10 Things You Can Take OFF Your Calendar

Feeling overwhelmed? Here are 10 Things You Can Take OFF Your Calendar.

I love a good calendar. It helps me feel in control of my schedule and able to tackle whatever comes my way. When I schedule things, I know they’ll get done because I’ve made time for them. Most importantly, my calendar helps me avoid wasting time, one of our most precious commodities.

Sometimes though, I must admit, my calendar feels overwhelming. When I look at all the items laid out before me, it’s hard to know what to tackle and when it will ever end. It’s a challenge to see all the things I need to do, yet not feel like I’m running myself ragged, stuck on an endless cycle of to-dos.

Things You Can Take OFF Your Calendar | Time Management | Daily Planning Tips | Appointment SettingIn my new book Unstuffed, I dive deep into this issue of taking on too much, because the reality is that a big part of being unstuffed is to also declutter our calendars. Yes, we all have to do things we don’t like (that’s just life). But too many of us spend FAR too much time dreading certain obligations and doing things that offer us little payoff—monetarily, spiritually or emotionally. Even scheduled time can be wasted.

And so there are a few important questions we each need to ask ourselves:  Is my schedule really serving my needs? Am I making the most of my time? What am I doing that I shouldn’t be? What doing that is adding stress but not adding value?

As you unstuff your calendar, note there are a lot of to-dos you can (and should) take OFF your agenda. I’m talking about all those things that cause you to spin your wheels—timewasters, activities that feel like drudgery, and obligations you resent. What items can come off your calendar today to free you up for more important things?

Unstuff your calendar with these 10 Things You Can Take OFF Your Calendar!

1. Things You’re Going to Skip Anyway

I have a friend who has a reminder set on her calendar every Friday to revisit her birthday card list and correspondence. You know how often she actually does it? MAYBE once a month—and definitely not once a week. She tells me that in some idealized world, she pictures herself dutifully writing cards and correspondence for half an hour on Friday afternoons, but in reality…she just doesn’t.

If there’s an item clogging up your calendar, take it off. Oftentimes, reminders and weekly obligations can be moved to bi-weekly or once a month. We actually desensitize ourselves to these items on our calendar and ignore them anyway—and then they NEVER get done. Let go of the idealized version of yourself and take off the plans you “wish” you were going to keep and the reminders you’re ultimately going to ignore anyway.

2. Unnecessary Cleaning Tasks

I love to make my bed every day, and I have other daily routines which help me keep up with household chores. However, there are a few cleaning to-dos I actually do a little more frequently than necessary. I love a clean home, but do I need to wash all the windows once a week? Truth be told, I could probably stretch that out.

If cleaning relaxes you or you enjoy it, then keep the items on your schedule. If you find you’re cleaning your unused guestroom once a week out of a sense of obligation, habit or duty, it might be time to let it go. Once a month, add an extra 15-20 minutes to your cleaning routine to really give attention to some rarely used areas, but don’t beat yourself up if you stretch out dusting to once a week. Keep your house organized, your surfaces clear, and your bathroom and kitchen spot-cleaned. The rest can probably go on the back burner.

Be upfront with your friends about how much time you have. This is just one of the 10 Things You Can Take OFF Your Calendar.

3. LONG Meetings

If you’re in the workforce, you know all about dreaded, endless meetings. There are lots of people out there who can drone on for hours about topics they could sum up in 5-10 minutes. While you might not have control over your office obligations, you can scale back personal meetings and appointments to free up your calendar. It can be difficult to control the length of PTO, scouts and church meetings, but allow yourself a finite amount of time to attend, and don’t be afraid to step out early if it’s going nowhere.

When you’re meeting a friend for coffee or when you have an appointment, always be upfront about the amount of time you have. Say, “I’d love to get together for an hour and catch up,” and then stick to it.

4. Hours of Emails

Email can be a huge time-eater. Checking your inbox first thing in the morning and firing off responses right away can mean you’ll be in front of your computer for hours. Instead, try to tackle some other tasks first and leave your inbox untouched. When you do sit down to respond, keep your emails short and to the point.

So often, we spend hours typing out responses when we could have simply picked up a phone and taken care of things in one short call. If you’re leading an email thread, say, for planning for an event, keep the group on task and focused with specific action items and direct questions.

