Simplify Your Schedule and Find More Down Time

Simplify Your Schedule...
source: DafneCholet

This week we’re talking about simplifying family life. Tune in all week for strategies and tips for every area of life, and if you’re looking for more in-depth resources, be sure to check out the Huge Simplify Family Life eBook Sale!

Being too busy is probably one of the biggest causes of stress for modern families. With so many responsibilities and opportunities, it’s easy to end up with a schedule that leaves little time for just spending time together or — gasp! — doing nothing.

One thing I’ve really learned from my husband is that being busy all the time does not make me a better person. At the end of the day, I won’t win any awards for having the longest to-do list or spending the most time working.

After years of getting upset at him because he would choose rest and relaxation over busy work, I finally realized that taking time to rest and recharge is much different than laziness, and these days I make time to read or relax with the kids just because I can and not because it’s an item on my to-do list.

That may sound like a pipe dream if your schedule is so full that you can barely find time to meet all of your responsibilities, let alone find down time, and there’s no doubt that it takes much more effort to find down time than to stay busy in this day and age. But it can be done!

Here are five ways to simplify your schedule and find more time for family fun, rest and relaxation:

1. Just stay home.

The absolute easiest way to simplify your schedule is to stay home. That may sound like an oversimplification, but it’s true. Whether you’re going out for a play date, a lesson or to run errands, leaving home takes extra time and energy. Not only are you spending a certain amount of time at your destination, but you have to get ready to go, travel to and from, and get everybody settled when you get home.

I’m not suggesting that you become a hermit, but if you’re always on the go, consider staying home more often to take some of the pressure off your schedule. I know families who have set days when they don’t go anywhere, and even just setting aside one day to stay home can make a difference.

2. Combine errands.

Similar to just staying home, look for ways to combine your errands when you do go out. Plan your menu ahead of time so that you only need to run to the grocery store once a week. Don’t run to the store every time you need this or that, but create a list and make one larger trip. You’ll save money — both on gas and buying “extras” at the store — and you’ll have more time.

3. Leave margin in your schedule.

I have this horrible habit of scheduling out my day so that every minute is spoken for. I’m sure you know exactly how that turns out. The baby throws a fit or the 3 year old has an accident, and suddenly I’m running behind. Later in the day, my grandmother calls just to chat or folding the laundry takes longer than I expected, and then there’s no hope of getting everything done…except it all has to be done.

The best thing you can do for your schedule is to add margin to your day. Rather than planning out every second and underestimating the time a task will take just to make it all fit in your schedule on paper, plan on everything taking longer and leave 15-minute catch-up periods throughout the day. On the rare chance that you end up with extra time, sit and read a book — either to your kids or just for yourself — or work on a quick task that you don’t usually have time for.

4. Don’t try to do it all.

Sometimes we justify our busyness because all of the things on our plate are “good” things, and I’m not sure that busyness in and of itself is a bad thing. However, if you’re stressed because life is so busy that you barely have time to breathe, you’re probably doing too much. There are a million things we could be doing — educational opportunities, get-togethers with friends and family, business and volunteer opportunities — but if we try to do it all, we inevitably end up burnt out and exhausted. Instead, decide which opportunities are good and which are better and stick with the best ones.

5. Just say no.

I’m sure you knew this was coming because I’m pretty outspoken about not living under the burden of other people’s expectations. If you’re doing things because others expect you to and not because you want to, then it’s time to learn how to say no. I don’t mean that you should say no just for the sake of saying no or that you shouldn’t take other people’s  feelings or perspectives into consideration, but you can’t allow others to dictate your to-do list or schedule just out of fear of disappointing or upsetting them. Staying busy to please other people isn’t fair to your family or yourself!

Simplifying your schedule isn’t something that you can necessarily do overnight since it takes time to develop new habits and adjust your schedule. But you can shift your perspective on busyness and begin looking for ways to make more time to connect and recharge. It’s worth the effort!

Have you fallen into the busyness trap? Is it harder for you to say no to good opportunities or to say no to other people?