“Sorry, I can’t. I’m too busy.”
How many times a day do you say this? It’s so frustrating to say “No” to things that really matter and “Yes” to things that are either unimportant or make you cringe!
Say Yes to You
Life is short. Make it count. Choose your priorities and focus on them first. Here’s how:
Learn to love your calendar
This can be a Google calendar where you link the accounts of all your household members, or it can be a dry-erase board or a giant pad of paper you keep in the kitchen with a different color marker for each person. It can even be the calendar you got for your birthday where every month shows a different kitten sleeping next to a puppy wrapped in a fuzzy purple yarn sweater on a windowsill. And you don’t have to be an Outlook Jedi. Magic markers will do just fine.
This calendar will be your best friend, your sanity-keeper, and your rescuer.
It will keep you out of trouble and might just help you prove to yourself that you can’t be in two places at once. You will no longer have to cancel (at least not as often) at the last minute or beg forgiveness for forgetting important events.
It will make your life less stressful. While it might seem that the more you have on the calendar the more hectic life is, this is a myth. You just have the wrong stuff on there.
Start with the basics
By focusing on the basics, you will put that pep back in your step and find yourself smiling more often. Your mind will feel clearer, and your heart will feel fuller. You may find yourself ready to move to the next level in a job, in a relationship, in life.
Schedule a time for grocery shopping. Does your family need to shop once a week or once a month? Write it on the calendar. I find it much less stressful to shop after a meal during the week than to shop on weekends. If you have a 9-5 gig then you may be limited to evenings, but if you have Tuesdays off you can schedule it for after breakfast. Mornings are a great choice because the store is freshly cleaned and stocked and the crowds haven’t arrived yet.
Water and shelter:
Most of us live in cities and don’t trek to the creek every day to fill buckets and gather firewood. Lucky us! In exchange, we go to work to pay for rent and utilities. Write down your schedule so that your family members know and can appreciate when you’re working hard for them. Don’t forget to add time for your commute if you have one.
Decide as a team when your family time is and make it non-negotiable. Write it down. Is it dinner every night or just on Sundays? Is it all day on Saturdays or is that too much togetherness? Do you want date night with your spouse and one-on-one time with your kids? What about extended family? Whatever it is, write it down and stick to it. Even your teenagers want to spend time with you– just don’t expect them to admit it for at least another decade.
If you have a typical daytime work schedule, then your sleep schedule may not need to be in writing. However, if you work swing shifts or overnights, you’ll figure out how much and when you have to sleep in order to function and not be an ogre. Do you go straight to bed when you get home or do you stay up for a while and then sleep right before your shift? Block out the hours when you get your best sleep, and protect this time at all costs.
Keep saying Yes to your priorities
Here’s where it gets fun. Think of five things you really want to do. Now do them. It’s that simple. Write them down. Put them on your calendar.
Don’t just pencil them in, Permanent Marker them in. Schedule them for this month.
- Make a date with your spouse or best friend.
- Plan a hike. Hit the gym. Find your downward dog.
- Host a girlfriends’ movie night.
- Actually make that new recipe you printed out last
- Try out happy hour trivia or spend an evening reading a magazine with a beverage of your choice.
Don’t like my suggestions? That’s great. Do whatever you want. You can even schedule a nap!
With five per month, that gives you at least one meaningful activity each week. If you’re feeling ambitious, add more. The sky’s the limit!
There are some events you eagerly anticipate all year.
Renaissance Chocolate Festival, anyone? What about your birthday or the birthday of your best friend who always throws a massive extravaganza? You guessed it, write them down on your household schedule! You’d never forget your own birthday, and now your family won’t either.
Whether it’s the Super Bowl or the Ostrich Festival, Spring Training or the State Fair, if you don’t want to miss it, put it on your calendar. Even if it’s 11 1/2 months away, put that marker to paper so there’s no way you’ll forget. (This also works well for anniversaries and your mom’s birthday.)
Especially for once-in-a-lifetime events like weddings or graduations, as soon as you find out about something you’d be sad to miss, lock it in. You’ll be glad you did.
Finally, don’t forget about holidays that fall on different dates each year. Most of us reflexively know that February 14 and July 4 hold special significance for a lot of people and that appropriate festivities and barbecues will occur, but it pays to write in those less predictable dates too.
Super Bonus Yeses!
If you find that you’re getting farther and farther behind on laundry, home repair, yard work, or other basic life maintenance, then go ahead and write these down too. It may not be as much fun as the massage you just got, but it will feel pretty sweet to feel caught up for a change and in your favorite (clean) yoga pants to boot.
Tattoo the calendar on your arm
Just kidding. But it is essential that you have the calendar accessible at all times or hold off on making any new commitments until you can check the calendar.
If your family’s calendar is electronic, sync it to your cell phone. If it’s dry-erase or paper, use your phone to snap a photo of it each morning before you leave the house so it’s always updated and available for easy reference. If you make more plans during the day, update your schedule as you go or text those plans to other family members so you’re always on the same page.
Now, say No
Once you have your priorities scheduled, you’ll feel free to say “No” to other less-desirable commitments that come up and would interfere with what you already have planned. Guilt-free!
You get invited to your neighbor’s second cousin’s sister’s niece’s second birthday party and you don’t even like children (except your own adorable geniuses, of course) and are put on the spot. No problem! When you check your calendar you’ll see that you already have plans. You’re off the hook.
You get voluntold to chair yet another club or committee in which you have absolutely zero interest. What’s a gal to do? That’s right. You’ve got this. All it takes is a little practice and it’s easy peasy.
Even if your ‘plan’ is to sit and stare at the wall, all you have to say is that you have very important preexisting plans. Feel free to give the time-and-energy-suckers as much or as little detail as you desire, but don’t forget that “No” is a complete sentence. Give them the gift of clarity, not the murkiness of ‘maybe.’
A coworker actually asked me to work her shift on March 27 so she could attend a family event. She’s a sly fox, that one. She neglected to mention that March 27 is Easter this year. It is a bummer for her that she’s scheduled to work, but sometimes that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Without my trusty calendar, I might have unknowingly given up precious time with friends and extended family members that I only see on special occasions. Whew, that was close!
If there are extenuating circumstances, for example if she had a grandparent who was very ill and this might be the last time her whole family would be together for a holiday, I would have swapped that shift, but at least it would have been a fully informed decision.
Of course the best laid plans can come undone. Life happens. Flexibility is necessary. But the more you plan what you want, the less your time will get spirited away by the priorities of others.
Breathe and enjoy
There, doesn’t that feel better?
When you look at your schedule now, do you smile in anticipation?
You’ll soon find that the parts of your life you prioritize will bloom in ways you never imagined. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.
Priorities aren’t just the things you talk about; they’re what you do. Don’t leave them in the dark about how you feel. Make sure that special people know you care. Make sure your dreams know you value them and are working to make them reality. Invest the time and effort to make your life your own now, don’t leave it all in limbo for someday.
What did you put on your calendar? Let me know in the comments below.
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