How many times have you wished for more hours in the day, more free time and less commitments? Time that’s not already allocated to doing something, going somewhere or seeing someone.
Is your calendar crammed full of appointments and engagements, with too few blank spaces? Dentist appointments, after school clubs, birthday parties, play dates, dinner with friends, work commitments, school and PTA meetings, school fundraising events. Where’s the time for you, to do with as you wish even if it’s just to be still in silence?
The list of commitments can be endless. With so much going on we struggle to keep up with it all and can end up frustrated, worn out, demoralised and resentful.
If you’re struggling to keep on top of things, check out this post on how to simplify your calendar and be more intentional with your time.
Why do we keep saying yes?
Of course, there are times when we have to do things, like dentist appointments. Or the things that morally we know we should do because it’s the right thing to do, like visits to an old Aunt who doesn’t have many other visitors and really values our monthly visits.
These things are necessary and something we may rightly feel we have to do them at regular intervals because they bring benefit to others.
But, what about the other things, which perhaps are more optional?
- Do we do them out of obligation?
- Perhaps it’s because we’ve always done them and it’s become part of a habit that it hasn’t occurred to us that we can break?
- Perhaps we don’t want to upset the person who has asked us, in case they might feel offended that we don’t want to spend time with them.
- Maybe it’s because we’re worried that if we say no this time, then they might not ask us again.
- Maybe because we feel that if we’re not busy then somehow we lose our purpose, that being busy is a sign of importance and value (either perceived by us or from others) and therefore that if we’re not busy then we are of no importance and haven’t achieved anything so we are of no value. If someone asks you how you are, is your default response “I’m just so busy”? Do you feel safe in this response, that by being busy we’ve somehow justified ourselves and our existence?
Whatever the reason for us keeping on saying yes, the end result is that we fill up our time with loads of extra activities and appointments. On top of the other things which we have to do, such as school for the children and work for us grown ups, it leaves very little free time for anything else.
Why is free time important?
In my experience, free time is absolutely vital for the physical well-being and emotional balance of both ourselves and our families.
It allows us to wind down and recharge our batteries, to reflect on the day and what we learnt from it. To pursue our leisure interests and hobbies. To spend quality time as a family.
To finally not have to think about what you’re doing, where you’ve got to go to, what you need to take, what time you need to leave etc. It’s time at home or outside, doing what you want and love.
Unstructured time for the children where they learn to make up their own games, plan their own activities and time. Something to look forward to when we spend the majority of our day doing things that we aren’t so passionate about (work and school for example).Free time is when ideas come naturally to us, the mind is relaxed and uninhibited by deadlines and schedules, external interruptions. Click To Tweet
Free time is vital for our well-being, for a healthy and happy balanced life.
How do I go about getting more free time?
The simple answer is that you get more intentional with your time and say no to everything that is not in alignment with what you and your family desire.
Your time is precious and you won’t get it back again so think very carefully about how you choose to spend it. Be selfish with your time and guard it wisely.
Remember that whenever you say ‘yes’ to one commitment, you are saying ‘no’ to another.
Being intentional with your time uses the same principle as being intentional with your possessions and is the fundamental basis of minimalism and simple living.
With minimalism you are essentially getting rid of the clutter so you can make space for the things in life which bring you purpose, balance and joy.
You have freed yourself of the burden of excess stuff so you don’t spend time looking after and managing this stuff but instead can spend your time intentionally doing things that you want to do and choose to do.
As well as minimalism and simplifying your home, you can so easily apply this to your calendar and commitments.
Action steps to simplifying your calendar
- Take a long hard look at your diary. Include in your calendar all the activities that you and your family do on a daily basis including the weekends. Make sure you also put in things like school and work and show the times that you do these activities.
- Next make sure that you have included all of the out of school activities and the other things that you do on a daily and weekly basis eg, tennis club, Brownies, football practice. This way you have no surprises and you can see exactly what you do on each day of the week.
- Go through your calendar again and work out if there are any of these commitments that don’t mean as much to you as you originally thought. For example, are the monthly school PTA meetings really important to you or is it something that you signed up for at the start of term but now wish you hadn’t obligated yourself to for the whole year? Dig deep and be honest with yourself about how you really feel.
