You know what’s missing from a bunch of autoimmune self-help books?
Emphasis on the smaller things – the behind-the-scenes stuff that must happen in order to make any sort of lifestyle or diet change last.
I get why it’s not in there. If it were, the book would be 1,000 pages (too) long and nobody with brain fog or autoimmune desperation, is going to read that.
But, we still need to talk about it, right? Because we all know that when a doctor tells us to “eat healthier” or “exercise daily” – it very rarely happens. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve handed over a book full of autoimmune information, literally everything you need to know to start feeling better, and yet… the reader never actually changes anything.
Why is that?
1. Because, we humans, are resistant to change.
And, in the case of this post…
2. It requires a lot of planning, organizing, time management, accountability, and everything in between.
An extreme diet change isn’t simple. Overcoming bad habits isn’t simple. Even when words in a book make it seem like it is.
But you know what helps when implementing changes and new routines?
These “systems” are what you put in place to organize your life from the bottom up – habits, routines, tools, etc.
Frank and I believe that if the less visible parts of your life are organized, simplified, clutter-free, then changes like The Wahls Protocol become WAY easier and less stressful. Because, now you are able to give it attention, plan, set goals, and follow through, without the chaos that a disorganized life provides.
Batch-cooking. You could spend hours every day prepping and cooking a meal, or you could spend 4(ish) hours on a weekend and batch cook all of your meals for the next week. Boom.
So, I’m going to give you a peak into some of our personal systems, starting with tools Frank and I use to manage our home and work lives, maintain strong communication, and ultimately keep this thing simple, with kids, so we can focus on the stuff that keeps us healthy.
The 6 Tools We Use to Simplify Life & Reduce Mental Clutter
1. Google Calendar
Nothing crazy here. But, we actively choose Google Calendar for several reasons.
Frank and I both have Gmail accounts, and different brands of phones. Since Google Calendar has an app for both the iPhone and Android phones, it simplifies the process.
We have a family calendar that we both maintain. Whenever we make an appointment, it goes onto the calendar. It’s the easiest, most accessible way to keep constant communication about our schedules.
Plus, you can color code… which, it turns out, is VERY important to me. I discovered this obsession during college as I color-coded all my chemistry lab notebooks, and my professor confronted me about it… perhaps suggesting I have a problem.
2. Multi-Subject Notebook
I used to be a huge planner junkie (no surprise, it was color-coded too), but somewhere along the line my planning habit fell to the wayside. I’ve never been able to pick it back up, just due to time constraints. Our family Google calendar covers the majority of my planning needs, but I still needed a place to write… well, things. Things of all types! Lists, ideas, recipes, etc.
I thought and thought, and came up with the idea of just a simple multi-subject notebook. Each subject is a major category of my life: health, home management, homeschooling, blog, and faith. And all the pages in between are a catch-all for all things related to that category. I don’t have any real rules as to what I can and cannot write, just numbered pages and a blank page at the front to fill in a Table of Contents as I go along.
So, if I am listening to a health podcast and hear a source I’d like to check out later – I write that in the health part of the notebook. Meal planning and lists go in the home management category. Blog post ideas go in the blogging category. I know it’s so simple, but I really love this system and how it gives me a place to write my thoughts throughout the day.
There are a set of chores called obvious chores. These chores include cleaning the bathroom, doing the dishes, vacuuming, etc. because you see the dirt pile up as time passes.
But then there’s a different group, the nagging chores. The ones that you know you need to do, but not too often, but you can never remember the last time you did them, so you continue to push them off (partly because of dread), and think about it every day but never actually do them… because you don’t know if it’s really necessary or not. Things like:
- Cleaning my makeup brushes (especially since I only wear makeup like once a month)
- Cleaning essential oil diffusers
- Watering the plants
- Replacing water filters
- Cleaning out the clothes washer filter thing
My solution to this major problem is a handy app called Tody. An app literally made to organize and track chores so I no longer have to guess. Once again, another thing to get those thoughts out of my mind.
We go into a little more detail as to how we use Tody in this post about making cleaning easier when living with autoimmune symptoms. But basically, over the years, I’ve boiled things down to a simple, customized schedule that includes the obvious chores, and also the tiny chores that don’t need to be done as often.
I’m not sure I can accurately express the peace this app gives me regarding my home life and cleanliness… so I recommend you take a look to see it for yourself. Get ready for your chore-life to change forever.
4. Planning Notepads
Now you might be able to see how these things all work together… the Google Calendar lays out all the events planned for each day. The multi-subject notebook gives a place to write down misc. thoughts and ideas. And then the Tody app keeps track of all the chores. But, despite all that, I still found we needed one more tool that could pull everything together into a weekly or daily to-do list.
I found breaking down goals and tasks into smaller steps is key to an autoimmune-friendly lifestyle especially with kids. For example… if I know we have an event coming up and they won’t be serving food we can eat, then I will have to plan ahead by planning a meal we can make in advance to take with us.
Our favorite planning notepads for doing such things are:
- This weekly Meal Planning Notepad – I write down all of our meals for the week and then make the grocery list on the back to take with me shopping.
- Living Well Spending Less® planning notepads/stickies – We especially love the Weekly Wizard and Daily Focus Sheet Sticky Notes. But there are lots of other products, including a planner. If I was able to stick to a planner habit, this is the one I’d use. Use this link to take a look at the Living Well Shop and get $5 off your first purchase!
5. 12 Week Year
Aside from all the daily and weekly tasks, there are always misc. projects thrown into the mix. House projects, blog projects, etc. We’ve really struggled with finding an effective way to plan and stick with these types of projects, and just recently adopted a 12-Week Year strategy.
There are downfalls to annualized goal planning. 12 months can be just long enough to make you keep procrastinating because you always feel like you have more time. This is something we are guilty of and the 12-week year solves that by instilling urgency and keeping us accountable.
It doesn’t have to be a 12-week period though. The important part is to pick a reasonable time-frame that is not too short to where you will fail, but not too long that you will procrastinate. For some that could be just one month at a time. Other people choose to do something like a 100-day challenge.
6. Health Journal
While we don’t use a health journal at all times, this is one of the tools we depend on most during periods of autoimmune confusion, flares, or when we are experimenting with new diets, supplements, etc.
I’ve already gone into great detail about this in other posts, and I highly recommend you check them out if you’re feeling like you are so overwhelmed and confused regarding the details of autoimmunity and the path towards recovery.
Streamline your healing by taking control of your life.
I’ve said in a few other posts that autoimmune disease is the greatest self-improvement project of all time. It requires a completely holistic approach that touches every part of your life, even the parts that seem totally unrelated.
If you are feeling that your life is chaotic, disorganized, or over-complicated… then your path to recovery will likely feel that way too. But, you can change that. Start by incorporating tools, or systems, that help you feel grounded and in control. Even just one simple tool, habit, or routine can make a profound impact on your healing journey.
What systems, tools, habits, or routines do you use? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear about it.
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Hi! I’m Anna, co-founder of Healthy Habits Reset. After managing my own autoimmune diseases using lifestyle, habit, and mindset changes, I now work to teach others how to navigate the treacherous and confusing journey of chronic illness living. I firmly believe YOU hold the power to question, think critically, and become your own rock-solid advocate in a world full of unhealthy habits. Consider me, and my husband, Frank, your autoimmune disease health coaches. Are you ready?!