We live in an age where busyness is worn like a badge of honor. I’ve been in conversations with other women who are literally comparing how busy they are with an urgency so great they can barely let the other person finish a sentence before jumping in to one-up them.
“Oh tell me about it! Every Wednesday night I’m shuffling my daughter to piano lessons, my son to baseball practice, and my other son to karate!”
It’s not that I’m a saint here or anything. I’ve felt the need to appear busy to avoid feeling somehow less-than. I felt it especially when I was transitioning from being a stay-at-home mom to a work-at-home mom and starting my company.
I found myself bragging about all the meetings I was being asked to be in and all the tasks on my to do list. It felt like I was making up for being useless for seven years of at-home motherhood, even though I pride myself on believing that that role is the most important role in the universe. When everyone else is doing something I think it’s only natural to feel like you’re somehow inept if you’re not also doing that thing.
The thing is, when you allow yourself to get so busy, your life begins to happen to you and you’re not really living it anymore. When you fill your calendar, you spend all the in-between time getting ready for the next scheduled event.
You no longer have time to take a walk, read that book you bought on Amazon two months ago, have coffee with a friend (and have more to talk about than how terribly busy you both are), or listen to your daughter talk about the girl who hasn’t been so nice to her at school.
We are becoming less available to ourselves and less available to the people around us. We are missing the point and it’s really hurting our world. If you don’t have time to take care of yourself and do things that bring you joy, you’re going to end up overworked, unhappy, and quite possibly depressed. Trust me, I’ve been there.
We need to stop being victims of what everyone else is doing, stop filling our calendar so dang high, and start asking ourselves if our schedules reflect the life we want to have lived when we’re eighty.
What would happen if you started telling your time where to go and removing the things on your calendar that don’t line up with your end goal? This doesn’t mean you have to become a Type A personality who lives by the schedule (that freaks me out and I could never not be spontaneous) but the fact is that if you want to live an intentional life, you have to plan to be intentional. Spontaneity has little to do with it.
As someone whose life is generally insane (I have four kids under eight, I homeschool and run my own business from home- not bragging, it’s that busy all on its own), I’ve had to really get serious about how I’m spending my days and what goes on my calendar.
There are a few things I’ve learned about decluttering my calendar, clearing the chaos in my schedule, and being truly intentional about how I’m spending my time.
>> Note: I’ve always wanted to write a “10 things” blog post but I never end up with ten things (I think everyone else is forcing it because they always end up with the perfect ten). But this time it happened. And I have to say I did a happy dance when I ended up with TEN perfect things, because I'm a huge dork. Anyway….
10 Ways to Declutter Your Calendar & Get Intentional With Your Time
Question all reoccurring events and commitments.
Just because you’ve always done something or you’ve been a part of it for x amount of time doesn’t mean it’s right for you in this season.
Have you always been a table leader at your Bible study but when you think about the coming season you cringe? Back out. They’ll be fine, I promise. I give you permission to think of yourself here and remove yourself from any commitments that used too fit you but don’t anymore.
One personal example I can give you is from our move to the midwest a couple years ago. We left our home state of California (we’re back now) and moved to the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. I was scared and desperate for friends, so I started a MeetUp group. After a few months I wasn’t scared anymore and God had called me to start my business, which meant less free time.
The MeetUp group became a burden for me, so I handed the role of “leader” over to one of the other girls and left. I had carried so much weight and worrying around for nothing- they were fine without me, and my season of life had shifted and it just wasn’t a good fit for me anymore. And that’s okay. Look at your calendar and ask yourself what isn’t working for me anymore?
- What is working for you?
As you’re dissecting your schedule, take a look at the things that are working really well for you right now. Is there a new yoga class you've been going to that contributed to the pounds you ditched recently? Great! Keep that. Is there a weekly coffee date with a friend that helps you breathe and gain a fresh perspective? Awesome. Keep that too. Make sure you don’t remove the things that are making you better in an attempt to simplify.
- Talk to your family about how they feel.
Nobody will be as honest as your family (or just your husband if your kids are super small) right? So why not see how they’re feeling about your level of busyness? You may not realize it, but something that you’re taking your kid to out of the goodness of your heart might not actually float his boat anymore, and you’d both be a lot happier if you just moved on.
You’ll never know how they feel about your life unless you ask. Besides, don’t we want to live lives that make our families feel good? Feel closer together? Start the conversation.
- Remove those pesky little reminders you never actually do.
You know those little notes we add to our calendars in a fit of organization? Things like, “do your deep breathing exercises!” that we add to every day because we read an article about it? And then they go off when we’re pooping or driving or stuffing our faces with cookies and make us feel like crap. Yeah… delete those.
- Schedule one nothing day per week.
I know this is a lot to ask, but seriously, if you don’t do anything else in this article, do this one. Having one nothing day each week is a huge huge huge game-changer. I would go so far as to say that doing this in my life made as big an impact on me as getting rid of all my clutter and deciding to wake up early. You can choose any day you want, but you’ve got to pick one.
My nothing day changes throughout the week, but if you’re new to this I highly suggest choosing the same day each week until it’s a habit for you. Here's a "nothing day" in action example for you doubters...
