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?
Yeah… that needs a bit of explaining.
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 that I have a problem.
2. Living Well Planner
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 have no idea why and I miss it.
I tried hard to get back in the rhythm after my daughter was born.
Did you know there are now planners with stickers and stamps? I bought those. Tried it for a day and realized that all the sticking and stamping took way too much time. Not a good system for toddler mom life.
Anyway, I think this is THE year my planning dreams come true again. As much as I love our Google calendar, there is something special about having a hand-written planner, a space to write down ideas, notes, lists, meal plans, etc. on the fly, without staring at a screen as your children are trying to hit the power button.
The planner that makes this all possible for me is called “The Living Well Planner”:
- Undated, so you can start at any time
- Dedicated pages for deep diving goals and project planning each month – this is the main focus of this planner that sets it apart from the others I’ve looked at throughout the years
- Weekly calendar format, instead of daily. I personally do not find much benefit in using a page-per-day type of planner. If I was in school, or working outside the home, that might be different, but as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom to toddlers – I like the weekly style.
- I especially love that each day has an hourly 6am-10pm calendar because I can fill in appointments at the right times. Each day also has a customizable must-do list, and space for meal planning or other notes.
- A budgeting section for each month – I do all my budgeting using apps and spreadsheets, but this is helpful for people who prefer to write it down.
- Extra space for notes throughout the planner.
I’m using this planner for overall life, home, and homeschooling management because that is where I need to organize the details. I particularly need goal setting help in the homeschooling department (because I don’t like crafts, but my kids do), and I know I am not going to do it unless I have a dedicated place to plan it out.
This planner also has a phenomenal set-up for anyone looking to make lifestyle and dietary changes to manage their autoimmune disease. Frank and I believe that goal-setting and planning is a huge part of making healthier habits. You could use this planner to:
- Set dietary goals, such as 8-9 cups of vegetables per day, or to drink 96oz of water a day.
- Meal plan for your autoimmune protocol elimination diet.
- Plan and execute stress management or sleep related goals.
- Keep track of your health-related expenses, doctor appointments, etc.
- Really, the possibilities are endless.
If you are looking for a place to organize your thoughts and plan HOW you’re going to build an autoimmune-friendly life, this is the planner you need.
(They also have awesome productivity sticky notes, so be sure to check those out too.)
Trello – the newest addition to our organizational routine. We didn’t know it existed until recently. But now it’s like: where has this been all our lives?
Trello is a collaboration/project planning tool. We use it to manage our blogging, health coaching, challenges (see number 6), and home improvement projects… or basically any project that requires multiple steps over a span of time.
A planner doesn’t work very well for these types of projects, especially since Frank and I share so many of the tasks, and Trello is way better than making a custom Excel spreadsheet.
Just like Google calendar, we both have access to our Trello “boards” for each project, to view our progress, add notes, and check items off when complete.
Basically, it’s one of the greatest tools we have found. They have downloadable templates to help you with meal-planning, or home project planning, even budgeting. Whatever you need… Trello’s got it. You could even use this in place of a planner if you prefer digital to hand-written.
The biggest benefit is that all those tiny details that swirl around in your brain all day finally have a place to go. And that is a wonderful feeling.
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.
5. 100 Day Challenge (or something similar)
There’s this blog called A Beautiful Mess that I’ve been following for over a decade. One of the posts titled “How I Changed My Life” caught my attention (they also have a podcast to go with it, click here and scroll down to episode 3). That was the first time I learned about a 100-day challenge.
It really got me thinking… I think I like this idea. 100 days isn’t too short. It’s not too long. It’s… dare I say it, the perfect length.
Basically, for the span of 100 days, you set a series of goals (big or small) and get to work on accomplishing them. It sounds really simple, and that’s because it is.
The best part is that the challenge is open-ended… meaning, it can include goals for multiple parts of your life that you want to change. Or it can have a theme, like de-cluttering, diet, etc. Whatever fits.
A good example:
My upcoming 100-day challenge involves general home and life organization tasks. It includes things I’ve thought about over and over again for years now, but never actually accomplish and always think to myself “I’ll do it… another day.” It’s a bunch of mental clutter that needs to go:
- Decorating our fireplace mantle so I actually enjoy looking at it.
- Organizing all of our family’s medical records in binders.
- Finding and scheduling an appointment with a new dentist (preferably a holistic or biological dentist).
- Dedicating a spot in the house to hang our children’s artwork.
- De-clutter all the paper in our filing cabinet.
- Find a place/system for storing owner’s manuals.
- Establishing what my parents call “birth boxes” which are just bins (or boxes) to collect things that represent big milestones in our children’s lives.
So I’ll take all of these tasks and break them into smaller, more manageable tasks (if needed) using Trello. Scheduling an appointment with a new dentist takes all of about 10 minutes, so I don’t really need to break that up, but decorating our fireplace mantle requires a few different steps.
Next, I write down my weekly plan of tasks in my planner, and get to work on accomplishing just one of those tasks per day until the goal is complete. I like to include both quick-win goals (like the dentist appointment), and long-term goals, to build and maintain momentum.
At the end of the challenge, I offer myself a reward. And I’m sure I’ll accept it. For this one, my reward is a new diaper bag and the 100 days gives me enough time to select the one I want and budget for it.
Plus, these don’t have to be 100 days. Frank and I just set up a 10-week challenge for a blogging project, and there are other people who follow something like the 12-Week Year where goals are broken down into a 12-week period. 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.
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.
LIKE THIS POST? SHARE IT AND SAVE IT TO YOUR FAVORITE PINTEREST BOARD!
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?!