It never fails that when I find myself snapping, crying, and generally feeling overwhelmed by life, busyness is the culprit. (In full honesty, this was me last Friday.) If I open up my planner in these moments, I’ll likely find weeks that are marked by too much ink and not enough white space. Weeks that have too many commitments to other people and too few to myself and my family.
We live in a society that values busyness and politeness, which leads us to be overscheduled and overwhelmed. Because of this, our calendars are one of the most difficult areas of life to simplify, and I think, the most difficult to keep in a simplified state. I am constantly evaluating and re-evaluating my commitments: every week, every weekend, every time I make a to-do list, not to mention every month and season (hello, Christmas craziness).
But this one is the most critical areas for me to simplify and keep simple, because it’s what allows me to be a growing and thriving Christ follower, the best version of myself, the best wife and mom and friend and daughter and sister I can be.
As you consider paring back your schedule, ask yourself these questions and consider these practices in order to maximize your minimizing.
Questions to Ask Yourself
1. What does “busy” do to you? Does it make you feel exhausted, irritated, powerful, validated? What’s under those feelings? Is there a better way to meet your needs than to turn to busyness?
2. What are the things you always wish I had more time for?
3. What were you favorite memories growing up? What made them special? Are you spending your time in ways that reflect this for you, and if you have them, for your kids?
Practices to Help You Simplify Your Schedule
1. Define your sweet spot. Over time, I’ve learned how many weeknight and weekend commitments are just right, and how many are too many. My weeknight (Monday–Thursday) sweet spot is one commitment, and my max is two. The same holds true for my weekends. Anything more than this leaves me feeling frazzled and fried. It’s not that I never do more than this, but I do give myself extra grace and prioritize finding some time to recover the next week or weekend. Consider what this ideal number is for you (which may vary based on the type of event!). You might be able to handle two or three small gatherings, but only one large party.
2. Question your weekly commitments. If your weekly commitments are over that “sweet spot” number (or even if they’re not), question what you’re doing and why. Is each commitment essential? Is each commitment aligned to your life vision? Is there something you can drop in favor of something that fills you up? Pare back as necessary and as possible.
3. Question every invitation. I have a tendency to feel guilty saying no when I’m invited somewhere, because it feels rude and impolite. I’m learning to get over it and protect my time, my energy, and my family above other things. Before you say yes to an invitation, ask yourself: Is this event going to fill me up or drain me? Am I essential to the event? Who else will be there, and will my presence be missed much? Is this something I need to do, want to do, or feel like I should do? What would happen if I said no?
4. Learn to say no. The thing that helps me continue saying no, even when it’s hard, is remembering that saying yes to something is saying no to something else. Often, saying yes to an extra set of plans on the weekend means saying no reading, which makes me feel recharged and healthy. Or, saying yes to a new weekly commitment means saying no to spending time with Dan. After questioning the invitation, if you determine that you need to say no, do it firmly, politely, and honestly. You don’t have to make excuses.
5. Define your home team. I went into more detail about this in my post on filled space, which you can read here. Basically, define your core group of friends and family, the ones who get the best of your time and energy. If you get an invitation from someone not on your home team, don’t accept it if it will negatively impact your home-team relationships in the long term. It’s not that you never spend time with people outside your home team; it means you do so carefully.
6. Determine what really doesn’t matter to you, and then don’t do those things. You don’t enjoy gardening? Don’t do it. You’re not a DIY-er? Stop pinning crafts and feeling guilty for not doing them. You don’t feel relaxed after binge watching Netflix? Turn off the TV and go for a walk. The key is to not beat yourself up for not doing something you feel like you should be doing. Remind yourself that while you could do those things, you’re choosing not to, and that’s okay. (I shared more about the things I don’t do here.)
7. Make time to rest each day. It doesn’t matter how busy or slow my day was; if I don’t find time to rest for a few minutes, I feel overwhelmed and scattered when I go to bed, which often leads to poor sleep and feeling more overwhelmed the next day. Some days you might be able to find an hour to read, and other days you may need to lie down on the couch for five minutes between getting home from work and making dinner.
8. Replace “should” with “could.” A few weeks ago at the Influence Conference, Erin of Design for Mankind gave an excellent talk on surviving the difficult seasons of life. She suggested a practice that I’ve since adopted as a general life practice: replacing “should” with “could.” The word should tends to carry with it a sense of guilt, but the word could more neutrally implies that we have options. Consider these sentences:
- I should go to the party this weekend. (Implication: I feel like I have to go, and I’m a bad person if I don’t.)
- I could go to the party this weekend. (Implication: I could also say no and use that time to do something else.)
- I should work out tonight. (Unspoken: Even though I’m exhausted and just want to lie down.)
- I could work out night. (Unspoken: Or I could take care of my body in a different way, by resting and eating a healthy dinner.)
Some seasons of life are busier than others, and that’s definitely okay and normal. But it’s important for us to keep a healthy margin in our lives for when things do get busy, and that we’re able to anticipate when the busyness will end (so that if it does extend too long, we’re ready to take steps to scale back). We don’t need to live lives that constantly feel stretched to the max.
What do you need to do today to simplify your schedule? What other tips would you add to this list?#Simplify Your #Schedule: A Guide to Prioritizing What Matters Most Click To Tweet
In case you’ve missed them, here are the other posts in this Simplify series: