THURSDAY THOUGHTS: Take Back Your Calendar

How often do you hear somebody refer to themselves as a “hot mess”? Or worse yet, how often are YOU caught saying that phrase? Somewhere along the way, it has become a badge of honor, especially among women, to over-commit, do “all the things”, and then complain of feeling overwhelmed and stressed because we have too much to do. I do not know about you, but I have decided that I do not want to be perceived as being a hot mess. I do not want to be a slave to my calendar and show up for commitments feeling bitter for having to be there. Instead, I prefer to be intentional about what I say “yes” to and what I say “no” to. I prefer to look forward to the obligations and activities that are in my daily planner.

Here is a news flash for you: There is nothing on your calendar that you have not allowed to be there!

That is a sobering thought. You might be saying, “So, what I’m hearing is that I can complain all I want about being too busy, not having a single moment to spare for myself, feeling stressed and overwhelmed, but it’s my own fault?”

That is exactly what I am saying. If you are anything like me (a bit “old school”), and keep yourself organized with a paper planner, then this concept becomes even more clear. I ACTUALLY WROTE ALL THE ACTIVITIES IN MY PLANNER, IN MY OWN HANDWRITING, so how can I honestly blame anybody else? Sure, I know that there are some commitments you simply have no control over: work meetings, phone and Zoom calls, doctor’s appointments for yourself and family members, etc. but you do have a say in most of the things on your calendar.

Here are a few tips to help take back control of your calendar (and perhaps even your sanity).

1. Examine Your Values – You are going to be happier and experience a deeper sense of fulfillment when you are engaged in activities you actually care about. When you take an honest look at what is truly important to you, not what is expected of you or what you think is expected of you, you can use that set of values as a barometer for what you would like to say “yes” to and what you would prefer to say “no” to. If an activity is in alignment with your personal values, it should be an easy “yes” for you to make.

2. Quit Accepting Responsibilities Out of Obligation – But what will everybody think if you do not show up, or volunteer for, or choose not to attend a particular event? If there is an activity or event that you have always shown up for, this can prove even more difficult. If your heart is not in it, or perhaps this just is not a cause or event you feel passionate about, go ahead and pass. There are a lot of great organizations that simply are not for you. Find the ones you are passionate about and leave the others for somebody else.

What will everybody think? Hear me out, people are not giving you as much thought as you think they are! They are too worried about themselves, their lives, their commitments, their crazy schedules. (It’s true!)

3. Identify What Lights You Up – What activities fill you with joy and happiness? Sometimes I will ask clients this question and sadly, they do not know! It is easy to lose touch with yourself, your likes, and desires after years of prioritizing others. Take some time to figure out what you do enjoy doing. If you had a completely open day, with zero commitments, what would you want that day to look like? Start there…make a list of activities you would fill that day with. Then, you need to purposely start scheduling some of these activities weekly. That walk on the beach, an extra-long phone call to a girlfriend, coffee or lunch date, is not magically going to appear on your calendar. You need to intentionally put it there!

4. Identify What Activities (and People) Drain You – You need to be honest here. What on your weekly “to do list” do you absolutely dread? What are the things that you are doing out of obligation or simply because you’ve always done them? Are there people that you interact with that drain your positive energy or make you feel bad about yourself when you interact with them? Once you have identified activities or individuals that you know are not the best for you (your mental, physical, spiritual, or emotional well-being) you need to find ways to eliminate or, in the very least, limit the time you devote to them. Here is where boundary setting comes into play. (If I am invited back, this could be a topic for another blog post! 😉)

5. Delegate or Outsource – Is there anything on the list from #4 that you can easily get rid of? Perhaps it is as simple as swapping out a chore you despise with a family member. They probably have something they equally detest. Or can you outsource the task? Believe it or not, there is probably somebody who enjoys doing it! And if it is their profession, you are blessing them by providing them with work they excel at and enjoy. Believe it or not, there are people who enjoy cleaning and cooking!

6. Write Down Your “To Do List” – Electronic planners are increasing in popularity, but there is something to be said about taking pen to paper. It is way too easy to click on a link and accept a meeting or an additional commitment. When you take the time to write them down, you are making a more conscious decision.

I prefer to use a “week-at-a-glance” planner, which makes it easy to monitor what types of, and how many, weekly commitments you have. This also will help you determine if you have been successful at scheduling any activities just for you. If not, you will be able to course correct if necessary.

7. Take Baby Steps – Do not expect to rectify an over-committed schedule overnight. Work on getting one activity that you dread, off your calendar weekly, and replacing it with something that makes you happy. If you have committed to an obligation for a set period of time, I am not suggesting that you shirk your responsibilities, but rather take this time to re-prioritize your commitments and give notice to those you do not wish to continue. Just because you are the room mom this year doesn’t mean you need to be the room mom for the next year. Allow others to step up and scale back your commitments to only those you truly want on your plate.

By eliminating the obligations that you dread, or simply cutting back on a few, because in your heart you know you are not showing up as your best, simply because you are too busy, you will be more at peace, more relaxed, and show up better for the things (and people) who matter the most to you. I invite you to stop taking pride in being the busiest person you know, throw out the phrase, “I’m a hot mess!”, and start being intentional about your life.

Bec Martin is a life and happiness coach. She resides in Wilmington, NC, with her husband and two dogs. She has successfully raised two amazing human beings (one is a recent UNCG grad, the other attends Appalachian State University) and now devotes her energy helping other women rediscover themselves, their talents, and passions. She is a frequent contributing author for Mantra Wellness Magazine and her first children’s book, Bravery: A Baby Sea Turtle’s First Adventure, is due out in November. You can learn more about her coaching, local workshops, and retreats at: and follow her on Instagram: @bloomwithbec / Facebook: Bec Martin.