I was always one to cringe at the word ‘schedule’. Yes, even as a business owner. It felt constricting and rigid and completely devoid of flow and fun. However, there have been a few situations with friends these past few months that have forced me to really look within and explore time management and the ‘busy’ epidemic.
One of the situations which was the biggest slap in the face for me was when my best friend (bestest best best friend – just so you are really clear on how close a friend this is!), was in her final week packing up her entire life to move to New York. I had received text messages, phone calls from her trying to arrange a time to see me, however I was so caught up in how busy I thought I was to commit to time with her. I did have a lot going on that week, but looking back, I could have put some of those things aside so that I had quality time to spend with my dearest friend. It got to the point where she called me and expressed how sad and disappointed she was that we hadn’t had a moment together, and that she had been the only one really trying to arrange a catch up. I felt awful. Awful that my beautiful friend felt this way because of my actions.. or should I say lack of action.
Thankfully, I was able to spend the last evening with her, help her pack her suitcase and clear the last of the things from her apartment, even sharing a take-out meal, laughing, crying, and grateful to be together in those final moments. I have to say, that brought me more joy than any of the other ‘busy’ things I was doing earlier that week. I had a chance to apologise and also thank her for honestly telling me how she felt because it taught me a huge lesson.
This catapulted me into taking a long hard look at my schedule or lack thereof and how I was not so effectively using my time.
I am beginning to realise how vague the word busy really is. What does it actually mean? I’ve often caught myself saying it and cringed because deep down I know that if I were to honestly take note and clock the hours I have wasted checking social media or cleaning the house, or even just feeling overwhelmed, I would be pretty disappointed with my findings. So many hours I could have used (had they been properly scheduled) toward activities that brought me so much more joy and even contributed toward what I am most passionate about.
So, instead of berating myself and feel guilty (which I probably would have done in the past), I began to research, and think, and observe my behaviour to move forward and positively change these old self sabotaging habits.
I never imagined I would say this but there is actually freedom in a stricter schedule. It allows you to make time for catch ups with friends and loved ones, and do the things that bring you joy because you are so much more consistently committed to yourself and the tasks or activities that are a priority. Giving yourself a time limit on certain areas such as emails or cleaning the house (I like to clean the house ok?! Haha), means that you don’t get carried away and end up spending four hours on those tasks by accident and then feel overwhelmed with your growing to do list, then proceeding to either cancel catch ups with friends, or just not being entirely present when you are with them.
I am no pro at this and am still very much a work in progress, however I am a firm believer that the first most vital step is awareness.
One piece of advice that has additionally been of great help is changing the language used. Before I blurt out the B word, I now test myself and choose the word ‘priority’ instead.
‘I cannot help you out with that work problem today because I’m busy’
‘Helping you out with that work problem isn’t a priority for me’.
Changes everything, doesn’t it?
Or a big one for me at the moment is travelling to spend time with my grandfather. The amount of times I have said:
‘I’m so busy I just haven’t been able to see Nonno’
‘Spending time with my grandfather is not a priority right now’.
Gosh that just makes me want to burst into tears. How could that not be a priority?!
Changing the language for me personally helps me clearly see where I would like to spend my time and what actually brings me joy. Pre-planning catch ups ahead of time can also ensure that you get your other important tasks done before that catch up, and whatever you don’t quite complete, gets factored in the next day. Of course at times there will be deadlines that force you to work until all hours, however this whole scheduling concept is more of a long term discipline so that when you do have the odd crazy patch you still have it under control.
This isn’t a change that happens overnight and I feel like I’ve only just started implementing it and changing my ways. However, even in these early stages of this change I am noticing how much lighter and energetically free I feel. I have less overwhelm, as I feel in control and have more clarity and purpose. Not only have I begun to value my time but also equally value the time of others.
The more dedicated and committed I am to my schedule the more committed I am to myself and the things in life that really mean the most to me. And funnily enough since making these changes, even if my schedule is jam packed I don’t find myself complaining about or using the busy excuse. There is no need for it anymore as I am clear with what is a priority.
If this is a topic that resonates with you, perhaps begin to gently observe where it is you use the B word. Try using ‘is not a priority for me’ at the end of your sentence and see how that feels. Does it conjure sadness, disappointment, guilt? Does it bring to light what in fact does bring you joy and perhaps things that you are filling your day or weekend with at present that don’t give you that same spark?
At the end of the day we, beautiful, messy human beings are all wonderful works in progress; experiencing, learning, and constantly growing. Don’t get stuck on thinking about past moments you feel you could have handled differently. It’s those very moments that helped instigate change and growth in the first place.
"Do not complain, make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution." - Maya Angelou