Its Monday afternoon, 2:45 p.m, and I’m sitting on my porch watching bees, eating a bowl of veggies, and pondering this post – not exactly your typical Monday, but it works for me.
I’ve always been a super introvert. So packing my schedule to the brim was pretty much out of the question – too overwhelming and not enough time to process everything. I’ve also been fortunate enough to not have to work excessive hours each week, but I know not everyone is in that position.
So with the cost of living, raising kids, funding your hobbies, etc, etc, etc. – How do we avoid stuffing our schedules as we’re often tempted to do?
Initially, this question stumped me. Of course, I know how to maintain a loose, flexible schedule for myself. However, I know that I live on a lot less money than some folks, have fewer expenses, and fewer obligations. So who am I to give advice to anyone?
In reality, I think reducing an over-packed schedule comes down to who you are and what you want. What constitutes “over-packed” also depends on your physical needs, like how much sleep, food, and alone time you need.
As far as personal needs, maybe you want to spend more time with your family, get out more with friends, get a new business off the ground, or have more time for hobbies. Whatever the case, it’s likely you can detect a few consistent time-wasters if you honestly recap your week. Is it too much TV, overtime at work, or excessive worrying time that doesn’t get you anywhere? Even benign activities can be excessive if they start to drain your energy.
I only began recognizing busyness as a more serious problem when I had two people cancel on me at the last minute one week. It was inconvenient for me, and made them seem unprofessional and flakey. But for modern professionals, situations like that are commonplace.
Now for those that say, “I haven’t had a minute to get back to you. I’ve been so busy!” I’m going to politely call your bluff here. What you really mean is, “This issue was not enough of a priority for me to give attention to it this week.” Of course, that’s fine. In fact, it’s great because it shows that you have the ability to filter tasks into two piles: what needs to be done and what can wait.
And while it’s understandable to be polite and use busyness as an excuse to avoid things you simply aren’t interested in (yes, people realize your gerbil is not really in the hospital), it’s important to remember that you are ultimately in control of your time. You shouldn’t feel caught in a whirlwind of constant meetings, events, and appointments for which you have little say in.
If this is how you feel regularly, it may be time to make some cuts. It can be a bummer to make cuts. It’s like in kids sports – we feel sad for the ones who didn’t make the team. Why couldn’t everyone just make the team?! But it’s unrealistic to try to include everything in your schedule and do it all.
Think of it this way: the more priorities you pack into a day, the less time you have for each one. So those really important priorities will be diluted by the other, more menial tasks that could have been postponed. Don’t let unproductive or insignificant things take up the precious time you’d otherwise be spending meaningfully.
So what’s the quickest way to dig through your schedule and pull out the weeds? Just write down your typical tasks for the week – the things that take up the majority of your time. For each task or activity, ask yourself one question: Is this serving me? “Serving” could mean providing fun, experience, education, productivity, relaxation, or something else. If you can’t find a true benefit, it might be time to say goodbye to it – at least for the time being.