Even if you were productive every day of the week (kudos to those of you can manage it, I am not one of you), you’d probably still have tasks left over at the end of each day — whether because they take a lot of time, or so little time that you de-prioritize them, or you keep putting them off because you just don’t have the energy or want to do them, or you just forget about them in the course of a busy day. Or if you manage to check everything off the list, odds are you could use a break: some self-care, whatever form that takes for you.
So you set aside a period of time — it can be an hour every morning, every Sunday, the first weekend of each month, or on an as-needed basis … whatever works for you — and get all those things, and yourself, taken care of.
Get Your Shit Together (GYST) days are a concept introduced to me by Clo @ Book Dragons, but as far as I can tell the term was coined by YouTuber Kalyn Nicholson. No one’s perfect and things can slip through the cracks all too easily, so it’s really helpful to dedicate some time to check in with yourself. And hey, if you find your life is running smoothly, you’re not stressed out and want to keep the momentum going, you can always get ahead for next week or next month. Adulting never stops.
My GYST Routine
Of course, everyone does this a little differently since everyone’s life is a little different. There’s plenty of GYST and reset routine videos on YouTube (I’m particularly fond of Rowena Tsai and Michelle Choi @ The Seoul Search for their calm productivity vibes, and sometimes I’ll put them on in the background); here’s what’s been working for me recently.
You might have heard that saying, “Your morning starts the night before” — I like to put this into practice by making my to-do list [see below] before I go to bed, early enough to get a good night’s sleep before getting up to tackle the day. Typically I use Saturday or Sunday as my GYST day, so I could stay up later, but it’s certainly harder to muster the motivation to be productive when all I want is a nap.
On GYST days, I like to get up a little earlier than usual (anywhere from 30 – 90 minutes) so that I still have time for my morning routine: journaling, stretching, personal hygiene, and whatever else I’ve been trying out recently since I’m still experimenting to figure out the best way to start my day. I may eat breakfast if I feel like it, but if I’m not hungry I don’t force myself.
My preference is to start with what’s quick and easy, as well as things that can be done simultaneously: for example, putting in a load of laundry, then sorting my papers while it’s running. The ideal morning tasks are the ones that require physically moving around and can be checked off my list, to build some momentum. I try to avoid getting on my laptop or phone unless it’s to put on music or a podcast / YouTube video to listen to while I’m working, since even if I don’t get distracted playing games or checking social media it’s easy to get sucked into emails or bloghopping for hours.
Lunch and dinner happen at some point, typically just whenever I get hungry or when my friends / family (depending on whether I’m at school or home, respectively) want to get food. Between lunch and dinner, I tend to work on the more mentally demanding items on my list — things like planning and studying and writing — and after dinner, I’ll either keep going or move onto more creative and/or relaxing activities.
I like to end the day by “clearing to neutral” — putting things back where they belong, whether that’s in my closet or my backpack — then setting out anything I need for tomorrow. This way I’m less rushed in the morning, and ready to generally keep moving forward in life.
A Sample GYST List
Naturally my exact to-do list varies a little from week to week, but here are some of the items that tend to show up regularly or frequently:
- Do laundry
- Vacuum and dust
- Check whether Cactus the succulent needs to be watered
- Plan out next week’s schedule and set up bullet journal
- Review lecture notes, make flashcards, etc.
- Back up files
- Sort out email inboxes: personal, school, and blog
- Catch up on bloghopping and returning comments
- Prewrite posts
Tips & Tricks I’ve Learned
Your brain is for having ideas, not holding them.
Part of the problem is that I straight-up forget about some of the things I need to do, so whether it’s in the notes app on my phone or at the bottom of the daily spread in my bullet journal, I make sure to write them down when I think of them — especially when I know I probably won’t get to it that same day. If I realize while getting dressed that I’m out of socks, I jot down a note to do laundry; if there’s an ARC that I want to request or a friend mentions a useful program I want to try out, I might take a screenshot to look at later.
Other tasks are regular necessities, like clearing out the emails and screenshots I’ve collected, or watering my succulent. For these I schedule a recurring reminder in Todoist, which I can pull up easily on GYST day without worrying that I’ve forgotten anything. And Todoist has a 7-day view that allows me to see and check off any items that I may have completed earlier in the week, so that they’re no longer taking up virtual and mental space. (On GYST day I also like to copy the list into my bujo so I can shut down my computer to eliminate distractions … and have the satisfaction of physically checking each task off!)
I read somewhere that it also helps to write your to-do items as action verbs (ex: “make flashcards” instead of just “flashcards”) for psychological reasons; while I’m not sure if it makes a significant difference, it only takes a few extra seconds so it doesn’t hurt to try. What I do know helps is writing down relevant details and being specific (“email Prof. X re: hw question”), especially if you’re making the list ahead of time and might forget exactly what that item is about.
“We’re all in this together.”
When I first declared my intention to participate in a Discord server, I was added to a group chat dedicated to GYST-ing on Sundays. We’d send our to-do lists and updates throughout the day so we could both cheer each other on and hold each other accountable, which really helped me stick with it. (That original group chat has mostly been abandoned in favor of the GYST channel in the Bookish Collision discord server, which is a little more free-for-all but does get fairly regular daily use.)
Similar to the concept of a gym or study accountability buddy, having friends also participating in GYST days adds a little bit of external pressure for extra motivation. It’s a good source of encouragement and productive vibes when you take brief breaks to send updates — as long as you have the self-control not to slip into scrolling through Discord and/or your phone! As with all things, balance is key.
Throughout the day I do take periodic breaks; I typically only use the Pomodoro technique (25 minutes working, 5 minutes break, repeat) when studying, otherwise I just go with what feels best. Research has shown that switching tasks or letting yourself space out (or meditate, if that’s your thing) can help you get over mental blocks, come up with new ideas and solutions, and generally avoid becoming a puddle of anxiety. Which is part of the reason for GYST-ing in the first place — if it stresses you out or overwhelms you, the purpose has been resoundingly defeated.
Would you consider dedicating a GYST day if you haven’t already? And if yes, would you do it weekly, monthly, or just as needed? What kind of tasks would be on your GYST list?