Clean up your Calendar

What is a “normal” schedule? For me, “normal” tends to be over-committed, overwhelming and overcrowded. If you’re anything like me, you need to clean up your calendar, every once in a while.

There are so many thing to do and not enough hours in my day. Some days it seems I am busy all day, and yet nothing ever gets done! So every season, I take the time to overhaul my calendar.

If I can clean up my calendar, my “normal” life will reflect my values and respect the season of life I’m in. Which, admittedly, is already busy.

It’s time to clean up your calendar

Grab your agenda, planner or phone and read over your calendar. Are you busy with some extra outside-the-home activity every day?

There are always those necessary things, such as school, grocery shopping, and work. But maybe church, sports, or music lessons are crowding your schedule.

Do you have room for date nights with your partner? Family time with the kids? Dinner at Grandma’s? Is there time for quiet afternoons, time at the gym or a walk in the park?

If your calendar is anything like mine, it’s filled in and scribbled over with notes, appointments, reminders and things-to-do. It’s so crowded that it takes me a few minutes just to find out I’m already late for the next thing. I’m going to clean up my calendar to create white space and margin for the things that really matter to me.

Check your commitments

First, I need to make sure I haven’t over-committed myself. It’s so easy to say yes to things, before I have a chance to really think about it. Then I feel bad about calling to back out, and I suck it up, make it work, and try to minimize the damage. But if I’m going to clean up my calendar, I need to thin out my obligations. Time to add a new word to my vocabulary: No.

It can be said graciously – No, that doesn’t fit in our life right now.  or That sounds exciting. I wish I could help, but I can’t fit it in our family’s schedule right now. If you aren’t sure you should take it on, but there’s a possibility, try saying Let me check my schedule and get back to you on that. It works in the corporate world. It will work in your personal life too.

Check your season of life

Notice in the phrases above I said “right now”, when turning things down. That’s because some things can be taken on, just not at this time in life. There’s a time and a season for everything. Some life seasons, such as when you have a house full of small children, mean that a lot of things won’t fit in your calendar.

So my second step in cleaning up my calendar is to check my season of life. I may really want to take a class in photography, but if my season of life is filled with diaper changes and middle-of-the-night feedings, it’s not the right season for continued education. If I’m in the middle of a business launch, I probably shouldn’t offer to babysit a neighbour’s child every day.

Some things can wait. There will be time for ballroom dance lessons or volunteering at the animal shelter. Children grow and eventually sleep through the night. Our commitments and obligations can change as the seasons of the year change. And if you want to swim outside, but it’s December in Canada, wait till the right season comes along.

Check your priorities

Sometimes my calendar gets so full of the “shoulds” and “oughts” that I neglect my values. I get frustrated when what I want to do gets crowded out by what I think I have to do. So if I’m feeling out of sync in my day-to-day routines, it’s probably because my priorities are skewed on my calendar.

My third step in cleaning up my calendar is to check that my priorities are reflected in my schedule. I value my time with my family. So if I’m taking on an outside activity, I want to make sure it supports my goal of family bonds.

Lately, this has meant that I’ve said no to a lot of daytime playdates, field trips and get-togethers. I’ve prioritized my ability to bond with my new baby and to keep my family’s schedule predictable. We may have missed out on some fun things, but I’ve also had less stress because I’m not trying to pack in too much into our time. When my calendar supports my priorities, life is much more manageable.

Check your communication

All this work to clean up my calendar can be wasted if I fail to tell those who need to know. My kids need to know what’s on the calendar, so they aren’t surprised by changes in our routines. My friends need to know my calendar priorities and commitments, so we can plan our get-togethers at times that fit both our schedules.

Who has input into what goes on the calendar? Partners, extended family, teachers, bosses, and anyone else who can put things on your calendar, needs to know your priorities, seasons and obligations. If you don’t share your calendar with those people, no matter how much you try to clean it up, it’s just going to get cluttered again.

Communication over your calendar is what protects your time margins and white spaces. A lack of communication leads to overcrowded and over-committed schedules. If you don’t want your hard work wasted, share it. Make sure you tell everyone impacted by your calendar what goes on it — and what doesn’t!

Calendars are tools

Time management begins with a cleared, prioritized calendar. A calendar is just one of many tools to help you take charge of your time and get done what you want and need to get done. If you don’t check it regularly, it can quickly get out of control and start to take over your time. Rather than a useful tool, it becomes a screaming monster. And that’s scary. Clean up your calendar and take charge of your day.

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