Quick-fire ways you can make a real difference in your life this year

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 (PHOTO: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
(PHOTO: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

Life's to-do list can feel overwhelming. Every day we find ourselves juggling kids, jobs and partners while frantically trying to squeeze in time for gym, friends and extended family.

The effort of keeping all these balls in the air can take its toll – but fortunately there are ways to ease the pressure. And each takes 10 minutes or less. We asked experts on health, wealth and wellness for tips on lightening the load and making life that little bit more manageable. 

Your work 

  • Prioritise These days we’re bombarded with an overload of information. But prioritising can help, business coach Jolene Joubert says. "If you haphazardly deal with tasks as they come up, you may end up spending the whole day without getting to the tasks that are important and that you’re actually getting paid for." Set aside the first 10 minutes of your day to organise your tasks, allocating a time for each. Set a timer on your phone and when it goes off, move on to the next task.
  • Plan your day Spend the last 10 minutes of each day organising your tasks for the next day. This gives you an opportunity to subconsciously consider important tasks overnight. "Do the important tasks that require a lot of concentration and focus when your energy levels are at their highest, typically in the morning," Joubert says. Leave the emails, administrative tasks and calls for after you’ve completed high-priority tasks and when your energy levels are lower. Consider using apps such as Google Keep or Evernote to help make your lists easy to access on your phone and laptop (you can set them to sync with each other so they’ll update no matter which device you load info to).

Your home 

  • De-clutter "Get rid of the unnecessary stuff in your life," says James Smal of Cape Town-based organising company Sorted. Tackle one room at a time and spend 10 minutes on 10 items in each, separating them into boxes labelled Chuck, Charity and Storage. Start in the rooms you live in most and work your way through your home. By the end of the year you should have a beautifully decluttered home.
  • Take 10 Set aside 10 minutes before you go to bed at night to do a quick whip around the house. Clear kitchen surfaces, pick up newspapers, magazines and books and put them away or in recycling.
  • Take stock Spend 10 minutes doing inventory of your food cupboard or pantry – and be sure to check the expiry dates! You’ll be amazed how many of those packet sauces are well past it.

Your body

  • Nourish yourself "When we’re tired and burnt out we tend to reach for sugar, carbs and coffee," life coach Judy Klipin says. "The more unhealthy stuff we eat, the more we want." Take 10 minutes to prepare a healthy breakfast. A simple, healthy smoothie is a perfect on-the-go meal. Blitz ½ cup lowfat plain yoghurt, ½ cup frozen fruit (berries or banana), 1 teaspoon nut butter or peanut butter, a teaspoon raw rolled oats and a handful baby spinach in a blender. Or make a banana egg "pancake" – smash one banana and mix with two beaten eggs. Add a dash of cinnamon if you like. Drop dollops into an oiled pan and fry until golden and the egg is set.
  • Add salt Pour one to two cups Epsom salts into your bath water and soak in it for 10 minutes at least once a week, Johannesburg dietician Toni Brien advises. "Epsom salts are a good source of magnesium, which can be absorbed through the skin. Magnesium plays an important role in many of our body’s processes and a weekly Epsom salts soak can help with joint and muscle pain, stress relief and inflammation and allow your body to detox." Of course, this applies to those of us in areas that don’t have crippling water restrictions . . .
  • Take a hike A brisk 10-minute walk will raise your metabolism and help you feel more alert and a lot calmer, says Warrick Zipp, a Johannesburg-based nutrition and wellness specialist. While you walk, take in your surroundings and concentrate on the positive things that have happened to you recently.
  • Low intensity for high fidelity Ten minutes of yoga poses or stretches will help release stress and tension, get oxygen flowing in your blood and increase your appetite for healthy food, Klipin says. It will also help you to sleep better and reduce anxiety-inducing hormones. Try these easy moves that won’t get you odd looks in the office. Seated Crescent Moon pose is good for relieving stress. Lift your arms overhead and stretch your fingers into the air. Lean to one side, taking two to three deep breaths. Repeat on the other side. Another easy pose that will help ease tension is a simple Forward Fold. Bend over, reaching for your toes. Bend your knees and let your head and arms hang down. You can try to touch the floor or put your hands on whatever part of your leg you can reach. Hold for three deep breaths. Let your arms hang down and sway from side to side if it feels good.
  • Go for bust It’s also a good idea to give your bod a blast of cardio every now and then. Pick one high-intensity movement, like jumping jacks or jumping a rope, and perform it for 10 minutes. Set a timer, but take breaks as often as you need to.
                        (PHOTO: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

Your money

  • Honour your debts Set aside at least 10 minutes at the beginning of every month to get your bills together – and pay them. "Paying your bills as soon as possible means you can service all your financial commitments," financial planner Nikki Gajoo says. Also make sure all your debit orders have been honoured before you even consider spending your salary on anything else. Missed debit orders result in unnecessary bank charges and impact negatively on your credit profile.
  • Budget makes perfect Make a point of sitting down for a few minutes every evening and write down exactly what you’d spent that day. No cheating – seeing how you spend will help you see where you’re wasting money and what you can cut down on.
  • Turn to page 12 for a 52-week savings plan that could help you save more than R13 000 a year.