Two days ago I sat down to write this post and absolutely nothing would come out of me. I messed around on social media, rebranded my book page, and texted three long lost friends to see how they were doing. Yeah... that's not what I was supposed to be doing with that time.
Then yesterday was my nothing day. My family and I walked the beach for two hours, had lunch at a cafe (where Hudson pointed to a marine and yelled “THAT GUY DOESN’T LOOK LIKE A HERO IF YOU ASK ME!" Always respectful and polite, never embarrassing…), we took a family nap, then ended the day perusing the nighttime farmers market in downtown. It was an AMAZING day!
Today, I woke up early, got dressed, grabbed my laptop, and headed to a cafe to write. I turned my WIFI and my phone off, and this is the third article I’ve written in the last hour alone.
We need more nothing days! Nothing days allow our energy to restore so we can be better, more productive humans tomorrow.
- Pencil in some self-care. And don’t you dare reschedule.
What needs to happen for you to feel like you’re living well? Do you love taking walks by yourself? Do you love going to the gym without your kids? Do you love sitting in a coffee shop with a great book? Does getting a manicure make you feel like a brand new person? Do you love socializing?
Rather than trying to remember to fit those things in between baseball practice and piano lessons (it will never happen), start scheduling those things into your calendar. If you don’t make it happen, it’s not going to, and you’re going to be less happy. You deserve better, and your family deserves to have a happy mama in the house!
Don’t take “you” time lightly by bumping yourself every time another obligation/opportunity comes up for that time slot. Treat it like an important meeting! Show up for it and don’t reschedule on yourself.
- Create scheduled self-care time for each of the main areas in your life.
I like to have self-care times for my physical self, my spiritual self, and my emotional self. Physical is something that gets you moving and has you regularly taking care of your body. So maybe it’s a weekly class at the gym, or a Saturday morning run. Maybe it’s more often than once a week. As long as it works for you and makes you feel capable and healthy and alive, not burdened, it’ll work.
Spiritual for me means my daily quiet time. I usually get on this first thing in the morning, but sometimes it ends up being midday. I read my Bible, pray, speak life over myself, my family, my business, and my day by doing my affirmations. My relationship with God is very important to me (mostly because every time I’m not focused on it I really botch everything), so this is one area that I schedule in daily, not weekly.
I also have one day a week when I go for a drive and pray out loud over whatever is currently causing me stress or making me feel lost (this week it was a family relationship problem) just to keep me close to Him and make sure I’m not just going through the motions of my daily routine. That weekly time away and alone solely for the sake of talking with my Creator keeps me sane and at peace and focused on His will for my life.
Emotional self-care for me means doing what restores my energy. As an introvert, that means being by myself. I usually couple my weekly prayer drive with my alone time by pray-driving myself to Target or the beach or the park, where I pop my headphones in and listen to a podcast while I walk around and just enjoy being alone. If you’re an extrovert, your emotional self-care will probably look a lot different than mine. The point is to do what makes you feel re-energized so you can give your best to the people who need you.
- Have set times for important things that fall under one category.
Being a guest on podcasts and doing press interviews is a regular part of what I do. It can very easily become really crazy and sporadic. At one point I was shoving my family out the door and jumping on Skype for an interview every day for weeks!
When there is something you do on a regular basis but isn’t scheduled, it’s time for you to tell your time where to go. I started using Calendly to create a space for interviewers to schedule time with me, and I chose what the time slots are. Now, I have two days a week for just a couple of hours each day when I am available for interviews. If more opportunities come in than I have time for that week, they just get bumped to the next week’s interview time slot.
I encourage you to try this if it applies to your life! Where can you apply batching? Look at your to do list and group all the similar tasks together into one time slot. If it can’t all be done in one slot, that’s okay- maybe it can wait till next week.
- Schedule to be alone with each of your kids.
This is one area where, I’ll be honest, I struggle. I am pretty much constantly with my kids since they’re homeschooled, and I have my work day down to just a couple hours in the early morning so it’s very rare that I am away from them. Setting aside intentional time to hone in on just one of them always feels unnecessary until I’m doing it. And then, every time, I see all the reasons why I need to be doing this on a regular basis.
I try to pick a kid and spend one-on-one time with them every week, which adds up to each of my kids getting time alone with me every month. My good friends over at On Purpose Marriage (hi, Cody and Stef!) are awesome at this. I see them doing it all the time, and the joy on their kids’ faces is obvious.
There have been so many beautiful conversations, revealed secrets, and sweet moments to come out of my alone time with each of my kids. If you start doing this, I guarantee your kids will feel closer to you and you will have their hearts. So worth it.
- Does your calendar reflect how you want to live your life?
In the end, this is what we’re really working towards- a calendar that reflects the life we want to have lived when all is said and done. Look at your calendar and ask yourself this question. Suddenly, football practice and baking cookies for the bake sale doesn’t feel so important anymore. Perspective.
Tired of being a slave to your clutter?
What takes up your space takes up your time.
Take yours back and get focused on what matters most!