So today I wanted to talk to you/blog about schedules. I am a big fan of schedules. I like having some direction to my day, my week…even my month. Now, I’m not inflexible. I’m willing to change my schedule if I need to. I just like to have some general idea of what my day holds before it gets started. I like looking at my monthly calendar and seeing empty days. I don’t like looking at it and seeing it full of stuff, and I haven’t seen it that way in a long time. So if you are tired of being tired, here are some tips to help you free up some time so that you can get a little rest.
Here is one of my favorite quotes: “Either you run your day or your day runs you.” ~ Jim Rohn
How do you maintain control of your days? You learn to manage them. Notice I didn’t say you that you learn to control life’s circumstances…can’t be done. But if most of our days are generally in order and well-managed, having “one of those days” every once in a while will not throw us completely off balance. If you have “one of those days” every day, then you need to sit down with your calendar ASAP and start getting out of some stuff. You don’t need – or deserve – that kind of stress!
1. Learn to say “no.”
That’s right: no. You can say “no” to your kids, your mom, your friends, your church. You can say “no” to activities, service projects, lunches or dinners out. You can say “no” to just about anything and you need to until you get your days under control. After that, be VERY SELECTIVE about what you say “yes” to. Some of you need to pick up the phone right now and respond with a big “no” (said kindly, of course) to something that you have been asked to do/join/volunteer for today. Just explain that you are trying to get your schedule in order and that, at least for right now, you can’t participate in _________________ (fill in the blank). You may have to make more than one phone call. Once your days are manageable and you feel you have some control over your calendar, THEN you can say “yes” to lunch out with a friend or to a special service project…just not every day. There needs to be some serious blank space on your calendar. Remember: If you say “yes” to everything that comes your way, you may find yourself having to say “no” to an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because your calendar is already too full.
2. Limit your kids’ activities.
You sweet princess will be okay if she doesn’t take ballet, play soccer, act in a play, and participate in AWANA’s all at the same time. Especially when her brother the prince plays football, is on the debate team, in the youth group, and can’t drive himself just yet. You are one person. One. Your spouse is one person. One. That’s two people. Two people can’t be in seven different places at once. One person certainly can’t be. So even if you work out the logistics of getting both kids to their respective locations, you still are going to miss something. You’ll have to choose: ballet recital or championship football game. Play or debate. Someone is going to miss out. Several someones, actually. So limit the activities. One, possibly two, activities at a time or in a season is plenty. (Teach your kids NOW to be selective and to learn to say “no.” It will benefit them in the future.) Besides, if you spend all of your time in the road driving them from Point A to Point B to Point C, etc., when are you going to have time to be quiet? To have dinner with your spouse? To just breathe? You wonder why your laundry is piled up, the dishes aren’t done, and dinner isn’t ready by 6:00 (or whatever your dinner time is)?
3. Keep your calendar in a visible, easily accessible location and write everything on it.
If you can see it readily, you might be less likely to add something to it. Also, when you have things that you can’t miss – like doctor’s appointments – you can see when they are so you don’t say “yes” to something else. Write on there when bills are due. Put birthdays on there. Put all (limited!) activities on there. Be sure to leave some blank spaces. Please. (You can do this on your calendar on your smart phone as well. But pull it out and check it before you say “yes” to something. I use both…one for the visibility, and one for the reminder “ding” I get an hour before an appointment.)
NOTE: Here’s an exercise for you if you wonder why you’re always so stressed out but don’t carry a calendar and just fly by the seat of your pants. Print or copy a blank calendar for a month. Put everything you have to do or are signed up to do or whatever on there. Everything. Work. Church. School. Home school. Activities. Lunch dates. Play dates. Appointments. Any and every thing that you do…every day. Use markers or different colored highlighters for different things. Is there any white space on there? If there isn’t, you should pick up that phone and start making calls. Just saying.
4. Use schedules and routines.
Establish a laundry schedule. Make a menu plan. Maintain a cleaning routine. Have an exercise schedule. Schedules and routines help keep us (me, anyway) sane and give me some sense of control. Whether you work outside the home, work from home, home school, stay at home while the kids go to school…it really doesn’t matter. We all need schedules and routines. Remember that you are trying to gain control of your days. “Control” is the key word here. Be flexible, but at least have a plan. Don’t think of a schedule as being a strict, unbendable thing. Think of it as a guideline to keep you on course. If you normally wash towels on Monday and you get sick and don’t get to it, the world won’t end. If you’ve been maintaining schedules and routines on a regular basis, you won’t be behind and won’t feel overwhelmed by adding a load of towels to your laundry on another day.
5. Limit your time with electronics.
Just because you have a phone doesn’t mean you always have to answer it. That’s what answering machines and voice mail are for. (Always answer for your spouse and kids if you can, however.) Set a time every day that you’ll check messages and return phone calls. When we home schooled, I didn’t answer the phone between 9-2 unless it was my husband – and sometimes not even then. I let people leave messages. If there was an urgent message, I would take care of that. Otherwise, I called back after school and after my cup of afternoon coffee. If the kids are at school, don’t spend the entire day on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or whatever. You can get sucked up into that pretty easily. I know that I can. Limit the amount of television you – and your kids – watch. Record shows you like and watch them when you actually have time. (Limited TV time does may not apply during football season.)
6. Reevaluate regularly.
At least monthly, take a serious look at your calendar, your schedules and routines, and an honest look at how much time you’re spending online and such. If something isn’t working, change it. If you are feeling overwhelmed with busyness, get out of something. Try something new for a month and see if it works better for you. Eventually, you’ll find what truly works best for you. Stick with it. If circumstances change – new job, new baby, new house – adjust as necessary, but don’t abandon your schedules and routines all together. Reevaluate and rework until you establish new ones.
Always remember, if you don’t have time for yourself, you’re spending too much time on something else. You can quote me on that. Carve out some time for yourself every day – 15 minutes or more – and a block of an hour or two some time during the week to just be still and quiet. I love my yoga stretch class that I take once a week. That hour lets me relax, meditate, pray and rejuvenate. And no one calls or texts and disrupts yoga class. Because my phone is in my bag. Outside the room. Ahh….
And remember that you need rest. God designed you that way. He even said to set aside a day for rest. He wants you to rest, to sleep. Don’t feel guilty if you sit down or take a nap. Do NOT feel guilty. Do. Not.
So…there you go. A few ways to eliminate some of the busyness and stress of day-to-day life. I hope you take them to heart. Take a few deeps breaths. And start saying “no.” 🙂