You can feel overwhelmed when you have so much on your mind. So, you do the right thing and get these thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Eventually, you use this to generate an extensive to-do list that will clutter your Calendar.
What happens next? Not only is your brain cluttered, so is your Calendar. That makes it impossible to focus on your priorities. And even worse, this leads to unnecessary stress.
While you’re on the right track here by conducting a brain dump, you also need to declutter your Calendar so that you’ll be healthier, happier, and more productive.
Of course, that may sound easier said than done. So, here are some of the best ways to declutter your brain by decluttering your Calendar.
Acknowledge the fact that you can’t do everything.
“We can only do so much,” Mike Burns writes over Becoming Minimalist. “We have unlimited options but limited resources.” As such, some decisions must be made to eliminate certain things.
“When we’re feeling especially productive and superhuman, we struggle to admit this reality,” he adds. But, no matter how hard we, it’s impossible for us to do it all. “We have to remove the clutter.”
Clutter is all the stuff that gets in the way of living a happy life. As a result, we cannot do the things we value the most. “It’s that unnecessary stuff that we entertain but doesn’t help us get where we want to go,” Burns adds. “And it needs to be removed.”
Take stock and track your time.
“I always say if you want to spend your time better, you have to figure out how you’re spending your time now,” asserts Laura Vanderkam, author of, Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done. “People have a lot of stories they tell themselves about their time,” she adds, but those stories aren’t always accurate.
Therefore, you must first take stock of what is in your Calendar to truly clean it up. Reviewing past appointments and calendars can give you some historical information to give you some insights into how you’ve spent your time. However, you should also track how you spend your time.
Here, you are generally presented with two options. One is a productivity journal, while the other is a time tracker. The most crucial step is to record all your daily activities for a week or so. From there, you can decide which entries you can remove from your Calendar.
Additionally, Vanderkam recommends channeling your inner Marie Kondo. If, for example, you no longer enjoy that cooking, music, or yoga class on Wednesday nights, dump it.
“It’s a ridiculous thing to think that everything will spark joy,” adds Vanderkam. “You might love your job, but your commute will not spark joy. Likewise, you love your children but changing a diaper will not spark joy,” she says.
Consider asking yourself, “What is causing the most pain? And what is something I can actually do something about?”
Question the validity of any recurring commitments.
Piggybacking from the point above — You should make a detailed inventory of what exactly is filling your schedule before attempting to declutter it.
We all do things the way we do because we are accustomed to them. But nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that we should continue doing them as we have day-in-and-out. And another way to achieve this is by questioning your recurring calendar commitments.
As a starting point, ask;
- Why am I doing this? Is your Calendar full of entries that it easier than more essential tasks? Does it exist because you were told to do it by someone else?
- Are my priorities aligned with this activity? Do you do this because you have to, or does it help you move closer to your goals?
- Is this beneficial to my family or me?
- How will this affect me? Is it draining or energizing?
- Is my Calendar a reflection of how I want to live? Are you living your life on purpose? What do you think is the best way for you to spend your free time?
Get it off your Calendar whenever you don’t have a real reason to do something. At the same time, be careful not to remove something working well to make your schedule seem more organized.
You must be intentional about your Calendar if you want more space and time for what matters.
Delete old tasks.
When you have a minute, please glance over your to-do list. The chances are that you haven’t updated it in quite a long time. And, that’s alright. Some of these items are just habits that have become second nature. But, here they important or still relevant?
In reality, those items are nothing more than clutter. So, go ahead and remove them from your list. As for the remaining items, you might want to use something like the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize your list.
You would do anything urgent and essential right away — meaning they get scheduled first in your Calendar. Then, you would schedule essential but less urgent tasks later. And, don’t forget that anything that’s urgent but not necessary can be delegated or outsourced.
Use the “Rule of Three.”
By following the Rule of Three, you will succeed in reaching your goals and getting more done. Apparently, according to Dan Silvestre, it was introduced by J.D Meier in “Getting Results the Agile Way. And, it works like this.
The Rule of Three stresses that you should only focus on 3 of your most important goals instead of aiming for everything. By limiting the number of tasks you do simultaneously, you can increase your focus and output. And it’s also helpful in keeping your Calendar in check so that you don’t feel as overwhelmed.
As an example, let’s say that you’re mapping out your week. Rather than trying to cram every to-do list item into your Calendar, only schedule three priorities for each day.
