Can’t keep up? 3 ways to simplify your social calendar

Sometimes we let life get in the way of our relationships. How often have you been too busy or too tired to invite a friend for a movie or a cup of coffee? How often have you felt overwhelmed with everything you need to get done, and found yourself turning down the enjoyable moments or events that friends invite you to?

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are three tips to help you free up your time so that you can spend it building and maintaining your relationships with friends, family, and everyone who matters to you.

1. Learn to say no
you don’t have to do it all

This advice is dead simple, and the people who have always followed it don’t understand why the rest of us have a hard time with it. But just because advice is simple, that doesn’t close-up of a woman writing in her already busy day plannermean it’s easy.

Saying no makes us feel guilty. Usually the time commitment being asked for isn’t that great (at least on the surface), and saying no makes us feel petty. But it isn’t just that one commitment. It’s that commitment, and the work thing, and the school thing, and the thing the neighbor needs you to do, and, and, and . . . They add up. They fill your calendar. They stress you out.

The sad truth is, I can’t magically make it easier for you to say no. I got better at it when I volunteered at a battered women’s shelter — an afternoon of our training was dedicated to learning to say no. Even in that setting, where it was just an exercise, people had a hard time saying no. But the more we did it, the easier it became. And that’s how it will be for you. Practice saying no. The more you do it, the easier — and more freeing — you’ll find it.

2. Prioritize
make sure you get the most important things done

You can’t and shouldn’t say no to everything. There are things that you personally consider important (kids’ soccer games? date night? something.), and there are things that are important to other aspects of your life — what your family considers important, or what your boss considers important. These things should probably be your priorities.

But not everything is equally important. If you’re overwhelmed in the tasks you’ve taken on, you may need to sit down and go through your schedule. Figure out what things are must-do, that is, you will do these things unless you’re in a come. Figure out which things you want to do, that is, you’ll get these done because they bring you joy or make your life easier. And figure out the things that you don’t want to do, and that fit in neither of those categories. Why are you doing them? Cut them out of your schedule.

3. Consolidate
if errands or events can be taken care of at the same time or in the same trip, do so

There are some things that you cannot take off of your calendar, and other things that you don’t want to take off your calendar. But these still take time. You can help save time by grouping tasks and errands in ways that make it easier to get them done faster.

Can you call in your prescription to the pharmacy that’s just down the street from the dry cleaner, so you can drop off your blazer and pick up your prescription at the same time?

Can you make dinner while you listen to that book you’ve been meaning to get to?

Whatever your to-do list looks like, chance are good you can find a way to consolidate some of it. You’ll be amazed at how much time this can free.

2 thoughts on “Can’t keep up? 3 ways to simplify your social calendar

  1. If only I could clear all the job-hunt stuff off my calendar! But you make a good point about priorities. If writing really is my priority, then I should do that before the stuff that I think of as busy-work. Then maybe I’ll have more patience with and energy for the busy-work.

    • It’s so easy to find excuses to not work on what we want to be our priorities. And then time fills up and we get overwhelmed. I’m as guilty of this as the next person. Fortunately, just recognizing it can go a long way to solving the problem. Good luck focusing on your writing!

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