Each day, I get a daily email from the website DailyOM. Sometimes the topic speaks to me; other times I see the subject line/title of the post and I know it’s not for me and I delete it. Last week, I got an email with the subject line “Simplify your schedule.” I couldn’t read it right away, but I didn’t delete it. I knew I should read it and I had a chance to while I ate lunch. It was right up my alley.
As a full-time working mother, with two teenagers who do not drive (one of whom has special needs and they both go to different high schools), a husband with a demanding job, two dogs who have to be cared for, and my own new side hustle, I have a full schedule. Much of it I can’t control. I can’t decide I don’t want to go to work because my evening is busy. I can’t decide that I’m going to pick up one of the kids from his cross country practice but not the other because I’m tired of driving. I can’t decide that the dogs don’t need to be taken out or fed. My side hustle does add value to my life. Exercise is an important part of my overall health and is non-negotiable. But I have real responsibilities that keep my color-coded Google calendar looking like a rainbow of appointments. I can’t just throw all of those responsibilities out the window, even though there are times I wish I could.
I realized once I went back to school full-time eight years ago that I cannot do everything. This became even more apparent when I went back to work full-time in 2014 after I graduated. Running around like the Energizer Bunny, while it’s something I can definitely manage when I absolutely have to, does not make me a happy person. When life gets hectic, I crave downtime. Sometimes I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I power through. During the last week in August, I had two ZYIA events to be at, one kid started school and there was limited bus service available, the other had events for school that he had to be at two of the days, there were multiple doctor’s appointments scheduled, etc. It was one of those weeks where I didn’t have much time to decompress after work because there was always something to do or some place to be after I worked 8+ hours (and let’s not even discussed what my Outlook calendar at work looked like). It was a rough week and in hindsight, scheduling two ZYIA events wasn’t the best idea for me, but when coordinating with others’ schedules, that’s what I had to do. I got through it, although my back flared up the following weekend. I’m not sure if that was a reaction to the running around or just a coincidence. I’ll never know because I’m going to be prone to flare ups with no rhyme or reason.
Back to the subject line of that email—I know myself well enough to know that I can’t maintain that level of “busyness” every single week. I just can’t. I have to take care of myself and I have to say no to things, even if I really want to say yes. Sometimes that means I’m saying no to fun things because when I’m making plans with someone, I try to look at my week as a whole and not just the day. I try not to overcommit. The suggestions in the email I received, such as “consider which of these unnecessary activities add little value to your life and edit them from your agenda”, are how I have tried to manage my schedule over the last few years. I’m not saying that the things I say no to are unnecessary at all, but when considering whether they work with my life, I find it important to ask myself if it is necessary on this particular day or can it be moved to a better day? How much does it matter? I knew the events of that busy August week couldn’t be adjusted and I had to suck it up.
But I’m not willing to suck it up all the time. I know my own limits. This is why I’ve cut back on certain things that I do enjoy, like manicures and pedicures, because sometimes my time is more important. I’m also not willing to be a martyr and just go, go, go all the time because that’s what society expects. There are times that saying no and stepping back from the unnecessary is what’s necessary and doing what I can to simplify my schedule is imperative to my well-being. It’s ok to say no when you need to and it’s not a character flaw when you do.