Time is our most valuable resource, yet how many of us secure our calendars in the same way we secure our homes? You wouldn't leave home without locking the door, but we often leave the house without knowing exactly what we're doing that day and when. This lack of intention with our time can lead to disorganization and even more stress, once you realize how much time is wasted. I know many professional women who only use their calendars to stay on top of work-related events, such as meetings or coffee with a client, but fail to see that scheduling life outside of work would do wonders, too.
This lack of intention with our time can lead to disorganization and even more stress, once you realize how much time is wasted.
Keeping a strong personal calendar will not only keep you on task, but will also make sure you prioritize time with friends and family, too. Scheduling date nights or drinks with friends in your calendar may seem a little Type-A. However, think about the intention behind it: you are devoting your time to that person, with the promise of no distractions. That's why when friends ask me to grab lunch, I say "Absolutely!" and ask them to send me a calendar invite.
A calendar invite makes both parties both acknowledge the commitment, serves as a reminder on the day-of, and allows you to transition into a new headspace once you get the calendar reminder on your phone that lunch is starting in ten minutes. For me, it also means I can focus fully on my friend to maximize our hour or so together, because I know there's nothing else I'm "supposed" to be doing. Incredible intimate relationships aren't built in a day, but consistently over time, so make a habit of being present together with the ones you love on at least a weekly basis. Make it a recurring calendar invite to help you keep the habit, or find a weekly planner you love and write it down. Put your phones away during this time and just be.
I started practicing this habit in 2017 after realizing I wasn't focusing on my relationships enough. Even when I was physically with the people I love, I was distracted. There's a term from Nir Eyals' book Indistractable that really impacted me: "residual benefactors." It's something you don't want your friends or family to become. Basically, it refers to a person that gets the leftovers of something once all of the other priorities have been taken care of - AKA, what friends and family become when they only get what's left of you after a long day, week or month.
When we're not intentional with our time and energy, we accidentally make the people we care most about residual benefactors. We overbook ourselves with work and don't book times in our calendar for our relationships which means the people we are working so hard for, get the leftover crumbs from our lives. Scheduling your time intentionally ensures that people you love get the best of you.
Don't feel guilty about scheduling your relationships, either. It's not a bad thing to literally "pencil in" date night or put a sticky note in your planner to "call mom." Just remind yourself that friendships and relationships don't end in a day; relationships are starved to death through lack of time, energy and focus. They cannot thrive and the connection gets lost. You are doing yourself a favor by being a little Type-A, and putting time with someone special in your calendar doesn't symbolize that they aren't important enough to remember otherwise - rather, it demonstrates just how valuable they are to you.
For example, before I became a scheduling-aficionado, I recall a time when I went back to my hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland to visit my mother. I had a few professional acquaintances who wanted to meet for lunches and dinners, and I gladly accepted their calendar invitations. At the end of my visit, my mother pointed out that I didn't have lunch with her but once. I hadn't even realized it, but I was penciling people in because all I saw was open space in my calendar. Without purposefully scheduling time with her, she became a residual benefactor. This was the opposite of what I wanted as she is the most important person to me.
When we're not intentional with our time and energy, we accidentally make the people we care most about residual benefactors.
I think many women can relate to this struggle. Between work, making dinner, events, the kid's activities, emails, errands and walking the dog, our time gets eaten up with day-to-day tasks. Often, we might go through a whole day without distraction-less, intentional time with the people we love. Our calendar is a reflection of our values and priorities. Create a habit around intentionality in your relationships, and make yours the best reflection of you.
This article was originally published December 26, 2019.
WRITTEN BYCathryn Lavery