Do you have an intimate and loving relationship with your calendar? I know that sounds like a weird question, but having a close relationship with your calendar is one of the most profound things you can do to find more clarity and sanity in your daily life.
I have a weekly rendezvous with my calendar where I sit down with a lovely cup of tea and I closely examine both the big picture and details of my upcoming weeks. I adapted this exercise from Janice Marturano’s book, Finding the Space to Lead. This process guides you to be in relationship with your upcoming schedule in ways you may not have experienced before. The exercise is to be done in a silent, still place, without the use of technology, so print out your upcoming weekly and monthly schedule. After that, here’s what to do:
First, look at the upcoming weeks, day by day at a fairly high-level. This is the time when you “clean up” your calendar. You may realize something’s been cancelled, but it’s still on the calendar or maybe you told someone you could meet, but didn’t put it on your calendar. Then, when you have the high-level clean up completed, close your eyes, breathe, and center yourself. Take this time to check in with your body and the present moment (this is often a gift all by itself). Then, when you are ready, look at each commitment on each day with as little preconceived judgment as you can, and notice what it feels like in your body as you imagine spending your time in each meeting, appointment or commitment. You may notice tension, frustration, or lightness. Your job is to notice the information or patterns that are revealing themselves. I don’t want to get too prescriptive about it, but I suspect having conscious awareness of your calendar at this level will prompt further exploration of and shifts in how you decide to use your time. For me, this experience repeatedly gives me insight to how I’m feeling about how I work, what’s not working and what I need going forward. This experience is like looking at your life’s dashboard (through the lens of your calendar) so you can make adjustments as needed.
The next step is to notice what is not on your calendar. What is missing that you need or wish was there? Time for yourself? Time with friends or family? Or time for the mundane or day-to-day requirements of life that tend to pile up? Each week, I schedule time on my calendar to do this calendar reflection exercise. I start by examining the upcoming week, then the two and three weeks out from there. This gives me enough time to adjust my commitments if I need to. You can also use this tool to use with your family schedule. My husband and I gather our kids to discuss our upcoming schedules, and together we identify what we want to adjust, add to, or take off our family calendar. This helps our kids feel empowered about how they use their time and sets them up to be conscious of their schedules – a vital skill for when they are older and managing their own schedules.
Being in relationship with our calendars allows us to consciously be at choice about what we’re aligning to and how we are spending our precious energy, time and money. Many life-changing decisions have emerged from my calendar reflection experiences, including my recent decision to take four months off on a personal sabbatical. So if you don’t yet have a loving and intimate relationship with your calendar, I encourage you to take the first step by setting an appointment with yourself and give this calendar reflection exercise a try.