Verify your timeslots.
If you share your Calendar with others, then people can not only see your availability, they can also book these open slots. That comes in handy when someone needs to schedule a meeting or phone call with you. But, here’s the thing, schedules are likely to change.
Let’s say you have an upcoming trip or the other party had to attend to a personal matter. The chances are that something like a 15-minute phone call isn’t a priority. As such, to prevent wasting everyone’s time, you should verify this time slot.
You can use a calendar reminder to make sure that everyone can still meet at the agreed-upon time. Usually, this could be a couple of days in advance. But, if you know that you have more pressing matters coming up, like a vacation, you might want a longer timeframe, like a week or two ahead of time.
That might seem a bit much. However, it’s an effective way to safeguard your Calendar from last-minute cancellations and conflicts. I would suggest being a pro and giving others a deadline when your open slots will close.
And, one more thing, When you’re booked or off-the-clock, double-check that your Calendar shows that you’re unavailable. When you do, then others won’t be able to reserve that time slot.
Don’t make your Calendar annoyingly inflexible.
For better or worse, Elon Musk is known for many things. However, he’s also known for using a productivity hack in which he schedules his time into 5-minute segments. While Musk has denied this, it’s understandable why this technique is appealing. It not only protects your valuable, but it also can keep your Calendar so organized that you’ll get more done.
Here’s the problem, though. This technique is ridiculously inflexible that there is zero wiggle room. What’s more, it takes a lot of upfront planning to schedule your time so meticulously.
I’m all for time blocking. But that doesn’t mean you have to full each block of time. Instead, you should leave some blocks blank. The reason? Let’s say there’s a fire that needs to be put out? Then, you can more easily shuffle your schedule around to attending to this emergency without throwing your entire schedule off-track.
Make use of a scheduling assistant or calendar app.
Calendar apps and scheduling assistants offer a quick and efficient alternative to back-and-forth communication when scheduling a meeting or event. Furthermore, they keep your schedule from getting cluttered.
Calendar, for example, allows users to share their availability with others via e-mail or embeddable links. As a result, people can choose a time that works for them when they see your schedule. By doing so, you won’t overload your Calendar. It also lets you buffer meetings between them and avoid last-minute meetings, so you never have a congested Calendar.
As if that weren’t enough, Calendar uses machine learning to make smart scheduling suggestions. It can also determine the breakdown of your day by task type by analyzing your schedule.
Merge your calendars.
People often like to keep several calendars to keep the various facets of their lives organized. For example, you may have a calendar designated solely for work and another for your family’s schedule. You may also have calendars for birthdays, holidays, medical appointments, or even when your favorite sports teams are playing.
I get the appeal with this strategy. But, conflicts are ultimately more challenging to avoid when juggling multiple calendars. I know this from personal experience. Back in the day, I kept work and a personal calendar. Eventually, I would agree to an after-hours work event only to notice that I had already committed to going to a birthday dinner for a friend.
Aside from that, switching between calendars was inconvenient and a huge waste of time. So I found the simple solution to be consolidating all of my calendars into one master calendar.
How am I able to remain organized? I use color-coding.
“Most calendar apps will allow you to order your events by color, making it easy to distinguish them at a glance,” writes Howie Jones in a previous Calendar article. “Your online Calendar will have different events for work, home, and leisure. Assign a color to each category, and it will be easy to locate exactly what you’re looking for.”
“For example, the color red can distinguish all of your work-related events from the rest of your calendar,” Howie explains. “You might use blue to indicate your at-home priorities.”
The best part? “You can customize your calendar with whatever palette you choose, making your online calendar unique to your style and preference.”
Make decluttering a priority.
“Finally, there’s more to decluttering than just cleaning and organizing,” notes Deanna Ritchie in a previous Calendar article. “It is also about staying committed to living a clutter-free life.” You can easily keep on top of this by scheduling frequent cleaning sessions.
“For instance, you could block out from four p.m. to five p.m. on the last Friday of every month to tidy up your office,” Denna suggests. “Every Saturday morning could be reserved for household chores. And, so forth.”
It’s important to schedule these sessions in advance to commit to following through with this. Remember, your word is your bond as if you were meeting with a client or doctor. In addition, you won’t have to stress as much about cleaning and organizing your Calendar because you’re keeping it lean and mean before it becomes too overwhelming.
Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels; Thank you