For 15 days, we’re exploring the topic of making our health and well-being a priority as part of the 15 Days to a Healthier You series. You can read Day 1 here, Day 2 here, Day 3 here, Day 4 here, Day 5 here, and Day 6 here.
Paper clutter, an overloaded email inbox, and lots of stuff in your house that you don’t love and use, can drain you, bog you down, and zap your energy and creativity.
But it’s not just physical clutter and excess stuff that can bog us down; calendar clutter is a huge cause of exhaustion and burnout. It’s not only a joy-killer and a creativity-killer; it could also be hurting your overall health.
I get it.
There’s so much we want to do. There’s so much we need to do. And there’s so much that seems like a good idea to do.
If you’re a driven person like me, you constantly have so many ideas and brainstorms and dreams and hopes and goals for what you want to do with your life, what you want to do with your year, what you want to do with each week.
And it’s great to dream about all these amazing things you want to accomplish, but the reality is that overextending yourself and packing your schedule so full with “good stuff” doesn’t make for a great life at all… it makes for an overwhelming life.
So, what’s the solution? Well, we have to get ruthless with our calendar clutter.
It can sound simple on the surface, but just like it’s sometimes challenging to keep physical clutter at bay and to know what to hang onto and what to get rid of, so it can be hard to figure out how to eliminate the calendar clutter, too.
Not sure how to do that? Here’s some step-by-step help to get you started:
1. Choose Your “Best Stuff”
There are many good things in life that you can invest your life in, but you can’t come close to trying to do them all. Figure out what the best things are for YOU and wrap your life, time, and energy around those things. Again, this goes back to knowing what your most important priorities are for the season of life you’re in.
When you know what is important for you, it’s much easier to determine what’s NOT important for you to do.
For me, that’s my marriage, my kids, my health and well-being, and the blog. I say “no” to a lot of other things because they are the best things for me to invest my time in at this season of life.
2. Create a Stop Doing List
I love this quote from Breaking Busy by Alli Worthington:
“Our lives have gotten so cluttered with things we think we should do, that we can’t figure out what we were meant to do. Let your life be about what you were meant to do, not full of what you think you should do. This starts with your daily decisions about how you spend your time.”
Alli then goes on in her book to encourage you to create what she calls a “Stop Doing List” — a list of items you intentionally decide to not do so that you can focus your time and energy on your greatest priorities.
She says the best way to identify what you need to stop doing is by asking yourself these two questions: What is sucking the life right out of me? Does this activity get me closer to reaching my goals?
Related: How to Create a Realistic To-Do List
3. Carve Out Intentional Breathing Room
You might be able to juggle a lot of things and do a good job of it, but you aren’t nor will you ever be superwoman. You need to set aside buffer time in your schedule — to recharge, to refuel, and to prevent burn-out.
Some practical ideas for more breathing room in your life:
Stay Home More — I love staying home and we aim to stay home all day at least 1-2 days per week. When we are running, running, running, and going, going, going, it makes us all feel tired and cranky.
Allow Two Hours of Margin — A lot of our feelings of busyness come from trying to pack 32 hours’ worth of projects and to-do’s into a 24-hour day. No wonder we feel so overwhelmed and worn out! I use a time-blocked to-do list and I try to always include at least 2 hours of margin every day so that I have some wiggle room for the inevitable interruptions. Expect the unexpected, plan for the interruptions, and it will alleviate a lot of stress in your day!
Take One Day Off — Setting aside Sundays as our “off” day has been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. In fact, I would say it is almost the number one key to my productivity and efficiency. I look forward to Sundays as the weekly 24-hour period to rest, refresh, and recharge. You’ll quickly wear out of you just charge through life and never take time to refuel. Sundays are the day when my spirit breathes and my creativity tank is refilled for the week ahead.
4. Commit to Quality Over Quantity
When considering the multitude of opportunities that constantly present themselves for activities, ministries, service projects, and more, I try to first ask myself, “Will this matter in 25 years from now?” This helps me weed through a lot of things that just aren’t the best things for me to be devoting time and energy to right now.
After paring down my list based upon that question, I then try to focus on quality versus quantity. I’d rather do a few things really well, than a hundred things pretty poorly.
You’ve got to set your foot down, create boundaries, and say no. This doesn’t mean you always say no to everything and it doesn’t always mean that you say no every time. But it does mean that you realize that you are the one calling the shots. If an opportunity or idea is going to put extra strain on your home and family, you are the boss and you have the final say.
It’s easy to forget this and start feeling obligated to people and projects, so I encourage you to ask yourself a few hard questions before committing to something:
- “When am I going to find the time to do this?”
- “Is this going to take time and effort away from my most important priorities?”
- “What is going to be the return on my investment of time?”
By carefully considering commitments before saying yes to them, I’m able to really, really give my best to those few things I’m saying yes to. I’m able to focus on them, pour into them, and give my all to them instead of giving my leftovers or what little tiny capacity I could muster up because I was stretched so thin and exhausted by all the demands of the other things I’ve committed to.
Day 7 Project
- Create a Best Stuff List and a Stop Doing List. This exercise alone should give you enormous clarity when it comes to calendar clutter.
- Do you have enough breathing room built into your life? Do you need to make changes in your schedule and commitments in order to allow for more intentional margin in your life?
- Design a list of questions you ask yourself before saying yes to anything. You can see the questions I’m currently asking myself this year before saying yes to an opportunity.
More Helpful Resources:
- Check out my list of my Top 10 Favorite Books on Productivity & Time Management.
- Read Mandi’s post on The 4 C’s to Creating Margin and my post on How to Get Off the Hamster Wheel & Stop Feeling So Rushed
- Grab a copy of my book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, or The Best Yes or Breaking Busy for more practical help how to prevent overwhelm.
- Download my FREE 7-day Make Over Your Calendar Course for all my best tips on how I organize my schedule, plan my days, and get more done!