Inside: Use these tips to declutter your schedule and free up more of your time.
When it comes to your day-to-day schedule, do you feel like you never get a break?
Is your calendar so overwhelmed with meetings, appointments, and reminders, you can’t seem to find any time for yourself or the things that are most important to you?
It might be time to pause, take a deep breath, and reevaluate the way you budget your time.
Like anything else in life, time is a finite resource. There are only 24 hours in any given day – and while it’s important to make the most of that time, it’s also crucial to align your time with your priorities and makes space for slowing down and relaxing.
Unfortunately, many of us have made a habit of overscheduling ourselves. We squeeze in all kinds of meetings, make room for endless appointments – and leave ourselves utterly exhausted and, ultimately, burnt out.
Don’t let your overbooked schedule run your life. Instead, take ownership of your time. Declutter your calendar. Stop overscheduling your days and weeks.
The idea may sound a little scary, but finding a little bit of balance in your schedule might be one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Overscheduling – Why Do We Do It to Ourselves?
To start, let’s look at the why behind our actions.
Why do we end up with a calendar that’s literally bursting at the seams?
Why do we create stressful situations for ourselves, leaving no room to breathe or relax in our day?
How do we end up with so many deadlines and due dates? And why do we agree to so many deliverables?
It’s because that’s what we need to do – at least, that’s what we think.
Many of us grew up with the idea that hard work equals success. And that hard work was presented to us as time spent working – long hours in the office, staying late to finish projects, sacrificing weekends to meet deadlines.
We’ve created a society that’s constantly connected and always on. We celebrate hard work, long hours, going above and beyond, and ultimately overwhelming ourselves to get the job one.
And thanks to social media, we can’t even turn it “off” when we aren’t working. It’s easy to fall into the mindset of feeling like you have to be out and about – even if you’d rather be lounging in bed with a good book.
By overstuffing our calendars and stretching ourselves thin, we think we’re doing what we’re supposed to and living a successful life. But really? We’re just leaving ourselves exhausted, anxious, and in desperate need of clarity and a little downtime.
How to Declutter Your Schedule & Live a More Balanced Life
Ready to make a change and take back control of your time?
You can make it happen – as long as you’re willing to put in the work and commit to a less busy lifestyle. Without commitment, you’ll clear your calendar for a few days… and then find yourself right back where you started, wildly overbooked and totally overwhelmed.
Here are a few steps you can take to shake off those unnecessary obligations and maximize your time.
1. Get clear on your priorities.
Before you declutter your schedule, it’s important to set your top priorities in life. When you are clear on what is most important to you, it becomes easier to let go of the things that compete with them.
Take some time to write down what’s most important to you right now. Does your schedule reflect those priorities?
If not it’s time to declutter your schedule and align your time with what matters most to you. While there are some necessities that may not be able to be decluttered, you may be surprised at how many things wind up in your schedule that don’t need to be there.
Decluttering your schedule takes intentionality. And it’s not always easy, but as the Annie Dillard quote says “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
2. Review your calendar – and cut what you can.
Whether you prefer a pen and paper planner, use an app on your phone to manage your schedule, or leverage some other method to keep your day planned out, spend some time reviewing how you’ve spent your last few weeks – and what you have on the books for the next few.
How many of those obligations excite you? These are the ones you’ll want to prioritize – the things that fill you with joy. These can stay.
And how many of them exhaust you, or stress you out?
We’re not going to cancel all of these things with reckless abandon – but we are going to reassess your commitments and figure out if we really need to keep them all.
There are some things that you need to do. Things like your annual physical exam, your dog’s vet appointment, or your kid’s graduation. Some of these things are fixed and can’t be rescheduled.
But some things can be shuffled around if you need a little more time to breathe, or have set yourself up for a stressful day by squeezing it between other meetings or obligations.
But there might also be some stuff that you aren’t excited about – and don’t even know why it’s there in the first place. Optional work-related activities, social events, and others might feel necessary when you accept the invite or pencil it into your schedule, but you don’t really need to make it happen.
Those are the things you can cut out altogether as you declutter your schedule. And while you might feel a little guilty as you fire off those cancellation texts or remove those meetings from your calendar, at the end of the day, you’ll feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.
3. Learn how to say no.
Many of us wind up with overstuffed calendars because we just can’t turn down plans.
Coffee with a coworker? Sure! Your acquaintance’s kid’s birthday party? Why not? Shopping with a friend? I can do that…
While you might feel bad turning down offers to hang out, get together, and have fun, protecting your time and peace of mind is most important.
In order to declutter your schedule, it’s important to learn to say no and practice it often. If you’re unsure about committing to something, give yourself some time and space to consider the request before giving an answer. If you tend to be a yes person, this will take some discipline.
Learning how to say, “Thanks, I’d love to, but I can’t. Maybe next time!” is an invaluable skill, and one we should all get comfortable exercising whenever plans arise that could encroach upon your much-needed downtime.
Creating clear boundaries with your schedule makes saying no easier. If family dinners together are a non-negotiable, it becomes easier to say no to things that try to compete with your boundary.
4. Actively schedule “me” time.
If you still feel like it’s difficult to carve out enough time for yourself, even after turning down plans and clearing your calendar, you can also try scheduling dedicated time for yourself.
If you feel guilty saying “no” when someone asks you to join them for lunch, or help them with a favor, this is a great technique to help overcome that.
By physically blocking the time on your calendar, you are intentionally creating space for yourself to relax, breathe, and take care of whatever you need – which is just as important as all of the different requests coming your way from others.
Self-care should be part of your to-do list. You’ll be better able to manage all of your essential tasks when you’ve set aside time to take care of yourself.
5. Get comfortable doing nothing.
Many of us have been so conditioned to be busy all the time, sitting around doing nothing can feel overwhelming all on its own.
We feel like we’re missing out – on opportunities to advance our careers, make memories with our friends, and support our loved ones. We feel guilty relaxing when we could be working, or doing something more productive.
It might take a little while before you’re truly enjoying the downtime in your newly-decluttered calendar – but with a little determination and effort, you can get there, and it’ll be worth it.
In a world that is full of noise and constant distractions, sitting in silence takes work. That isn’t to say that all of your downtime needs to be spent doing nothing, but creating a practice of meditating or praying is good for your mind, body, and soul.
6. Plan flex time.
Are your mornings spent running around stressed out trying to get yourself (and your kids) out the door? If you want to make your mornings less crazy, plan in more flex time.
Get up a little earlier. Take care of some tasks the night before so you can have a smoother morning. How you start the day sets the tone for the rest of the day.
Having flex time in your schedule allows you to have more breathing room should your commitments go longer than expected. It also gives you the ability to say yes to last-minute things if you want to.
When your schedule is full it automatically means you have to say no to new opportunities that arise. Opting to be less busy helps you to be more intentional with your time and align it with what’s most important to you.
How do you keep your calendar manageable? Share your tips on how to declutter your schedule in the comments!
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Great post! For me using a planner has been a game changer because it helps me see what I have to do, plan self care and me time, and remember other plans I actually want to do. Without a planner I couldn’t see or plan gaps and I felt busy and overwhelmed all the time. With a planner I know exactly when I can say yes and when I need to say no. Without a planner I never took time for things I enjoy like writing and sewing but now I plan on doing things like that and my life is much more enjoyable!
I also use a planner and have for years. My husband snd I manage a family business and also care for his dad with dementia. The appointments get to be a overwealming since we live an hour from most and two hours from others. I started marking out a week each month, where I don’t schedule appointments. What a game changer! We have a day off to do something enjoyable.