Unsubscribe from any spam, and also from any retail and store emails you delete anyway, or those that encourage unnecessary spending. If you don’t read the email regularly, unsubscribe and simply visit the site occasionally for new information. Try inbox filters to help organize your personal correspondence and keep your important emails separate from notifications and social media.

Talking while doing is a great way to get things accomplished and one of the 10 Things You Can Take OFF Your Calendar.

5. Phone Calls

Remember the days of corded phones? You’d end up literally tethered to one spot while you talked. Now that we have cordless and cell phones, we can have phone conversations while we get other things accomplished. Yes, if the conversation is important, step away from your computer screen or stop what you’re doing. However, taking a walk to get your 10,000 steps in for the day while you talk, or having a conversation while you prep dinner can be a big time time saver.

Talking on your cell phone while driving can lead to distractions. You should be focused on the road, of course. But for long trips, a hands-free solution can allow you to catch up on the way to your destination.

6. Things You Do Out of Guilt

Raise your hand if you have at least a few items on your calendar solely because of guilt. I know I do! It can be hard to say no to running the bake sale, taking dinner to a neighbor, or organizing the block party. The next time you’re asked to do something you would rather forgo due to time restraints (or even just because you don’t want to), give yourself permission to decline.

We can say yes to so many things because we feel guilty or bad if we don’t. However, these obligations actually take us away from our families and leave us feeling burned out and emotionally strained. Give yourself back to your family by knowing when to say when. There’s no shame in choosing a different path that better fits your needs and the needs of your household.

One way to feel less overwhelmed is to give yourself permission to say no and one of the 10 Things You Can Take OFF Your Calendar

7. Things that Don’t Bring You Closer to Your Long Term Goals

Does a trip to the dentist bring you joy? Does the housecleaning job you recently took up make you beam with delight? Maybe not, but clean teeth, and ultimately earning extra money to support your family both help serve a greater purpose, so they’re worth the effort. Not every item on your calendar is going to be fun, but every item should ultimately be moving you toward your larger goals of health, financial security, and whatever else you want to accomplish in life.

Some of us try things like yoga classes or scrap-booking because we feel it’s what we’re supposed to do, or that it will make us a better mom or wife. If it’s not fun and if it doesn’t make your heart sing, then it’s perfectly okay to let it go. If you want to run a 5K and every training workout isn’t awesome, but you are progressing and satisfied, keep going. If every time you step on the treadmill it’s absolute drudgery—let it go and try walking instead. Determine what is most important to you, and only keep those activities that fit within the bigger picture.

8. Too Many Lessons

Ballet, soccer, singing and softball…our kids’ calendars can fill up with lessons and activities in the blink of an eye. Suddenly you’re left feeling like the chauffeur—and your kids are feeling the pressure and weight of too many commitments, and not enough creativity and play.

Childhood is so short. It can be difficult to let go of our own dreams and childhoods, and resist the urge to “give our children what we didn’t have.” If your child cries every time she has to practice the piano, or just isn’t enthused about scouts, day camp, or swimming lessons, or who is falling behind in school—let the lessons go. Kids can grow into perfectly well-rounded beautifully adjusted adults without jam-packed social schedules. Sometimes you have to let kids just be kids.

One of the 10 Things You Can Take OFF Your Calendar is unnecessary prep time. Streamline your morning routine.

9. Too Much Prep Time

When we look our best, it truly does make us feel more confident. However, if you’re spending hours on your hair, makeup, or pulling together your outfits each day (or doing the same for your kids), it may be time to streamline the process a little.

Consider easier hairstyles for your kids. Organize and cut back on your closet and theirs so it’s easier to quickly pull together outfits that don’t require ironing and fussing. It’s okay to skip a full face of makeup for the gym or when you’re going to the store. Simplify your routine and you’ll find yourself with more time to do the things you love.

10. Commitments You Should Have Said NO To

There comes a time for all of us when we get that sinking feeling we’ve over-committed. Instead of stressing yourself right out of all your energy and joy, give yourself permission to cancel plans, reschedule obligations, and take a break when it gets to be too much. Remember: no calendar is set in stone. If something very important came up, like an emergency, for example, you’d make time to deal with it.

