Manage Your Schedule So It Doesn’t Manage You
As we, to various degrees, ease back into school schedules, sports, holiday commitments, etc., it’s a great time to get a handle on our schedules and calendars. This topic encompasses broad categories like time management, prioritization, self awareness – all the things. I’m throwing in equal parts philosophical and practical. Let’s dig in.
Tune in to how you spend your time
You might be thinking…what do you mean? I’m doing what I have to do 24/7, to keep little people fed and clothed, and there’s no flexibility or extra time there! I hear you! However, if there’s even a small part of you that is yearning to “find” more time, or manage your schedule differently, the first step is becoming more aware of you spend your time.
All work and no play? All play and somehow no time to work and get things done? No right or wrong, but there should ideally be a relationship – a correlation, between how you spend your day and what you need to do, what your interests are, what you enjoy, what feeds your soul, and what moves you closer to your goals.
Be Ruthless With Your Calendar
You control your calendar. It doesn’t control you! Identify your top 3 priorities. Does the way you spend your days support those priorities? What is sucking your time that you’d rather not do? Do you feel too busy? What if you literally stopped doing X? Yes, people need to be fed, and most of what we do is likely necessary. But, consider doing things less frequently…2 times/week to get groceries currently? Try stretching it to 1. Find 1 thing and stop doing it. See what happens.
Decide what you can delegate, then do it. You probably don’t need to be the one doing everything that you’re currently doing. Yes, I’m sure you’re the best dishwasher loader in all the land and nobody else does it remotely right. But, sometimes good enough is enough. Are you making lunch for your kids? Have them make their own (age dependent). Consider sharing transportation duties, too.
What do you want to find MORE time to do? Be specific, realistic, and start slow. 1 yoga class per week, 1/2 hour by yourself, grocery store without kids, a date night, a daily walk, a class, organizing, baking, reading, sleeping, sitting by yourself in your car in a parking lot and listening to a podcast and taking a second….(right?!) What resonates with YOU? Don’t wait for the stars to align. Carve out time for what’s important to you. Don’t get overwhelmed thinking you’ll never make it to the finish line. You may not become fluent in French by next week, but multiple sessions of 20 minutes all add up and move you closer toward that goal.
It’s a worthwhile challenge to declutter and manage your schedule, peeling back and reducing or eliminating what is keeping us from achieving our goals or being fulfilled.
Write it down
If you have a thought that you don’t want to lose, what do you do? There’s no right answer, but having AN answer/a SYSTEM is soooo helpful. Write it down! My system? I immediately enter it into my phone’s calendar. I put it where I know I’m checking anyway. And, I assign a time to it when I know I’ll be able to handle it. I often default to 9pm. If I have to register a kid up for an activity, for example, but don’t have time to handle it right away, I’ll add a calendar entry on my phone’s calendar for 9pm to do the registration. So, once the kids are down, I can look through my misc. tasks for the evening and get them checked off.
Or, if I’m out and about and remember that we need milk, I’ll add an entry that says “groceries (milk)” for the following Thursday, because that’s when we get groceries. It will be there when I’m planning my Thursday.
This little hack is a great tool to guard against forgetting. We ALL forget things. But, the beauty of utilizing tools, technology, or even good old fashioned paper is that THEY are doing the “remembering” for us! Write it down! Then you don’t need to rely on your memory. Because let’s face it, our minds are jumbled with what we need to do, where we need to go, running errands, working, parenting. Let’s let our tools work for us. My system is 1000% more reliable than my memory.
Live in your days, not for the future
It’s easy to fall into a habit of living for some future time. If I only get through X, I’ll make it to the weekend or the vacation. And, THEN, I can relax/have fun/do what I want to do. But, the moments you’re trying to get through to get to the “fun” stuff ARE your life. Yes, there are steps you can take to tweak each day by bringing more of certain activities in, or decluttering certain ones out so that each day can look more like you want it to look.
But, even more than this, adopting a mental outlook that shifts how we view even the most mundane of days is helpful. Load after load of laundry? Shift that to gratitude for having things to wash and loved ones to wear the clothes. Tight deadline at work? Wow – employment and productivity are gifts! Days full of meetings? What great opportunities to have community with others, hear their ideas and share your own. Angst over your schedule can be flipped on its’ head by adopting an outlook inclusive of gratitude, perspective, and, even “this too shall pass”, if you’re in a particularly trying time.
A combination of some practical habits and systems (writing things down, delegating, prioritizing, saying no) along with a healthy dose of grace, goes a long way. Regardless of what is on your calendar, there is good to be discovered each day.