Your wellbeing 

  • Be an early bird "Start your day 10 minutes earlier than you need to," says Judith Penny of home organising website All Sorted Now. She recommends taking a little time before you get going to gather your thoughts, have a cup of tea, stretch or sit in the garden. That way you won’t have to rush or stress and be ready to tackle the day ahead. It’s also a good time to check your calendar to see what meetings or appointments you have scheduled for that day so there won’t be any crazy surprises when you get to the office.
  • Just breathe Ten minutes of deep breathing exercises can make the world of difference, Zipp says. "Providing your brain with extra oxygen can really help you deal with daily stresses and can make a real difference to your physical and mental wellbeing." Search the app store on your smartphone for Breathe2Relax for timed breathing exercises, or Relaxio, an app that allows you to custom-create your own soothing atmospheric sounds. Youtube also has plenty of videos to help guide proper breathing.
  • Make time for you Make a conscious decision to take 10 minutes a day for yourself to do something you really love – paging through a magazine, staring into space with a cup of tea, walking the dog, whatever. "Taking time to do these things is like taking a 10-minute holiday," Smal says. "It will have an impact on your physical and mental wellbeing.”
  • Call or mail a friend Take 10 minutes to go through your contacts and make a note of friends and family members you haven’t spoken to in a while. "I love getting a call from an old friend just to say that they’re thinking about me," Smal says. "You could even invite them over for coffee and show off your newly decluttered space!"
  • Give back "When your fist is closed you can’t receive," Smal says. Donate items to a charity of your choice – it takes less than 10 minutes to pick out a few items you no longer need or haven’t worn in a while, and most charities will come to you to collect. You can help child-headed households, disaster victims or even help to train emergency volunteers with the South African Red Cross Society (redcross.org.za). Help impoverished communities with Operation Hunger (operationhunger. org/), or help erase illiteracy with Help2Read (help2read.org/). To help protect endangered African wildlife, contact the Endangered Wildlife Trust (ewt.org.za). 
  • Put your feet up Long day, sore feet? Judith Penny of All Sorted Now recommends a bicarb foot bath. Put enough warm water in a tub or bucket to cover your feet and add half a cup of bicarbonate of soda. Sit back and soak your feet for 10 minutes. Your feet will be refreshed, and so will you.
  • A pop of colour Bring out the artist in you! Colouring books are a lot of fun and there’s a huge selection available for adults. Buy a book and pencil crayons and spend at least 10 minutes colouring in – it’s relaxing and rewarding and proof that simple pleasures are the best! Order the YOU Leisure adult colouring book from youstore.co.za.
  • Write it down Buy a journal that you love to look at, get out your favourite pen and turn journaling into an experience, advises Sadé Savings, life coach at Dynamic Life Design. "Spend 10 minutes a day writing about anything that comes to mind, or simply make a list of things you’re grateful for that day," she says. "Journaling brings you into a state of mindfulness – it helps bring you into the present moment, making you more focused and aware. Journaling can help you achieve your goals as it creates a space you can revisit every day to align what you’re trying to achieve and how you plan to achieve it."
  • Picture it Spend 10 minutes creating a vision board to help you picture what you want. A holiday? An adventure? Sending your kids to university? Renovating your home? Writing a book? Find images that represent these things and collage them together. Or search for images online and print them out – it’s important to have the physical board so it must be printed, preferably in colour. Pin it up where you’ll see it to remind yourself of your goals. Take 10 minutes every so often to review and update your board as you think of new things. A vision board is a great way to remember your goals, instead of a checklist that needs to be ticked. Visual goals are also often a way to remind yourself – even subconsciously – where to focus your attention, time and energy.
  • Get readin’ It seems there’s never enough time to get through a good book! Spend 10 minutes a day reading – you’ll be amazed at how much you get through. S Sort your digital albums All those family snaps can really clog up your phone, but there’s no way you can bring yourself to delete them. Rather spend 10 minutes on your phone’s app store looking through cloud storage apps like Google Photos, Slidebox or Shoebox. They’ll automatically save your photos to your cloud account so you can delete them from your phone. They’ll even sort them automatically for you too, by date, location or even by people, so you’ll have instant albums.
  • Hit delete We all have apps on our phones we haven’t opened in ages – and all that unnecessary clutter can seriously impact performance. Take 10 minutes to go through your device and delete the apps you don’t use regularly.
  • Level up Pick a skill you’ve always wanted to learn, whether it’s Spanish, public speaking or software coding. Browse the various online courses on offer on sites like Coursera.com, Udemy. com and Udacity.com – most are free! These online courses are presented in the form of short video lectures so you can easily fit them into 10-minute segments each day.

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