Bill Gates said, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” Additionally, we overestimate what we can do in a day and underestimate what we can accomplish in a year. This likely stems from our desire for immediate gratification, but it’s not working. Instead we are exhausted at the end of a busy day and disappointed if we didn’t get it all done. Do we ever get it all done?
If you want to create a more fulfilling, gratifying life, I recommend under-calendaring. Like creating a budget, successful under-calendaring is going to take some experimenting. If you are curious if doing less will be more gratifying than filling every inch of white space on your calendar, try implementing the following suggestions, one or two at a time for 2-4 weeks. If you determine that your new strategy was helpful, keep it. If not, let it go.
One free day.
Block off one day a week. Don’t schedule anything on your calendar that day. Instead of planning it out, wake up and ask yourself, “how do I want to spend my time?” Then do that. If you are spending the day with your family, get everyone together and ask, “how do we want to spend our day together?” If one free day a week helps you have more focus and energy through the rest of the week, try two free days. Bonus tip: try making your one free day free of digital devices too.
If you don’t have time for what matters to you, stop doing things that don’t. Be discerning and honest about how you are spending your minutes and moments. Usually time is not the problem, it’s priority. If you are paying attention to everything, nothing is important.
Assign one day to errands, one day to appointments, and one day for household tasks. Batching by category will help you be more efficient when it comes to getting things done in addition to your regular household or work related activities.
Set a timer on the time sucks.
Email, Facebook, and television are the first three that come to mind, but they will be different for everyone. Assign a time each day for whatever time sucks you struggle with, and then actually set a timer before you start said time suck. When the timer goes off, so do you.
Get your heart in the game.
If you don’t know why you are doing something, or you don’t really care about what you are doing, chances are it will take more effort and be less rewarding. Get your heart in the game and approach what is on your calendar with interest, curiosity, and excitement when you can. If things come up and you can’t muster any of these feelings, ask yourself how you can remove them completely.
Change your measuring system.
If you tend to try to prove who you are by what you do or accomplish (to yourself or others), looking at a full calendar probably makes you feel good. Then, halfway through the week you feel overcommitted and overwhelmed. I’ve been there. Measure less by what’s on your calendar and more by what’s on your heart.
Buffer your day.
Back to back appointments don’t work. You need recovery time in between. Schedule a buffer to recover and move in between appointments. You’ll arrive on time and feel less frazzled and more focused when it’s time to start your next appointment.
Is working out on your calendar? Meditating? Taking a bath? If you are busy and taking care of you isn’t on your calendar, you will not take care of yourself. Schedule a walk outside or time to sit and read or watch your favorite movie.
Segment your day.
Reserve the morning for more creative work and activities, and the afternoon for administrative tasks, or reverse that if you feel more creative in the afternoon.
If you struggle with this, here are 10 simple ways to help you say no.
Let your family chip in. Ask for help. Hire someone. Let go of perfection and free up some of your precious time. If you don’t have time to get your work done but you are doing other people’s work, give it back to them.
Consider how much of yourself you are giving at work and to the people around you. If you pulled back 10% would anyone but you even notice? Imagine how things would change if you saved that 10%. Perhaps you could avoid burnout, or redirect it towards a passion project or self-care.
If you are thinking, “I’m way to busy to under-calendar,” question your assumption by experimenting. Whenever you think, I could never do that, challenge your nevers.
Spoiler alert: Any year where I have intentionally done less daily, I’ve created more annually. More importantly, I feel better, and smile more all year long.