HOW TO SIMPLIFY YOUR CALENDAR AND BE MORE INTENTIONAL WITH YOUR TIME
How many times have you wished for more hours in the day, more free time and less commitments? Time that’s not already allocated to doing something, going somewhere or seeing someone. With so much going on, we struggle to keep up with it all and can end up frustrated, worn out, demoralised and resentful. If you’re struggling to keep on top of things, check out this post on how to simplify your calendar and be more intentional with your time.
WHY DO WE KEEP SAYING YES?
There are times when we have to do things, like dentist appointments, work commitments or taking the kids to school. We don’t have much choice about these, but what about the other things, which are perhaps more optional?
- Do we do them out of obligation?
- Is it out of habit because we’ve always done them?
- Perhaps we don’t want to upset the person who has asked us, in case they’re offended that we don’t want to spend time with them.
- Maybe we’re worried that if we say no this time, they won’t ask us again.
- Maybe because we feel that if we’re not busy then somehow we lose our purpose or value, that being busy is a sign of importance. If someone asks you how you are, is your default response “I’m just so busy”? Do you feel safe in this response, that by being busy we’ve somehow justified ourselves and our existence?
Whatever the reason for us keeping on saying yes, the end result is that we fill up our time with loads of extra activities and appointments. On top of the other things which we HAVE to do, it leaves very little free time for anything else.
WHY IS FREE TIME IMPORTANT?
Free time is absolutely vital for our physical and emotional well-being.
- It allows us to wind down and recharge our batteries, to reflect on the day and how it went.
- To pursue our leisure interests and hobbies.
- To spend quality time as a family.
- Free time means you don’t have to think about what you’re doing, where you’ve got to go to, what you need to take, what time you need to leave etc. It’s time at home or outside, doing what you want and love.
- Unstructured time for the children where they learn to make up their own games, plan their own activities and time.
- Something to look forward to when we spend the majority of our day doing things that we aren’t so passionate about (work and school for example).
HOW DO YOU CREATE MORE FREE TIME?
The simple answer is that you get more intentional with your time and say no to everything that isn’t important to you and your family. Remember that whenever you say ‘yes’ to one commitment, you are saying ‘no’ to another.
Your time is precious and you won’t get it back again so think very carefully about how you choose to spend it. Be selfish with your time and guard it wisely.
ACTION STEPS TO SIMPLIFYING YOUR CALENDAR
- Take a long hard look at your diary. Include in your calendar all the activities that you and your family do on a daily basis including the weekends. Make sure you also put in things like school and work and show the times that you do these activities.
- Next make sure that you have included all of the out of school activities and the other things that you do on a daily and weekly basis eg, tennis club, Brownies, football practice. This way you have no surprises and you can see exactly what you do on each day of the week.
- Go through your calendar again and work out if there are any of these commitments that don’t mean as much to you as you originally thought. For example, are the monthly school PTA meetings really important to you or is it something that you signed up for at the start of term but now wish you hadn’t obligated yourself to for the whole year? Dig deep and be honest with yourself about how you really feel.
- How many after school clubs do your children go to? Do you have a rule for one activity per term per child so that you don’t end up being a 24/7 taxi service? Is there an activity that your child keeps saying they don’t want to do, but because you’ve paid for it, you still make them go?
- Take a long, hard look at each commitment and ask yourself whether it aligns with what you want for you and your family. What would you be doing with the time instead and is this/could this be more valuable and/or productive?
- Remember that just because you said yes at the beginning, it doesn’t mean you have to be committed to it forever. People change and circumstances change and that’s ok. By saying no, it might allow you the opportunity to try something different which might actually be of more benefit or value. For example, implement a family games or film night instead of dropping one child at judo and the other at Brownies and spending the rest of the evening in limbo waiting for drop off/pick up times.
- When you’ve chosen which activities you want to keep doing then say no to the rest. You can always choose these as a priority for next term or season, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a no forever.
- Mark in your calendar the blocks of free time you have created and guard these with your life. They are precious! Make sure all the family knows that these are free time and they need to run it by you if at all possible, before they commit to something.
HOW TO SAY NO
Sometimes it’s difficult to say no, isn’t it? What about that awkward situation when someone asks you to make cakes for the school fundraising cake sale, or worse still actually help sell the cakes? When it comes to a good cause, it’s difficult to say no when you’re put on the spot. So, what should you do?
Maybe you could respond as follows:
- I’d love to help out but I can’t right now, please ask me next time
- Let me think about it and if it’s ok, can I let you know later
- I’m really sorry but things are so busy because (…) and I just don’t have time at the moment
If you explain why you can’t help then usually people will understand. They may get a little upset or put out but that’s usually because they were banking on you to help and now they may have to find someone else.
Learning to say ‘no’ is something that takes time and practice but just remember that when you say no to something, you’re also saying ‘YES!’ to something else.