Feeling overloaded and exhausted? Learn how to triage your calendar to find time for self-care in your busy schedule.
We all have days when we feel overwhelmed and can’t find one extra minute to take care of ourselves.
But every day shouldn’t be that way!
Our schedules need to have room for our essential self-care. If they don’t, continuous exhaustion can lead to burnout and illness.
Even though demands come at us non-stop, we need to protect some time for ourselves. For example:
- Time to meal plan, shop, and prepare healthy food for our family.
- Time to be active and moving our body.
- Rest and quiet time.
- Time to have fun with family and friends.
I know this sounds like an impossible task, but it’s not as hard as you think.
I used to struggle with this problem – a lot.
But, I found a way to change my approach; I use my values. Now I have time to take better care of myself.
And, believe me, if I can do it, so can you!
You see, if you prioritize tasks based your values, you can find time for self-care in your busy schedule.
Let’s get started!
1 Find Time for Self-care in Your Busy Schedule – Make a Values List
You may already have a list of values-at least in your heart or mind. It will significantly help you triage your time if you take a minute to jot them down and keep that list in front of you.
If you haven’t thought of these yet, don’t worry because we’ll do that now.
You can start it and keep adding to it as you think of more later.
To begin, think about the principles that your choices are based on when you make decisions. Then, categorize your principles. Lastly, prioritize them.
An example of my list of priorities is below. The last two can fluctuate based on what season of life I am experiencing. Yours may look similar; however, don’t worry if it’s a little different.
But, I do want you to notice where I have placed ‘self’.
- Relationships – marriage
- People – children/family
As Christians, God’s commands in Scripture influence us. I suspect that most of us will have God/Faith at the top of our values list.
And depending on your season of life, your marriage and children’s needs will be pretty high on that list too.
That said, I advise that you do not prioritize the value of work, service, or education above yourself.
Because to perform your work or service (or focus on learning) at your greatest ability, you need to take good care of yourself. That will not happen if you (and your self-care needs) are prioritized below these other things.
I want to stop here a second and explain why I place ‘service’ after ‘self’. You may be thinking that as Christians we should place our service to others above ourselves.
But, my reasoning is not that I am more important than the people I serve, rather, I can best serve the people I love and care about if I am taking good care of myself.
Prioritizing work, service, and education before yourself can cause you to spend a lot of your time serving or working while you are stressed and tired – especially if your work or service IS YOUR FAMILY.
Take care of yourself so you can serve and take care of the people you love.
2 Prioritize Tasks Based on Your Values List
Now that you have your values list, you can refer to it when you are deciding whether you have time to do the demands asked of you.
Some activities, such as bedtime, meals, meal prep, exercise/movement, quiet time (prayer/meditation), or relaxation should be written in first. These are activities that encompass one or more of the top 4 priorities.
Relaxation is oftentimes inappropriately categorized as a treat or reward: a spa day, massage, manicure, etc. Relaxation can just be downtime.
Some people call downtime me-time, and some people think downtime is self-care. All are fine, the point is to make sure to have some downtime.
Remember, relaxation or respite are the activities you need to manage stress. Not every spot on your schedule should be filled up!
As new activities or requests come up, filter them through your values list.
Not using a prioritized values list is a sure-fire way to have many unimportant and meaningless tasks and activities on your calendar.
Not using a priority list is how people end up living harried lives, and not having any time to do the things that either matter the most to them or make an impact on the people they love.
For example, personally, I used to think that date night seemed like something that should be pushed off of my calendar when my schedule was overloaded, but when I look at my values list, I see that marriage is on my list as my second-highest priority.
Then again, I used to feel like saying yes to my children’s requests to participate in every sport or clubs was a good thing.
But, I did not consider the entire commitment or ask, ‘how well does it align with my values list’? That resulted in a string of crazy evenings. So we made a few changes.
Consider asking yourself some questions.
- How many evenings are tied up with practices and other requirements?
- If God/faith is your top priority, and your relationships and family are also at the top, how does recreation fit into that?
Everyone will see it differently – our family has three nights of activity and four nights of family time. We also eat dinner as a family prior to the children’s activities.
The point is that not everything is going to get to be your top priority if you are true to your values. You can’t say yes to everything and then still expect to be able to spend time on the things that matter the most to you. That’s just not how that works.
Here are the steps to use your with your values list:
- Develop & prioritize your list of values.
- Filter each request through your values list.
- Prioritize appointments, tasks, or activities based on your values.
- Determine if you need to say no to requests. Need help to say no? I gotcha covered.
- Triage tasks as needed (see next step)
3 Assess & Triage – How to Find Time for Self-care in Your Busy Schedule
Routinely assessing and triaging your calendar is a great way to find time for self-care in your busy schedule. This process will help you identify low priority tasks.
How to Assess
I like to assess or survey my calendar at least once or twice a week. Although I work hard to filter appointments through my values list, some things still get through-especially during holidays or when my kids have busy school months.
Glance through your commitments, appointments, tasks, etc to make sure every (or most) of your commitments align with your list of values.
Highlight those that do not align with what you’ve determined to be your priorities (which are in your values list).
Then, triage the task.
How to Triage
We all have seasons where we are more relaxed than others. Sometimes, it is ok to leave a couple of those low-valued tasks on your schedule.
But, the point of this article is how to find time for self-care in your busy schedule.
So, when it’s time, you have to make some hard choices.
If you are struggling to take good care of yourself, then you need to open up your schedule a little bit.
The way to open your schedule is to eliminate the low-value tasks, appointments, or commitments.
Stop continuing to do things that aren’t important to you in the first place. These are the things that keep you from taking care of yourself.
When you say yes to those non-valuable things, you are placing your value beneath those unimportant things.
That cycle needs to end.
So let’s do this!
Triage Steps to Find Time for Self-care in Your Busy Schedule
First, identify the tasks that do not align with your values. Remove anything that you have control over first.
Then ask yourself these questions on the ones that are left:
- Can I delete this task? Will anyone miss it? Have you ever found yourself doing something you thought was important to your family or friends, and later you found out they were not interested at all, but they thought it was important to you? Think holiday or seasonal traditions.
- Can I delay this activity? We can’t delete everything of low value, I know. But, you can see if you can push it back to a less busy time.
- Can it be delegated? Parents – ask kids to help with chores.
- How can I bundle tasks efficiently? We all have errands we can’t ignore. Is there a way to do them more effectively – using less time?
- Where is my village? Other people are dealing with the same things you are. So work together and then everyone can be efficient with their time. Form carpools or parent teams whenever possible.
In closing, finding time to take better care of yourself is important. It may seem awkward at first, but if you use your values list before putting something on your schedule and assess and triage tasks after they’ve gotten on your schedule, you’ll eventually start chipping away at your overfilled calendar.
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Lisa Kimrey is a 30-year veteran registered nurse, speaker, and author of the Bible study, The Self-care Impact: Motivation and Inspiration for Wellness. At Mylifenurse, Lisa writes about simple ways to care for yourself to stay happy, healthy, and rejuvenated while you serve and care for others. Combining her years of nursing expertise with Scripture-based encouragement, Lisa shows readers easy ways to begin and maintain their self-care journey – without feeling guilty. Be sure to grab your FREE Self-care Starter Guide!