I do love a January calendar, all those lovely blank, fresh squares. It’s like a clean slate, lots of white space and much potential. Each new year, my sister would spend a day making a list of all she wanted to change, accomplish and organize — at home, at the office and in her personal life. She would also assess and determine the friendships and needs in which she should concentrate for the year. Her process both inspired and exhausted me. Then one year it exhausted her too and she began to wonder “Why was January 1st the day to change everything?”
Why indeed? As I look at all that empty space that a new calendar holds I have found a few ways to manage my calendar so my calendar doesn’t end up managing me. Here are my top 3:
1) You can’t change everything, so change one thing.
Pick one thing to focus on each month. Is it organizing drawers, eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking more water, not yelling so much at your kids? Could it be getting more exercise, sitting down to more meals together as a family, looking your kids in the eye more during the day, hugging your husband more? Is it writing more thank you notes, having an attitude of praise or reading more books?
Whatever it is — write it at the top of your calendar. Sprinkle it onto your squares as a reminder of what you are trying to accomplish that month. Focus on that ONE thing for the month. Trying to change too many things at the same time is frustrating, and who needs that? Set yourself up to succeed by concentrating on one thing and then practice that ONE thing all month long.
2) X marks the spot.
I love this one. As a young mom, I was a pleaser. If you needed anything I would give it to you, whether or not I could afford it — financially, emotionally or through my time. When someone would call and ask me to watch their kids, volunteer in the classroom or make a meal, if my calendar square was open I would say yes, even if I hung up and immediately regretted it because although that one square was open, every square around it was jam-packed.
So I came up with this idea — each new month I would look at all those blank squares, take a Sharpie marker and put a big permanent X on one or two days each month. Those days were now reserved for me. If someone called and asked me for something those days, I would say I couldn’t because I had a commitment that day … and I did … to myself. Fifteen years later, I still employ this tactic if I find too many of those squares in a month start to overflow.
3) Schedule time for coffee or drinks or a phone call.
With our culture so very busy doing so many things at once it’s a great idea to look ahead and schedule some face-to-face time with those you care about. We’ve been known to schedule dinner with friends two months in advance. I regularly schedule coffee phone dates with out of town friends and family — meaning I sit down and talk, not do the dishes and talk. Scheduling a girls' night out, lunch with a friend, a date with my husband or time with my kids, all help me to manage my time instead of my time managing me. You can also look at it this way: schedule the important or trust me, the urgent will squeeze it out.
What I love about my wall calendar is that each and every month it gives me fresh pages. I don’t need to wait for a New Year to start again, my calendar will deliver me 12 new beginnings this year. My goal this year is to use each and every one of those opportunities.
I also wrote The Weekend Arguement, about managing the weekend hours. You can read there over here.