The Gift of Under-Scheduling

While studying to be a Chemical Engineer, I had to learn the fine art of time management.  It was easy to get overwhelmed with homework, papers, quizzes and exams and I needed to learn how to budget my time, chop big projects up into small pieces and hammer through my to do list.

Fast forward twenty five years to the season of my life that I’d best characterize as a daily sun-up-to-well-past-sundown full sprint.  It was a time that I was juggling full time corporate work, my fledgling financial planning practice that I was running as a side-hustle and two active daughters that needed continuously shuttled to club lacrosse, cross country meets, four different kinds of dance lessons, flag football, robotics events and various other activities that drifted in and out of their schedules.

Time management moved from a life skill to an obsession.   I went to seminars, I read books and I developed my own systems and processes to squeeze every ounce of productivity out of every minute of every day.  At the height of the insanity, I had a three page, type-written To Do List that I updated weekly. It was an Excel spreadsheet with point values for the number and complexity of tasks that weren’t complete so I could get a weekly “score” of how in control or out of control my life was.  Sad, right?!?

And by societal standards I was doing everything right.  Promotions came my way every few years at work, my side hustle grew every year and I was a fixture on the sidelines of every weekend-long club sporting event, every dance recital, every important doctor appointment, and every family vacation.

But those were my bright and shiny “outsides.” On the inside all was not well.  I’d been on and off anti-depressants for over ten years, had been through several therapists and had long periods of various super-fun experiences including rampant insomnia, anxiety and my all time favorite – a good old panic attack thrown in for good measure.

By 2016, the wheels completely flew off as my usual bouts with anxiety drifted into a severe two year bout with depression and I required four medications to get myself to sleep at night and retain some semblance of normal functionality for the day.

It was during these darkest hours that I made many, meaningful changes in my life.  I have shifted deeply embedded negative thoughts, I now live with intentionality and I have let go once and for all of the need to define my value by the number of things I crossed off of my to do list.

Giving myself the gift of under scheduling has unlocked three additional gifts for me:

#1 – The Gift of Self-Care

Without a jam-packed schedule I now have time for meditation, yoga, and (mostly) healthy eating by shopping at the farmers market and, when possible, buying locally sourced produce and meats.

I also replenish and recharge while walking in nature, and reading books alone or with Stacy.

#2 – The Gift of Self-Awareness

Taking time to get quiet in the form of meditation or mindfulness has allowed me to sort through some long term questions I’ve had about God, the Universe and the role of my soul.  Although listed second, this is definitely the biggest gift I’ve been granted now that I’m off of life’s treadmill. I have been deeply impacted by Gary Zukov’s  The Seat of the SoulAmong dozens and dozens of quotes, here is one of the most simple that defines how I approach my day:

“If you wish the world to become loving and compassionate, become loving and compassionate yourself.  If you wish to diminish fear in the world, diminish your own. These are the gifts you can give.”

#3 – The Gift of Doing More With Less

I’m new to this under-scheduled season of my life.  Or, perhaps it’s a return to what I intuitively knew to be true as a child.  In either case, what is emerging is that this newfound space in my life is resulting in me taking fewer, but far more important actions in my businesses.  

Allowing myself blocks of time in my day to discuss a good book with Stacy, be in nature or (God forbid!) be bored every now and then, allows the inner voice of my intuition to come through and help me discard the million different bright, shiny tasks I could scatter myself across.  Instead, I can recognize both positive and negative patterns in my life, let go of what does not serve me and focus on those few, most important things on my list that allow me to live with the intention I have set and love myself and others in the process.

Get out your to do list.  I hope for your sake it’s not three pages long with a “Life Control Score.”  Find at least one item on there, get out a big, red juicy marker and cross it off, not because you have done it, but because you will never do it again.  DM me and let me know what you’ve released from your life to make room for the new, real you!