes later I haven’t finished unloading the dishwasher, I haven’t had a warm cup of tea, and the day is going on without me.

Scenario #2:

I put on the teakettle. Then I put away all the dishes. After that, I pour hot water over a tea bag. And then I stir up my tea.

5 minutes later the dishwasher is empty and I have a hot cup of tea to sip while directing the children’s morning activities.

Does everything go right in scenario #2?

No, probably not. The toddler may still need to be dressed. I may have to remove cars from my utensil drawer. The baby needs to be fed.

But I do one thing at a time so I can finish something.

Am I saying never do more than one thing at a time?

No. That would be silly. We’re Moms. We can listen to spelling words while stirring supper. We’ll put on music to listen to while we fold laundry.

I’m just saying that by focusing on thing at a time we will actually feel like something is getting done.

And that gives energy for the next thing that needs to be done. So, maybe break out a timer tonight.

See how long some of your household tasks really take if you just do one thing at a time. That way, the next time you have five minutes, you’ll know what to do.

And if your day is really going badly and can’t be fixed in five minutes you might want to check out the ideas in this post: 3 Simple Ways to Save a Bad Day.

What are your favorite ways to improve a day? 

Need help getting your home or your time organized? These are the two resources I recommend most often:

Simplified Organization

useful tasks

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