How to Simplify Your Schedule
I am no Imelda Marcos! The first lady of the Philippines was known for her extravagant lifestyle including her enormous shoe collection – 1060 pairs! My shoe collection: miniscule by comparison. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a sweet pair of shoes.
Back when I was in college, I had the privilege of spending a summer studying abroad. It was an amazing learning experience. While in Paris, the highlight for me was not the learning, but a beautiful pair of red flats that I purchased – a souvenir of sorts! Red is my favorite color, so they had that going for them, and they reminded me of a delightfully happy adventure in my life.
The problem was that the shoes were just a touch too small! I had hoped they would stretch out and get more comfortable with wear. Sadly, this never happened! Instead, each time I wore the beautiful red shoes, they pinched; really pinched! Blisters formed – it was painful!
Yet I loved my red shoes so I kept on attempting to wear them, only to be blessed again with blisters and unhappy feet.
Those red shoes have long since left my shoe collection. My memory of the shoes, the wonderful adventure, and the pain, has not been forgotten.
My schedule can be a bit like those beautiful red shoes. More often than not, I want to cram more into a day than is ever possible. The result: blisters and pain or stress and breathing issues for me. You see, when I attempt to take on too much, my body rebels. It speaks loud and clear and lets me know that I am overextending myself.
Have you paid attention to the way your body is telling you that you are attempting to take on too much? That’s a large part of what stress is about – expecting yourself to do more than you are humanly able. And when you do that for extended periods of time, it’s actually harmful to your health. Even when the things you want to do are good, the reality is that you can only do so much in 24 hours. When you try to force it, there is a price to pay.
How is your body trying to tell you it’s time to be more realistic about what you are trying to do? Do you find yourself experiencing…
- Aches and pains including sore muscles
- Headaches or migraines
- Heart palpitations
- Your skin breaking out
- Feeling tired
- Hair falling out
- Catching colds or bugs
- Grinding your teeth
- Digestive issues
- Breathing or respiratory problems
I have an abundance of ideas and projects I want to accomplish. There’s nothing wrong with my brimming ambition. The issue is the pace at which I want to accomplish those projects. Fear keeps me striving to accomplish good things for the wrong reasons. Deep down I know that God does not give me more to do in a day than is humanly possible. If I fully trust Him, then I can relax, slow down, and trust His timing. And when I do the results are worth waiting for!
This past week I had one of “those days” planned. The kind that makes your heart skip a beat just looking at your to do list. Long story short, on top of the over planning, the day took an unexpected turn when my aunt suddenly arrived in town. Since I had not seen her in more than two years, or met her brand new husband, my husband and I dropped everything to meet them on the other side of town.
Needless to say, not much got checked off my to do list! And you know what, the world kept spinning! Clearly it was God’s funny way of showing me that I really didn’t have to do everything I thought I did – at least not that day!
When it comes to getting things done, it takes more than just working hard. Getting things done starts when you simplify your schedule. Here are a few steps you can take:
1. Be REALISTC
In a world of frantic activity and pressure to succeed, it’s easy to overestimate what you can truly get done. When tasks linger undone because your list is far too long, you begin to think you are not accomplishing what you “should”. It may even leave you with the feeling that you aren’t accomplishing enough. It’s discouraging and stressful!
On the other hand, if you can be more realistic about what’s possible to accomplish, you can more successfully execute your plan for the day.
The truth is, you have 24 hours just like everyone else does. When you sleep 7-8 hours, spend an hour or so with God, exercise for an hour, and then take time to truly enjoy your meals – another two hours, that alone ads up to around 12 hours. That’s not including the time it takes for you get ready for your day, or the personal tasks that must be maintained (doctor’s appointments, paying the bills, taking care of your home). And there is the travel time as well as other transitional activities that don’t even make your to do list.
What can you realistically fit into a day?
2. Know your PRIORITIES
The urgent often has a way of overshadowing your priorities. Emails, texts, and phone calls feel critical. That’s not even mentioning the disruptions that will inevitably pop up. If you don’t know what your priorities are, how will you know what to invest your limited time into?
There are priorities that are long term, like adding more clients, writing a book, or reaching a professional goal. And there are also personal goals like improving your health, saving up for a trip, organizing, or volunteering.
Beware: not everything can be a priority! By definition, a priority is what’s most important. For example, for me, while I have both personal and professional priorities, my family will trump all of them all!
3. Connect to your VALUES
When what you are attempting to accomplish is in conflict with your values, it has an effect on your productivity. Relationships (including God, family, & friends), Communication, Learning, Health, and Solitude – are my top five values. When I am operating in a way that is in conflict with those values, it has a negative effect. And when I try to do too much, it hurts my relationships, my health, and it impedes on my solitude.
What are your top five values? How is your schedule honoring them?
4. TRUST God!
If my schedule is overflowing with activity, that’s a great big tip off that I am NOT trusting God or letting Him lead me. Slowing down and doing less requires me to be 100% confident that God’s got me and that He knows what’s best and most important. No striving!
When I do slow down and attempt to tackle less, I do better work and it allows space for God to work on my behalf so I don’t have to wear myself out working so hard.
Maybe you are less ambitious than I am, perhaps stepping out and taking action would be your version of trusting God. Sometimes it’s letting go of activities that are unproductive and engaging in the activities that will lead to the results you are after that will necessitate you trusting God.
Yes! Planning and applying all that I’ve shared so far: yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily. If you have a big dream, you might even consider having a 5 or 10 year plan. Remember, nothing is set in stone. Each time you plan is an opportunity to revise and adjust what you are doing. And as you do, be sure your plan includes margin because the unexpected is very much to be expected!
The more you practice these steps, and it does take practice, the more effective you will become. It will help you focus on less and get more done! That’s productivity. All the while, it will be a whole lot more comfortable! No blisters from trying to fit too much into your schedule like my beautiful red shoes gave me! And I don’t think it is a coincidence that those shoes were red – because when you live in the red it always pinches!