Most of us want more time. We constantly say we don’t have time for this or that, but the reality is that we aren’t making time. To gain a delicious life, we need to face the reality of our calendars. We need to see what rules are being imposed on us and take control.
When I first moved to NC, I had just started an online degree program which was my full time job. I didn’t know anyone, and my husband worked full time outside the home. In one stroke I changed my career, my home, and left behind my entire community of support and friendship. I had a wide open calendar.
It’s not often that we get the chance to create our schedules completely from scratch, and it’s not as easy as it might sound. As an extrovert, I realized quickly that I needed to make friends and find social opportunities. As a night owl, I learned that I did my best studying in the early afternoon or at night. And with the online program, I had to manage all my time and assignments myself. I needed to create structure.
I used a book by Robert Benson, Everyday Joy, which talked about the monastic order of St. Benedict. Since I was in divinity school, the idea of structuring my life around a monastic regime was appealing to me.
Benson points out that “a fair amount of our lives is under the influence of a rule that is not of our own choosing, whether we are willing to admit it or not.”
To face the reality of your calendar, first assess what rules are influencing it.
Any calendar or schedule that is non negotiable is a rule governing your calendar – maybe one of your choosing and maybe not.
If you’re a mom, then school calendars are a big part of your rule of life. If you work outside the home, either part time or full time, that’s another aspect of your rule. Whether you are single or married, live alone or with others, and what hobbies you pursue are all variables that influence your calendar.
How can you be more proactive with your calendar?
Start by examining the least flexible rules.
If you are the kid chauffeur, then school start and end times are set, along with school holidays. However, activities aren’t necessarily set in stone. Look at the activities the kids are in and investigate ways to streamline and integrate schedules.
If you work, your working hours are, to a certain extent, non negotiable. If you are self-employed, I encourage you to actually set some working hours. When I was building my calendar, I decided not to do any homework on Saturdays or Sundays, and now that I’m self-employed, I do not work on weekends.
Look at your volunteer commitments.
We all are involved in voluntary commitments: either by donating time and service to an organization or by participating in hobbies and interest groups.
Are the volunteer times set in stone, or flexible? If a time is set in stone and it isn’t working for you, I encourage you to talk to the organizer about changing the time or finding a different way to be involved.
Is your hobby taking time away from other priorities? I love to read, and consider it a hobby, but there have been seasons of my life when reading took away time from other priorities. Consider how you can better integrate your hobby into your calendar.
Is your interest group working for you? I used to belong to a writer’s Meetup group that offered constructive feedback. It was a great group, but the meeting place and time was very inconvenient for me. Eventually, I left the group and began to explore other options that fit my calendar better.
Categorize your activities.
Look at everything in your calendar and split it into at least 3 categories: Work, Sleep, and Rest. Sleep is different from rest: sleep is the 6-9 hours a night you’re in bed, while rest is watching TV, reading, having coffee with a friend, etc. Feel free to add more categories: exercise/fitness, family, prayer, faith, hobbies, etc. In the Rule of Benedict, a monk’s time is balanced between work, rest, prayer, and community. These are the categories I use when I evaluate my own time. If you use a paper journal, colored highlighters are a great way to get a visual picture of the balance between categories. If you use an electronic calendar you can color code as well.
Finally, keep a time journal.
You can download a Google doc here that you can fill out online or print and fill out manually. This is where you will find time. How much time do you spend reading, or watching TV, or cleaning? We all need to relax, but life gets so much more delicious when you create your relaxation time on purpose instead of just defaulting to slumping on the couch in front of the TV or on the tablet at the end of the day. If you already keep a paper or electronic calendar, use the journal to record how you fill the hours that AREN’T scheduled. This is where you find time for self-care, hobbies, and friendships.
Once you’re clear on your time constraints, consider whether you are over committed.
Red Flags that you are over committed:
- You don’t have time to keep a time journal.
- You don’t have 9 hours daily for sleep. You need at least 9 hours, because most people need 8 hours of sleep, and it’s good to build in an hour for falling asleep, or night time waking.
- You don’t have any time that’s not scheduled. If your calendar is full, such that you never have a block of time when you could freely do whatever you wanted, that’s over committed.
- There is a lack of balance in areas. If your calendar is nothing but work and sleep, you are over committed.
If you are over committed, take my webinar!
You can sign up here to go through my online webinar (just 1 hour) to learn specific ways to streamline your calendar and find more time. It’s free. And it will save you time. What’s not to love?