Take Back Control Of Your Calendar
We've all experienced a similar scenario to the one I'm about to describe --- Your throat tightens as you hold back tears while looking at your overbooked calendar for the week ahead and the number of items on your massive to-do list. A sense of overwhelming dread takes over as you go into analysis paralysis wondering how you're going to get it all done OR as you send yourself into overdrive, not knowing if what your doing is meaningful, impactful or something that you even want to take part in.
Does this sound like a good foundation to show up as our best selves and do our best work? Absolutely not.
"It's time to take back control of our calendars and to-do lists. Taking ownership of our time will subsequently put us back in the driver seat of our lives."
Over the past four years as I've taken on more responsibility at home(as a wife, fur mama and homeowner) at work(leading a global social media team) and in scaling my personal biz(launching my motivational speaking and coaching programs) the amount of times that I've let my schedule send me down a hole of despair is too many to count. After strings of months and weeks of feeling out-of-control, I decided that this year was the year that I stop my life from living me and I start really owning my life -- starting with my calendar. The steps I've outlined below have dramatically changed my day-to-day. My family, friends and co-workers can attest to my change in attitude(and productivity!) and I FEEL so much better, which was the ultimate goal. What I won't tell you is that it's easy, because it's not. There are still weeks when I slip up and overbook myself or that I forget I have a choice in what gets put on my calendar. But remember, it's about progress not perfection and if you follow my five tips you'll be feeling more in control of calendar and life in no time.
The first step to taking ownership of all the days that make up your life, is changing your mindset. So often, we forget that we have a choice in ALL THE THINGS, including what gets placed on our calendars, our to-do lists and how we spend our time. When we shift our perspective to remind ourselves of this very important fact, we find that we have taken the first and most important step in leading a life and schedule that is our own.
I've found that before you can make strides in optimizing your work calendar, you must first start by showing yourself what it looks like to make time for YOU. The best way I've been able to do this is by creating a morning routine that I absolutely love. Carving out this time for myself on the daily jumpstarts each morning in a way that serves me and not anyone else and doing it consistently results in a habit of prioritizing the things that mean the most to me --- like journaling and spending time in thought. I keep my morning routine simple(so it's easy to stick with) it includes:
Waking up between 5-5:30am to enjoy a cup of coffee while journaling about what I'm grateful for and thinking through my big dreams using the Start Today Journal.
Outlining my day and major priorities in my High Performance Planner.
Listening to my favorite podcasts or audio books while getting ready.
Making a delicious breakfast(typically Ezekiel toast, sunflower butter and bananas).
Out the door by 7:00am so I can get to work early and tackle the big projects while I feel my sharpest(in the morning!)
My morning routine was the first step in owning my schedule and my day -- I know if can have the same effect on you too!
Literally nothing is more important than mapping your month! Mapping your month means taking a good hard look at your calendar at the very beginning of the month, outlining any big things that need notated(like travel or big project due dates) and then your other prioritizes for your month. Since I'm married, I do this with my hubby so that we are both aware of each other's schedules. This ensures that there are no surprises throughout the month. It also makes it easy to avoid overbooking yourself. If you have a family picnic on Saturday and your self-care routine on Sunday then NO you aren't going to meet up with friends after work on Monday because you know that you don't want three days in a row of over-doing it(but here's the key, if you WANT to do that you CAN but now you have the visibility into everything that's on your plate).
How many times have you automatically accepted a calendar invite only to find that now your entire day is full of meetings which means that to get your actual work done you're going to have to spend all evening knocking out that deck? Let's end this madness. Just because a calendar invite comes your way does not mean that you have to automatically accept it. I now have instituted a "vet before I accept" mentality, meaning that I look at my calendar before accepting and if that meeting is going to fill up my day too much or is going to come at the expense of me actually get my work done, then I don't accept it and propose an alternative time that works better with my schedule. And let me tell you, this one simple change has resulted in the biggest difference. No one has gotten mad at me(and as a recovering people pleaser this was something I was concerned about) and my sanity is thanking me that I can now get my work done at work instead of bringing it home every night.
As much as we'd like to believe that we can do it all, we can't -- at least not all at the same time. Which is why I believe in the You Pick Two mentality(no we aren't at Panera). You Pick Two means that you choose the TWO things that you are going to focus your time and energy on over the next six months and you go all in. I hear so many people talk about picking the ONE thing but I can't buy into that, especially for all of us that have a 9-5 that we want to excel in while also building our personal businesses on the side. So I say, PICK TWO. Not too long ago I was doing THREE things -- my work, my personal biz AND a community project. That's when I realized that going all in on all three at once was not sustainable. I felt drained every day, not very creative and very resentful that I had too much to do. That's when I realized that there are seasons in our lives to work on different things and in this season I'm working on doing my absolute best in my 9-5 AND growing my personal biz. This doesn't mean that I'm letting go of my community project but I'm slowing that down a bit and giving myself more space to find my creativity for that again.