Is it the return of the stressful calendar? Just say no!


Despite restrictions being lifted a couple of weeks ago, the usual summer activities haven’t taken off in full force yet. Some of us have gone back to semi-normal work-life but there’s a lot of us still working from home, in no rush to head back to the hustle and bustle of our pre-COVID-19 lives. 

We are on the brink of some kids’ activities starting back up again. Depending on where you live, some may have already started. Commitments that clogged our calendars have been on hold for so long that it’s hard to imagine going back to a place where we constantly have something to do. 

Have your emails and phones been blowing up with messages about re-scheduling meetings or getting activities started later rather than never? 

With that comes the commitment of our time, our precious energy, and our financial resources. 

Write out your priorities

Before you go accepting events and activities, I want you to consider a few things. 

  • Are you jumping back into things because it’s expected of you or because it’s something you find worth your time
  • Was (specific activity) a source of prior anxiety and stress? Is the end result rewarding enough to be overwhelmed with those feelings again? 
  • Does the commitment serve one of your top priorities or is it something that will get in the way of your priorities?
  • Is the event or activity one that requires a financial commitment as well as a time commitment? Is it still something that you still find worth those resources

Since the beginning of this pandemic, I’ve been encouraging you to take advantage of this extra time and reflect on what’s most important to you. I hope you’ve made time to do so because our worlds are slowly returning to a form of “normal” whether we’re ready or not. 

You’ve been blessed with a gift. This is your time to take control and create a life schedule that is actually enjoyable, not so swift-moving that you miss out on joy. Here are a few things you can do to take the reigns and avoid going back to an over-committed, stressful schedule.

Somehow writing things out can give us clarity and hold us more accountable. Before you do anything else with your calendar, jot down your top priorities and future goals–both for your family and for you individually. 

What activities give your goals power? Write those down, too. 


Analyze your schedule and budget your time

Sit down with your calendar and plan out the essentials. These would be items that are mandatory to your life: 

  • Work—obviously this is a big essential since we all need money
  • Physical activity—consider your workouts and other forms of activity as essential to ensure you have time for it (remember, clean slate time!)
  • Meal preparation and family meals—try to plan at least one time a week where your family can have a leisurely meal together, if not daily
  • Faith activities—church, Vacation Bible School, daily devotionals, anything required for your faith
  • Self-care and wellness—this would include everything from daily hygiene to doctor appointments to anything else you find essential to your family’s wellbeing 
  • Household chores and maintenance—cleaning, organizing, garden care, animal care, grocery shopping, anything that is required to keep your homestead running smoothly
  • Downtime―first thing to go in a busy schedule but so important for a happy life. It might feel silly to “plan” downtime, but it is the most important. If you see a blank space in your schedule, you’ll fill it.

prioritize calendar

Next, add in the activities that may not be essential but are ones that your family (or you) loves and adds to your best life. A few examples:

  • 4H or FFA leader
  • Councils and committees
  • Hobbies that don’t contribute to your livelihood but are ones that you enjoy
  • Travel 

After you’ve analyzed your schedule and penciled out a tentative calendar plan, how much time is left? 

Probably not much. And don’t forget about scheduling downtime…I know some of you are thinking it’s not essential but it really, really is for a low-stress life. 


Learn how to say no and mean it

Okay, so now that you’ve got a tentative schedule that has all the essentials and priorities blocked out, it’s time to commit to saying no and meaning it. When we politely hem and haw around it, using weak language like, “Umm, I’m not really sure”, “Maybe another time”, “Thank you for asking, but”…(insert excuse)”, gives the person asking an “in” for manipulating your weakness. Don’t include “but” in your responses, it weakens your position. Be confident and sure in your language and do not give the other person power to keep pushing until you say yes. 

I have to catch myself and recite it in my head before replying sometimes. In the Midwest, we practically apologize for existing. Remove “I’m sorry” from your vocabulary unless you actually did something to apologize for. Being honest and committed to your calendar is nothing to be sorry about. Being honest is not being rude.

Now, I’m not saying you should be rude or ignore people that may count on you to continue giving your time as you have in the past. I believe with practice we can all learn to be firm and polite in declining commitments. 



Roleplay with your spouse or good friend…have them pretend to call you and ask you to commit to something small that would be hard to say no to. Like “can you bake 15 dozen cupcakes for a PTO event?” during your jampacked week. 

Practice being kind but firm. Practice hearing disappointed voices that sound vaguely judgemental. Practice not caring. 

say no

I know what you’re thinking…we all need to pull our weight with things and do stuff we don’t want to do. Absolutely! Maybe offer to contribute in a smaller, less-time committing way. Using the same cupcake scenario: offer to pick up plates and napkins from the store but stay firm on not having time to make the cupcakes. 

Remember, the goal right now is to claim a new normal that aligns with what YOU want your everyday life to look like. When you have that down, then start taking on the minor inconveniences. Because yes, you are right, it takes a village to pull things together sometimes. 


Nix last-minute plans

Finally, to be true to your new plan. You need to commit to something difficult…avoid last-minute commitments. Avoid them like you’ve avoided getting sick during the pandemic. Tell family members and friends that you need at least a week’s notice for get-togethers of all sizes. 

If you have a free block in your schedule and really want to plan something spontaneously, by all means, do it! 

But if you don’t want to go, tell them no and adhere to your calendar. And don’t feel guilty (this takes a little time, I won’t lie to you). 


Say YES to you! And mean it. 

It is so easy to put our own needs to the back burner when something comes up. That is why I want you to block off time for yourself and your goals on your calendar. It will be hard but do your best to put you first when something comes up last minute. 

Saying “no” to others will get easier. So will saying “yes” to yourself. This is your life and no one else’s so don’t be guilted into going back to that place you were 3 months ago.  

As the world opens back up, protect your time. Viciously protect your calendar. 


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