- How many after school clubs do your children go to? Do you have a rule for one activity per term per child so that you don’t end up being a 24/7 taxi service? Is there an activity that your child keeps saying they don’t want to do, but because you’ve paid for it, you still make them go?
- Take a long, hard look at each commitment and ask yourself whether it aligns with what you want for you and your family. What would you be doing with the time instead and is this/could this be more valuable and/or productive?
- Remember that just because you said yes at the beginning, it doesn’t mean you have to be committed to it forever. People change and circumstances change and that’s ok. By saying no, it might allow you the opportunity to try something different which might actually be of more benefit or value. For example, implement a family games or film night instead of dropping one child at judo and the other at Brownies and spending the rest of the evening in limbo waiting for drop off/pick up times.
- When you’ve chosen which activities you want to keep doing then say no to the rest. You can always choose these as a priority for next term or season, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a no forever.
- Mark in your calendar the blocks of free time you have created and guard these with your life. They are precious! Make sure all the family knows that these are free time and they need to run it by you if at all possible, before they commit to something.
Set up routines
You can also carve out some extra time for yourself by setting up routines, getting up earlier in the morning, developing a great evening routine to make the next day start more smoothly.
The links to these blog posts are below so just click which ever ones appeal to you! I’ve also included a link to my post on how I use my iPhone to organise my life and my very own PA!
- How setting up a morning routine saved my sanity
- Why developing routines can make your life simpler and your home easier to manage
- Why a great evening routine can save you time and stress for the next day
- 5 ways I use my iPhone to organise my life
How to say no
Sometimes it’s difficult to say no, isn’t it? We’ve all been in that awkward situation when someone asks you to make cakes for the school fundraising cake sale, or worse still actually help sell the cakes. Or maybe ask you to volunteer with helping out at the Christmas school fayre. Such good causes that we feel we should support and difficult to say no to when you’re put on the spot. So, what should you do?
Maybe you could respond as follows:
- I’d love to help out but I can’t right now, please ask me next time
- Let me think about it and if it’s ok, can I let you know later
- I’m really sorry but things are so busy because (…) and I just don’t have time at the moment
If you explain why you can’t help then usually people will understand. They may get a little upset or put out but that’s usually because they were banking on you to help and now they may have to find someone else.
Playdates are the thing that gets me. My daughters love after school play dates and would do them every week if they could. I, on the other hand, am not so keen. After a long day at work I find it hard enough to look after my own children, let alone look after someone else’s.
Instead of saying an all out no to my kids or (even worse) yes which I then instantly regret, I have now learnt to compromise and space the playdates to just one or two every half term. My kids have got used to this and accept it and I explain to the other mums that I don’t have much free time as I balance work and family and they are fine with that.
Learning to say no is something that’s taken time and practice. I’m a natural people pleaser. I don’t like to upset people or for people not to like me so I’ve always said yes when actually I would rather have said no.
But, when I got desperate from juggling too much and running myself into the ground, and turned to minimalism to simplify my life, I made the choice to also simplify my calendar.
I removed the clutter of unwanted commitments and instead chose to give myself and my family more free time. It was one of the best things I ever did.
The benefits of simplifying my calendar and being intentional with my time
It gave me time to:
- spend with my children, to play games, to read, to talk, to have a giggle
- develop my own hobbies, interests and spend some time looking after myself
- better manage and juggle the conflicting demands of work and family
- deal with unforeseen emergencies and things that didn’t go according to plan in a way that allocating the time in my day to the nearest second would never have allowed me to do
- do something fun on a whim and just because I felt like it
- be spontaneous
Neither I nor my children feel as if we’ve missed out and if we really do want to join an activity, have a friend over or help the school then we do. But, that’s only if we really want to so it never feels as though it’s out of obligation, instead we look forward to it.
Remember that your time is precious.
There are so many things that require our time that we don’t have a choice over. So try to be intentional whenever you can about your time and what you spend it on. Simplify your calendar so that it aligns with your and your family’s needs and you’ll find that you are more relaxed, balanced and content because of it.