Some things in our lives are urgent, and some are important. And then there’s that one thing that is both urgent and important – but what happens more frequently is that we spend all of our time focusing on critical tasks, and let the more important things fall by the wayside. You know, wack-a-mole?
As far as I’m concerned, I’d rather spend my time on what’s important to me. You probably feel the same way. And that’s where free time comes into the picture because, without enough time to refocus, recenter, and readjust our thinking and habits, there’s no way anyone can get what they want out of life.
This isn’t just something that I’m pulling out of my own behind: back in 2012, a study by the National Cancer Institute found that regular leisure activity can actually increase a person’s life span… by 4 years! That’s 1,460 days of extra life that a person can enjoy (okay, okay, 1,461 days for you leap year sticklers).
So, here’s the big question: how can you declutter your calendar and carve out that free time that you need? I will give you some suggestions in just a bit. First, though, let’s briefly examine some obstacles to doing so.
Challenges to Decluttering Your Time
Let’s be real: it’s hard to make time for yourself when you have a crazy hectic schedule. There could be a ton of different things pulling at you, such as:
- Your bank account. Hey, you gotta have money to live, and your bills don’t go on vacation just because you do.
- Your obligations. Whether it’s family, relatives, employers, or friends, you likely have several commitments that must be tended to. Maybe you regularly help out a married friend by babysitting her children or check in on your parents now and then. That’s not to mention the chores around the house, grocery shopping, looking for new clothes, etc.
- Your temptations. We’ve all experienced it: “Should I work out or enjoy a carton of double fudge chocolate ice cream?” Which side usually wins that battle? The same goes for how we spend our time: sometimes we just waste time on activities that don’t really refresh us, even though we typically know better, like watching Netflix marathons.
How to Declutter Your Calendar
With these and other challenges in mind, what are some strategies that you could use to carve out some time for yourself? Here are 3 simple suggestions that can really help you out:
- Learn how to say “no.” It’s that simple: pause before you commit to anything, and if you can’t do it, just say so! It may feel awkward to say “no” to a close friend, and this is so normal. I recommend thinking of how to phrase your reply in the most courteous way. Maybe you could say something like: “I would love to, but I can’t this time. Please ask me next time, though!”. I promise once you start setting your boundaries, it will get more comfortable every time, but you have to start somewhere.
- Schedule weekly free time for yourself and view it as sacred. There are 168 hours in a week: it’s okay to take a few of them for yourself. Start with carving out an hour, then maybe a whole Sunday morning, and if at all possible level up to an entire day (I even struggle with giving myself a full day, but I have done it). The magic trick here is treating this time as important as picking up your million-dollar check if you won the lotto. I guarantee you, you wouldn’t miss that.
- Compare your goals with your commitments. This is a big one. You need to do some serious thinking about whether or not your life goals match up with your current time commitments. We may value family time, but we’re playing on our phone while on a date with our partner. We may value hard work, but the moment something goes wrong, we give up. We may value good health, but we stay up at night scrolling instead of getting the right amount of sleep. We may value environmental issues, but we are still buying most things in plastic. Always ask yourself, is this (person, place, or thing) helping me towards my goals? If not, then you have a decision to make. We always have the choice to either move towards our goals or away from them.
It’s not easy. It may not even be “urgent.” But it is so important to take back control of your time and declutter your calendar, for your own sake. Time is something you can never get back. I genuinely believe the new success is intentional living with schedules and commitments that fit our needs, only consuming the essentials, and being mindful of our time, so we live happier and healthier lives. The age of the overworked, over-committed overkill is, well, over.
If you’ve found other time decluttering strategies to be effective, share them in the comments section below.
If you liked this article, you’ll also like: