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 genuinely 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, (hey, me too!) then let’s talk about some options to get more time and an organized schedule that fits who you are and your priorities.
Empty your brain first thing in the morning
People usually think I’m crazy when I tell them I get up early in the morning and journal first thing. I do this for two reasons:
- I am way nicer if I can have a solid hour to wake up without requiring brain power
- When my brain turns on, it goes from 0 to 60 — and journaling helps me get some of that chaos out of my brain and onto a page where I can better organize it.
In fact, I have perfected my morning simplicity routine so much, that I created a Minimalist Journal + Planner for anyone who wants to apply the same methods to their morning!
Make a priorities list
It’s time to get your priorities straight. Literally. Sit down with a pen and paper and make a list of all the things that are the most important to you. This could be for your entire life, or simply for the day.
I do this every single day. Usually because at first I actually believe I am capable of all the things I want to accomplish that day.
For now, let’s talk about a BIG priorities list. You know, the things that are the absolute most important to you every single day.
How to do a Priorities Brain Dump
- Get a piece of paper
- Get a pen
- Set a timer for 3 minutes
- Write everything that is a priority to you until the timer stops
Here is what my BIG list looked like:
Minimizing your Brain Dump
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.
- 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 doing a Priorities Brain Dump, you don’t have much time to really “think” about your priorities. Doing the Brain Dump 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 always imagine spending my time traveling with my Tom and the kids, so I would have expected travel to be a bigger part of my Brain Dump. Now I can see that it’s not really the travel, it’s the family part and the inner peace (that vacation that doesn’t always provide) that I really long for.
After you do your Priorities Brain Dump, you might find that you’re not so happy with what you see on the paper. That’s ok. I was not thrilled with mine either.
So ask yourself, Are there some shifts I would like to make in my 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 head to my site and grab the Less, Please Minimalist Journal + Planner because It is already laid out to help you simplify your daily schedule.
Your daily schedule
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 watching TV, staring at your phone, babysitting your neighbors dog (when you are already overwhelmed), or anything in between.
Now think for a moment, what from this list could you eliminate to get back little pieces of your sanity? Here are some of mine.
- Deleting social media apps from my phone when I get too distracted
- Saying no to outings and events even if I am home and have time — sometimes I need time for downtime and that’s OK
If one of my priorities is my mental health and making time for my family then eliminating or reducing the time I spend doing these things is crucial to allowing me to focus on what really matters.
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.
Your monthly schedule
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? If so, 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 stop convincing yourself it’s necessary or that you’re being ridiculous for wanting to eliminate it.
Start saying “no”
In order to keep your schedule clear and prioritized, you have got to learn to say “no.”
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. Who knows, maybe you’ll inspire more people to take back their time too!
- 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 accept 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.
When I read the book, Present Over Perfect and author, Shauna Niequist mentions how people always have shirts with 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!
Set priority centered goals
Now that you have a clear grasp on your priorities and have some idea on how to make more time for them in your day, I would love to encourage you to shift how you think about setting goals.
So often our goals become all about numbers, about a bottom line, or even about making our places of work more money.
Do those things align with your priorities?
If not, then maybe it’s time to start setting goals that align with who you are and who you want to be. Here’s a sneak peek at some of mine:
- Our marriage is strong and passionate and our family unit is solid.
- We take frequent vacations throughout the year.
- I don’t chase, I attract. That which is meant for me will surely find me.
That last one is a borrowed affirmation that I heard on TikTok — but it reminds me to slow down and stop chasing the next thing. It reminds me that all of the things I ever wanted in life usually came to me when I wasn’t chasing them.
If you love the idea of simplifying your to do list, and creating priority aligned goals, and affirmations, be sure to grab my Less, Please Journal + Planner. It is literally designed to help you do exactly that!
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