Make the most of each day with a new workout routine, midweek potlucks, and more
1 of 5Photo by David Fenton; written by MacKenzie Geidt
Monday: Take back the morning
6:30 a.m. While most of us are hitting snooze, then stumbling out of bed clamoring for coffee, Carrie Sloan is bobbing in San Francisco Bay in her tank suit, goggles, and chin-strap cap. The 33-year-old belongs to the Dolphin Club—a swimming and boating club dating back to 1877—where the unwritten law, even in 50° water, is no wetsuits. Starting the day with a swim is a way to reboot her mind, get inspired, and play before sitting down at her desk. It’s sort of like carving out a reverse happy hour. But swap the margarita for sea lions and views of Alcatraz.
Lengthen the a.m.
An early start can “make you feel the exhilaration of your own aliveness,” Sloan says.
Use maps: MAPS (that is, meaning, authenticity, purpose, strengths) activities help develop inner contentment, says Aymee Coget, CEO of the American Happiness Association. Swim, learn a language, or join a cause.
Give it time: Most habits, including getting up early, form within 21 to 30 days, Coget states, but give yourself 90 days. Once a habit is formed, you could respond like Sloan: “Days I don’t swim, I feel I’ve been cheated.”
2 of 5Photo by Roland Bello; written by Ivy Manning
Tuesday: Call it the new Saturday
Folks place too much importance on waiting until the weekend for get-togethers, says Ivy Entrekin, a personal chef in Portland. So midweek, Entrekin organizes “block dinners,” aka potlucks, with neighbors. Some contribute homegrown produce instead of cooking; others bring simple foods like freshly picked blackberries or chocolate bars. Four days is such a long stretch to wait for a friend’s meal, she says. “Having something to look forward to midweek gives me a little more momentum to push on through. It’s a necessary exhale that we sometimes forget to take.”
Mingle on work nights
It can be as simple as ordering a pizza and making a salad, but Entrekin has other tactics for pulling off a dinner party.
Choose a theme: It’s fun and it gives people a starting point. With a “rainbow potluck,” everyone brings a dish in an assigned color; a chocolate-themed potluck relies on dishes both sweet (one-bowl brownies) and savory (three-bean chili with cocoa).
Serve buffet-style: Those stuck in the commute can feel at ease if they arrive late.
Share cleanup tasks: Have guests wash their own plates as they leave.
Make your dish on Sunday or Monday before the party: Entrekin’s favorite do-ahead dessert: fruit crisp started in a slow-cooker in the morning and finished under the broiler to crisp the topping. Add scoops of ice cream.
3 of 5Photo by Jonathan Kingston/Aurora Open; written by Rachel Levin
Wednesday: Bring back recess
Keyboard crumbs are about as depressing as a post-lunch coma from too much Mexican. Take back your hour, as Bend, Oregon, resident Cathy Sassin does. The 47-year-old nutrition counselor spends her workday “Velcroed” to the computer and talking with clients. But come lunchtime, she straps on skis and steals away for an hour of cross-country skiing. “Mind, body, and soul, it’s a huge stress reliever,” she says. “I come back to the office invigorated, and, it sounds silly, but I’m ready to take on anything.”
Play for 60 minutes
Get some air: Combat “nature deficiency disorder,” says happiness expert Coget, by getting a boost of nature and sunlight during lunchtime.
Choose your activity: No ski trails outside your office door? Take a walk, a bike ride, or a jog.
4 of 5Photo by José Mandojana; written by Charyn Pfeuffer
Thursday: Reinvent the commute
It’s a mere 5 miles between Nat Hong’s home on Bainbridge Island, Washington, and his job in Bremerton—as the crow flies. But by car, his commute is 75 miles round-trip around the Olympic Peninsula. So he got creative. Hong, who is 57, bought a HydroBike. The 125-pound, propeller-driven bike with two pontoons for stability cuts his round-trip to 12 miles: 10 by land and 2 by water. “Who wants to park in slot G-14 in a dark concrete parking garage when you can do this?” Extra bonus: Hong got his fishing license and plans to pull a Rapala lure. “If I can catch salmon on my way home, that will be the culinary frosting on the cake of my commute.”
Love your drive time
If you aren’t one of the 14 million working from home and if you can’t bike, carpool, or take public transport, you can still survive time behind the wheel. Coget shares tips.
Take a gratitude drive: From point A to point B, recite things you’re grateful for (no repeating things!). “This increases gratitude awareness, and gratitude is an effective method of increasing happiness.”
Perform a random act of kindness: Like paying the toll of the person behind you.
5 of 5Photo by Laura Resen; written by Maria Finn
Friday: Bring Zen to your work den
We’ve seen enough drab office decor and cubicles to think they make for a more successful company. But Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh was ahead of the curve with his early understanding that fun workplaces are more productive. At the Henderson, Nevada–based company, employees express their funky sides by decorating in bright colors; camaraderie comes from open cubicles, high-energy conference rooms, and play—lots of mandatory play.
Kit out the workspace
Office-design experts give tips for making your office a Zen den.
Tear down the walls: Open spaces encourage a flow of ideas, so set up workstations without too much segmentation dividing them.
Paint: Large blocks of saturated hues create lively rooms.
Add “write” surfaces: Chalkboards can encourage collaboration.
Bring in nature: Natural lighting, plants, or bamboo tables lighten up the atmosphere. If possible, place bird feeders outside the windows.
Sit down: Choose ergonomic chairs, yes. But think about beanbags or chaises longues.