End Calendar Clutter

By Lara Krupicka

With the energy that comes with a new calendar year, it’s easy to see how the tradition of New Year’s resolutions came about. It’s invigorating to consider what opportunities and accomplishments lay before us in the next 365 days. And what better way to free our minds and make ourselves available to those opportunities than clearing the clutter from our schedules.
New Year’s makes a great time to reevaluate our daily activities. Making time to examine what has worked and what hasn’t, returns an amount of control to our calendar that we may have felt slip away in the busyness of living it out.
Here’s how you can give your daily planner a makeover that will restore energy to your days in the months to come:
Start by pulling out your calendar and a blank piece of paper. As best you can, list out everything you typically do in a given week that doesn’t show on your calendar: from fixing meals and doing laundry to making appointments and running errands. Once you’ve created your list, you’re ready to look at it alongside your calendar.
“Editing down your life’s responsibilities to something you can manage given the amount of energy and time you have is a process,” says Glynnis Whitwer, author of I Used to Be So Organized. “It’s almost like we can band-aid the schedule. But until we deal with that master schedule or project list… most women never get down everything in one place and acknowledge how much they have to do.”
Be empowered knowing this first step will take you a long way beyond where most moms have gone. Then be ready to use that energy to tackle the next step.

One of my favorite things about decluttering is weeding out those items that are simply consuming space. What works in the physical world can be true for our calendars as well.
Just as it’s difficult to face that jam-packed closet in desperate need of cleaning, it can also be tough to think about the hectic days on your calendar. But the busiest times are the ones you should consider first. As you look over a recent month or two, search for the days with lots of ink. Reflect back to times where you may have wished to clone yourself. Were those isolated incidents, or were they common occurrences? What could you eliminate from your plans to ease the pace of those days?
Next consider the value of your regular activities. Have some ceased to fulfill their purpose? Maybe the volunteer position you took when your children were young and you wanted adult company has started to squeeze out other pursuits you’d rather engage in. Scrutinize each day of your week for commitments you may have outgrown. Then pass them along.
Some commitments require more deliberation to determine whether they are worth keeping or not. The best question to ask is: does this still work for me and my family? If it once gave you energy but now leaves you drained, it’s time to examine it more closely. Consider why it no longer works. If it can’t be fixed or reworked, it’s ripe for disposal.
The greatest difficulty with some aspects of clearing out a schedule can be getting free from a commitment. Whitwer suggests finding a simple way to say no without making excuses. “I recommend women craft a really good response before they have to say it. Value the job you’re being asked to do. Value the importance of it.  And value the person who is asking you. But decline with a simple response.”

Many things may stay the same in your daily schedule. The children will still attend school in the fall. You’ll continue washing the laundry. Cleaning or “decluttering” these items means dusting them off and seeing where they need to be polished.
Go back to your busiest days. Could one of the activities be moved? Maybe it’s time for piano lessons to happen on Wednesdays instead of Mondays. Look for options to shift the overload from busy days to quieter ones.
Dusting off your schedule means also being aware of upcoming changes. If your daily workout has been happening during morning preschool but you’ll be switching to afternoon kindergarten, you’ll need to rethink that part of your day. Accounting for it now allows you to put systems in place before the next school year to ensure your plan runs smoothly.

Use time wisely
Carpool when possible
Group errands together
Volunteer during kids’ activities (with them)
Leave gaps in the schedule for delays or interruptions
Schedule down time

Empty spots invite clutter—it’s why our homes never stay pristine for long. The same can be true of our calendars. While you’re cleaning out your calendar it’s a prime time to think about how much empty space you’d like to maintain in your days. If you’d like to have some quiet downtime to catch up with the kids for a half hour after school, it helps to write that in your calendar. Name the “empty spaces” so you’ve claimed them for what you wish them to be instead of allowing them to be taken over by other events.
Like cleaning your home, where you open the windows to let the fresh breezes cleanse your rooms, sampling new activities can freshen up your schedule.  Is there a hobby you’ve been hoping to try? Maybe it would fit in one of those spots you emptied. Pencil it in. If you can’t imagine a particular pastime but know you’re up for a change, write down the promise of a new pursuit for yourself. Then be on the lookout for an activity you’d like to try during an empty calendar slot.
Decluttering takes time and energy. It requires looking in every corner, purging, dusting, and refreshing. But the revival it brings makes it worth every minute. If you take this approach to your calendar you’ll be much closer to having a plan that brings energy to your days—for all of 2016.

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