Often times people think of minimalism in terms of “stuff” and the things that we own and accumulate. This is all true and plays a huge roll in the minimalist lifestyle. Today, however, I want to get down to the lesser known struggle of minimalism. The side you can’t see. The side that says “yes” to too many things for fear of missing out or disappointing someone. That cluttered part of your schedule that is trying to make more hours than there is in a day. How do you take your life back? What steps are necessary to making your schedule (and your life) your own again? What exactly does it take to start saying “no?” How do you downsize your schedule? Well, I’m about to give you all you need so you can downsize your schedule — like a boss. Like a minimalist boss.
*This post contains affiliate links through which I may make a commission. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Start with your schedule
First of all, before you even continue reading, it might be a wise idea to assess whether or not you even need to downsize your schedule? Do you generally feel content with your day to day or do you feel highly stressed and over-worked. Are there days that you feel you have done nothing at all yet you are exhausted?
If that sounds like you, (trust me, I’ve been there) then let’s talk about some options to get more time and an organized schedule that fits who you are and your priorities. Read about a perfect planner to help you simplify and organize!
Make a priorities list
It’s time to get your priorities strait. Literally. Sit down with a pen and paper and make a list of all the things that are the most important to you. You could do this in the form of a “brain dump.” Doing a brain dump simply means getting a pen and paper and then setting a timer for 3 minutes. For those 3 minutes write down every single thought you have about what is most important to you. Here is what my list looked like:
After taking the time to dump all your quick thoughts onto a piece of paper, look through your list and sort them into groups. Now, you know what you were thinking when you wrote each word, so you sort them out based on how you were feeling. Here’s how I highlighted mine.
- Red: The red ones that I highlighted I felt went hand in hand with family and relationships.
- Blue: The blue ones were more focused on my mental health. Clearly I need some help here! (LOL) When I first noticed how many more blues than reds there were I felt a little guilty. Does this mean I put myself before my family? As I looked at the list more I started to realize that I do a lot of these things for myself in order to be better when it comes to all the things in red.
- Green: The green ones are more focused on the blog and myself as an entrepreneur. It has always been important to me to have a life separate from my kids and motherhood. That’s where this green section comes in.
- Yellow(ish): This last section seemed to all go hand in hand with things outdoors and traveling. It’s nice to see that this is the last thing on my list. Often times I spend my days daydreaming about traveling and taking a vacation. However, looking at this list, it becomes pretty clear that this really isn’t a priority of mine.
How this is helpful
By brain dumping, you don’t have much time to really “think” about your priorities. You can’t make a list like someone is watching. It forces you to go through your thoughts quickly.
Once you have gone through your thoughts, you might have your eyes opened to things you didn’t really see coming. Like my yellow section. I use the idea of travel and vacations as a motivation to earn more money. I imagine spending my time traveling with my children and husband, so I would have expected travel to be a bigger part of my life. Now I can see that it’s really not. It’s the family part and the inner peace (that vacation that doesn’t always provide) that I really long for.
Maybe you’re not so happy with what you see on the paper. Are there some shifts you would like to make in your priorities?
Now that you can see your priorities laid out clearly in front of you, it’s time to take a look at your schedule.
Check your schedule
Now is a good time to turn the page in your notebook or you can get yourself extra organized with a customized planner.
Write down what an average day for you looks like. From the time you wake up, to the time you go to sleep at night. What do you do in a day? Does what you do each day align with your priorities? Make note of wasted time. Whether that be sleeping, watching TV, staring at your phone or anything in between.
If you found some seriously wasted space and cross them out.
Now think for a moment, what could you substitute in place of these time wasters? Sometimes it takes a little trial and error to figure out exactly what works. Here are some ideas that I’ve had to change from my own schedule:
- Designate a time for work
- Wake up earlier to make this happen
- Stick to this time. No going over!
- Cleaning comes last. School comes first. (It’s hard for me not to see the clutter in my house and would often take the place of me teaching my kids in homeschool)
- No mindless Facebook scrolling
- No binge watching Netflix. 3 30 minute episodes and you’re done!
- Alone time includes reading a good book…not staring at your phone.
These ideas are usually ones that most people can relate to or benefit from although they may look different depending on your days and priorities. For example, a working mom is going to have an entirely different list than mine since I am a stay at home, homeschool mom. That being said, I think we can all relate to wasting time on social media and Netflix. (No? Just me?)
How about throughout the entire month? What dates are filled in on your calendar? Are there things that you have put on there that don’t serve any purpose when it comes to your priorities? Draw a circle around these things.
Go through the next few months…keep circling anything that doesn’t align with your priorities. Don’t argue with yourself!
If you see a certain event and it gives you a pit in the bottom of your stomach (again, I speak from experience) don’t convince yourself it’s necessary.
Do you dread going to that girls night every month? Does it cause you to get behind on your work, spend less time with your kids and generally wipe you out? Don’t convince yourself that it’s something you need to stick to. No guilt trips for the feelings that might get hurt. Be honest with yourself. That’s the first step.
Nope. There is no substituting in this section. This is where we just start cutting stuff from our life like mad…or maybe a reasonable amount. Depending on your commitments it may take a while to start eliminating stressful things from your schedule. If driving your kids to soccer each Wednesday after driving an hour commute home from work has got you wiped out, too bad. Some commitments need to be stuck to until they are done. In the meantime, what can you do to make Wednesdays less stressful? Just plan for a fast food day and don’t feel guilty about it? Switch driving to classes with another parent in the same class? There are always little ways to make big stressors a little less stressful. Sometimes it just takes a little creativity.
Once you have gotten all of your priorities strait and organized, it might be a good time to start setting goals and getting organized.
Start saying “no”
In order to keep your schedule clear and prioritized, you have got to learn to say “no.”
There are definitely some things that will happen when you start saying no:
- People will be mad. –It’s their problem, not yours.
- People won’t care. –You’ll find a lot of people understand, especially those who prioritize their time as well.
- You’ll gain freedom. –Slowly you will gain back the time and energy that you have been deprived of
These are truths that go along with the word “no.” They are inevitable. It’s important to remember as you start saying no, that you are doing it for your life and no one else’s.
In all honesty, if you are a person who has a hard time saying no, it’s important to except that this stage will be hard. I promise it gets easier and easier. I say no so much in fact, that I’ve really been wanting a shirt that says it. It started with a TV show of a person wearing a shirt that just read, “NO” It made me laugh. Then I read the book, Present Over Perfect and author, Shauna Niequist mentions how people always have shirts that have motivational, “YOLO” type writings on them. No one ever has one that just says, “No.” Yet that one word has the power to transform your life!
If you need help, I highly recommend one of these motivational shirts to help you take your life back!
Stick to your goals
Once you have taken these steps, make sure you are sticking to the goals that you have set! Checkout the Intentional Life Planner to help you do this! It has everything you need to slowly break down your goals so you are sure to succeed! Have an accountability partner, start a journal or keep a planner, whatever you can do to help yourself remember your priorities each and every day.
Some helpful posts:
- 18 Practical Ways to Downsize and Simplify
- 4 Ways I Could Have a Spotless Home, But I Don’t Want to.
- Ultimate Minimalist Spring Cleaning: Mind. Body. Home.
- The Minimalist Diet