A friend once told me: If you don’t take a break, your body will take a break for you. If you find you’re facing frequent colds, feeling easily run down, or if you just need a mental health break, take a few things off the list. Maybe you won’t get the first chapters of your novel written this month, or maybe you won’t organize a community-wide garage sale. It’s okay. Not everything needs to happen NOW.

It can be hard to say no and take items off your calendar, but taking back your schedule will allow you to feel more at ease and in control. Let go of the idea that you have to do everything. Take some time for yourself and give yourself a break, already!

P.S. Unstuffed is now available in bookstores everywhere, and if you’ve been feeling weighed down by clutter or an overbooked schedule, it might just be the message your heart needs to hear! Jam-packed with inspiring personal stories as well as practical tips you can implement right away, it is a guilt-free, stress-free guide to taking our life back from all the STUFF weighing down our lives.

 Simplify your schedule with these 10 Things You Can Take OFF Your Calendar!

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  1. This is such a great list! I really need to stop writing down the stuff I know I’m going to skip anyway…LOL! I also need to declutter my e-mail and take your advice on getting off so many lists. It’s amazing the amount of junk mail I get these days!

    I also agree with you on all the lessons. When I was a teacher, I had some Kindergarteners going to lessons 3-4 times a week…way too much for a 5 year old. The rule in our house is that each child gets to choose one activity/sport. If they want to change, they have to wait until they are done with the first one. It’s worked out pretty well so far.

  2. I totally agree with everything on this list. I let my kids do one extracurricular at a time (usually once or twice a year). I just signed my son up for t-ball for the first time, though. BIG mistake. There are 2 practices a week, plus a game. His bedtime is 7:00, and the practices run until 6:30. This should be really interesting!

    As far as signing myself up for commitments, I’ve tried to keep everything to a minimum and sign up for things I can do from home. I recently volunteered to create the program for the elementary talent show (as opposed to volunteering to work at the talent show, which is every night for a weekend).

  3. I like to minimize how much time I spend in the morning getting ready for the day as well. I try to pick out my outfit the night before and keep my makeup routine minimal.

    What I need to do a better job at is aligning my schedule with my goals – short-term and long-term. Thanks for the great post!

  4. I wanted to add one more thing that I have removed from my life…grocery shopping. I order online and pick up the order on the way home from work. Or I schedule a pick up for first thing Saturday morning. I am only ordering items that are on the list and I don’t stop in during the week to pick up any extras. I was worried I would spend more but I am actually spending less…no more “oh that’s a great buy and in the grocery cart it goes”. I am also using Amazon Prime Now for emergency items during the week….2 hours it’s delivered free to my home. Great service! I am saving 2-3 hours a week.

  5. This was a wonderful list. I really need to focus on #10. I am always happier when I don’t overwhelm myself, but then I turn around and say yes to many times.

  6. This is a fantastic list! Last week I made the decision to keep my April calendar light and have already declined an invitation to a get-together next week just because I need rest.

    After one of our older sons got married in late February, then 7 of us moved to a new house 2 weeks later, I’m physically and emotionally exhausted. Boxes are still stacked along the walls in some rooms – I just need some down time, and I – for once – felt no guilt at all about saying so!

  7. I love this list Ruth and I am guilty of several of those time wasters. I just wanted to let you know that I featured your blog on my Saturday Shout Out post this week.

  8. I am quite proud of myself for often saying no – politely, of course – so that I don’t overcommit myself. I could definitely make more white space by cutting back on social media scrolling. I do use my accounts for a work-related purpose, but often I’m online without a purpose and could be doing something else that would bring me joy.

    Great suggestions, Ruth!

  9. #5 is so true and something I can easily implment now to get my steps in (which always seem to be a challenge) and seriously how many times do I say I don’t have time to cook?! Thanks for the kick in the butt to use my time more wisely!

  10. Oh, my goodneeeess…this is all so true! I’ve realized lately that my Type A personality likes to check boxes, but a lot of the boxes that I’m checking just don’t make that much sense. For example, I used to do a super deep clean of my house every week. I did a last-minute rushed cleaning one day to prep for company and realized that it was nearly as good as the deep cleaning…but in less than half the time! Thanks for the encouragement to just say no sometimes! <3

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