How to Have Less Stress, More Time and a Happier Life

Post author: Mic Johnson

One of the items listed in my LinkedIn Summary reads as follows:

☑ Organized – My desk, my work, my email inbox, my car, my closet, my home….you name it, it’s organized. And I LOVE helping other people get organized.

As I wrote this post, I took a quick inventory:

My desk: I’m sitting at my “desk”, which is to say I’m at my home office…it’s me, my laptop, and my phone. It’s organized.
My work: I’m up to speed with my clients. I know what projects are due and when. My calendar is up-to-date and I know what appointments I’ve got coming up and what I need to do to prepare for each. It’s organized.
My email inbox: I have ZERO emails in my inbox. It’s consistently been that way for a good portion of my career. It’s organized.
My car:  There’s no trash on the floor…no wrappers, no receipts, no clothes, no packages…nothing. It’s clean. It stays that way. It’s organized.
My closet: The clothes are hung or folded neatly. The shoes are on the rack. The belts are hung up. The laundry is in the basket. It’s organized.
My home: Our home is clean. We have a cleaning crew come once a month to give it a good “once over.” And recently my lovely wife Missy and I gave the house a thorough deep cleaning. We don’t leave clothes on the floor, dishes in the sink, crumbs on the counters, the beds unmade, stacks of mail, or the windows dirty. It’s organized.

A disorganized desk, work life, email inbox, car, closet and home are just a few examples of things that subconsciously add to the unnecessary and often overwhelming levels of stress many people feel every single day.

As with anything in life you want to achieve, there’s no question it takes great discipline to consistently achieve the things I mentioned above. So why am I so passionate about being organized in work and in life? The answer is simple: Because it reduces stress, gives me more control of my time and leads to a happier life.

LESS STRESS + MORE TIME = HAPPIER LIFE.

LessStressMoreTimeHappierLifeThat’s the equation. Learn it. Love it. Live it.

One of the most precious things we have in our lives is TIME. The more time you build into your life to do the things you want to do and with the people you want to do them with, the LESS STRESS you have and the HAPPIER you’ll be.

The myth and the negative record that plays over and over again in our heads is that we don’t have any control over our time.

But we do.

Think about it. Much of what is on your calendar each day/week/month/year are things YOU committed to, both personally and professionally, and oftentimes without ever giving a second thought on the impact it would have on your personal time and overall happiness.

Over the years, through countless career and personal choices, and by having a deep respect for the discipline it takes to get there, I’ve learned to greatly reduce, and in some cases completely eliminate, many of those daily stressors.

Here’s a few ways you can too:

Email Management
This is a big one for just about everyone. Yes, I check email several times throughout the day on my laptop and iPhone. I know some people schedule “email time” at points throughout the day. Whatever your method, it’s necessary if you want to consistently achieve as close to INBOX ZERO as possible. I check my email throughout the day and night. It doesn’t mean I’m not present when I’m doing other activities or don’t put my phone down for hours at a time.

Checking email regularly allows me to, as the Kansas City Royals mantra goes…keep the line moving. When I check emails, I reply, delete, file or forward them quickly. I also schedule emails ahead of time using Boomerang for Gmail if I know I want to reach out to someone or follow up with someone later in the week or month.

I also use Unroll.me (It’s FREE. Thank me later.) to bundle emails together and deal with them all at once. It also makes it SUPER EASY to unsubscribe from email newsletters I don’t want anymore or never signed up for in the first place.

It’s Ok To Say No
You don’t have to stay in the job that requires 65 hour work weeks and time away from your family. You don’t have to live in the house with all of the square footage you don’t use. You aren’t a bad parent if you don’t sign the kids up for every activity. You don’t have to buy the new, expensive car that gives you one more monthly payment to deal with. You don’t have to say yes to every social invite you receive. You don’t have to say yes to every project someone at work asks you to be a part of. You don’t have to say yes to every volunteer opportunity you’re approached about. You can tell someone you don’t have time to meet right now and schedule something 2-3 weeks out.

Look, all of those things may feel necessary or sometimes make you feel good, but they also take a lot of time. Make sure you feel good about the trade-off before you say YES. And don’t beat yourself up when you say NO. It’s ok.

Your Calendar Is Your Friend
I schedule EVERYTHING, both personally and professionally, on my Google Calendar. Sales calls. Follow ups. Client appointments. Birthdays. Reminders. Dinner dates. Writing blog posts. Vacations. Afternoons off. Royals and Jayhawk games. And on and on. I’m in my calendar several times a day adding items I need to stay on top of, follow up on, or want to remember.

Bottom line: If it’s on the calendar, it gets done. PERIOD.

Smart Scheduling
When you have appointments on your calendar or set up meetings with people, do your best to schedule them when you’re already going to be in that part of the city. Why not kill 2, 3 or even 4 birds with one stone? As an example, I recently set up a client appointment, a lunch, a sales appointment, and a happy hour all within a mile of each other.

I’m always courteous of the other person’s time and be sure to ask them where they’re coming from in the city and where they’re going after our meeting…and then we pick a convenient spot in between. Imagine the amount of time you will save if you focus on smart scheduling even for the next month. Try it!

Call Before Coffee 
Have you ever received an email introduction to someone that wasn’t very clear as to why you should meet? The conditioned response we’ve all had and heard a million times is “Let’s get together for coffee.” Think about that for a minute. You just agreed to drive 15-20 minutes both ways and spend a good hour with someone and you’re not even sure why.

I’m not saying I never do that, but if I’m not clear from the email introduction why someone thinks we should meet, I’ll often say “Hey, it’s nice to virtually meet you. Would you be open to scheduling an initial call to learn a bit more about each other? Then, if it make sense, we can schedule an in-person meeting at that time.”  This saves BOTH people time, especially if you find out (which has happened to me countless times) that neither of you are really in a place where you can help one another.

Just think about how much time this can save in a day, a week, a month and a year when you add up all of the drive time and meeting time!

Proactive > Procrastinate. If You Think It, Do It.
Keep things picked up around your house and office. Do the dishes after every meal. Go through the mail daily. Pay your bills as you get them. Schedule items on your calendar that need to get done. Create a file system at work/home and put files away you aren’t using. Hire a cleaning crew if you just can’t keep the house clean.

If you proactively do the daily tasks that need to get done, they won’t build up later in the week or month. If you think it, do it. Be proactive. Stop procrastinating.

Be Disciplined: Momentum Comes From Movement
I mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating as it’s THE KEY to achieving anything you want to accomplish. You have to stay the course. You have to be committed to the change you’re seeking. If you slip up one day, keep going…tomorrow is a new day to start again. Momentum comes from movement.

What other tools and tips do you use to stay organized, save time and be happy in your life? These are just a few of the things I do. I’m always looking for ways to improve. Please share your ideas and suggestions below for me and anyone else who read this.

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