My Favorite Shortcuts to Get Through Busy Weeks
I don’t know about you, but when I’m super busy with work, everything at home seems to fall apart. I’ve been working so much lately that I am dropping the ball at home – big time. We’ve been eating a lot of convenience food and we keep running out of things we never run out of – hello, milk? To top it off, my house is such a mess. When life starts skidding out of control, I turn to shortcuts.
While I used to be very type A, I’ve learned that sometimes, half done is better than not done at all. One of the few positives of having an autoimmune disease is that I give myself much more grace than I used to. Enter shortcuts. There is a time and place for everything.
When I have the time, I make healthy, home-cooked meals. When I have the time and ability, my house is reasonably clean. When I have the time and energy, my kids spend very little time in front of screens (well, less than when I’m busy). When I am busy, I go into survival mode. What can I do to keep us afloat that doesn’t take a lot of time? Shortcuts are my friend.
Best Shortcuts for Busy Weeks
If you are struggling with busy weeks, here are some of my favorite shortcuts that keep us afloat.
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- Food Prep Shortcuts: When I’m super busy, my biggest shortcut is food prep. To be honest, I hate cooking and meal prep so this is one of the chores that annoys me the most. My favorite food shortcut is to buy pre-cut fruit and vegetables so that we have healthy snacks readily available (yogurt, string cheese, granola bars). That way we eat relatively healthy with the least amount of effort put in. I know it’s more expensive but I have thrown away three whole cantaloupes in the last few weeks because I couldn’t find time to cut them. That’s way more expensive!
- Meal Planning Shortcuts. I admit, meal planning is not my strong suit. I’m not really much of a dinner person and could happily eat cereal for dinner every night (I usually do!). That being said, I don’t want my kids to eat cereal every night so when I’m really busy, I make super simple dinners (or pre-made dinners) cooked in bulk. For example, I made three meals worth of grilled chicken and veggies on Monday so we could just reheat this week. I also go back to my Sunday Prep routine and cook in bulk when I have free weekend time. Someday, I hope to be organized enough to have freezer meals stashed away.
- Shopping Shortcuts: I don’t love paying a grocery delivery charge when I live two miles from the grocery store but on super busy weeks, that $8 Amazon Prime Now charge is well worth it. I also take advantage of Amazon Prime for toiletries and order makeup online if I’m running low, rather than going to the mall to restock. I have bought everything from shoelaces to water shoes online when I was in a time crunch.
- Errand Shortcuts: I keep a running list of errands I need to run in the notes section of my phone so that I can buy things when I am near a store. For example, my son’s back to school list is on my phone so when I was at Staples picking up copy paper, I checked the list for supplies he needs that are on sale. Having a running list also helps eliminate driving back and forth since I know I need to make a stop somewhere in a particular part of town, I’ll do it while I’m already in the area, versus making a special trip. I save time and gas.
- Parenting Shortcut: I try to spend one-on-one time with each of my boys but that gets hard when we get home around 6. My new favorite shortcut is that I’ve started taking evening walks with each boy on alternating nights. It’s great for my physical health to keep moving and it gives each boy a nice chunk of time to talk to me about whatever they want – usually Minecraft or Thomas the Train, depending on the kid. It also reduces screen time, which is something I am always trying to do.
- Self-care Shortcut: Self-care is usually the first thing to fall off my to do list when I’m busy. Unfortunately, as I’m getting older and live with my degenerative condition longer, my body demands a stretching routine. Similar to my parenting shortcut, I find that including my boys in my stretching routine helps me feel less guilty about taking time away from them for me. The funny part is, my youngest now loves doing stretches and will ask me if we can do it together on nights where I’m feeling lazy. He’s my best workout companion!
- Cleaning Shortcuts: This is probably my weakest area, especially during the busy summer or holiday seasons. I’d much rather spend a few hours by the pool with the kids than clean my house and will always choose a social activity over cleaning. Even though my house is small, it is almost never drop-in guest ready. To be honest, it’s only really, really, really close friend ready most of the time. My cleaning shortcuts for times when I want to have someone over but have been too busy to clean is to wipe down counters and the bathroom with Lysol wipes and do a quick Swiffer of the kitchen and entryway floors. A quick pass of the vacuum over our living room rug completes my clean up. Of course, if there are toys and papers everywhere (and there always is), they get tossed into baskets to be dealt with later.
Truth be told, even when I’m not super busy, I use a lot of these shortcuts. I’m not very domestic and don’t enjoy cooking or cleaning. To me, they are necessary evils. Before I got married, I lived on cereal or scrambled eggs for dinner and joke that I will be back there when the boys can cook for themselves.
While I’ve never enjoyed cooking or cleaning, they have become far more difficult now that I have chronic health issues. The only difference is, when I’m not extremely busy, I can spread tasks out so that I can manage them better versus when I’m super busy and don’t have extra time or energy left to do a little bit each day. It isn’t physically possible for me to dedicate several hours to a massive clean-up so when I’m out of time during the week, our house really suffers.
Shortcuts are the only way I can get everything done, even if it isn’t done perfectly. Fortunately, my illness has given me the ability to recognize that I can’t do everything perfectly. Rather than getting down on myself about what isn’t done, I just do what I can. I now pick my battles and take shortcuts or eliminate things that aren’t important.
Do you have any favorite shortcuts?