In the past half-year, my calendar has been a warzone. Networking events such as lunches, coffees, drinks, and dinners fight for few available slots during the work week—I see only two per weekday except for Friday nights which are only meant for Netflix and sleep. Once the weekend comes around, I’m so exhausted that I try not to make any plans so that I can freelance work or watch Parks and Rec in peace. When friends ask if I’m free to grab a drink, the next available slot is usually two or three weeks out. And contrary to what you might think, it’s not because I’m popular.
Our generation is prone to spontaneity, but when constant busyness starts preventing us from having a social life, it might be time to get pickier about our commitments. If you’re like me and enjoy staying active with a packed schedule, this can be difficult. I talked to some experts in order to figure out the best way to handle an overscheduling addiction and how Millennial women can become more selective with their time.
1. Establish your priorities.
“It’s imperative that you’re able to prioritize all of the opportunities in your life and career,” said Millennial Performance Advisor Porschia Parker. “Basing your priorities on your values is an excellent way to remove any guilt you may have about telling someone no. Making a list of your top five values (freedom, career growth, family, money etc.) and comparing it with a list of all of the commitments (activities/events) you¹ve made is a great exercise. If a commitment doesn’t match with any of your top values, ask yourself: Is this something that is moving me closer to my goals? If not, consider canceling it.”
2. Share those priorities.
“Communicate your goals with the people in your circle who matter” said Career Coach Angelina Darrisaw. “In most situations, close friends won’t fault you for working late when they know you are chasing a promotion.”
3. Don’t say yes right away.
“Slow down and think before scheduling something,” said Millennial Career Coach Crystal Batya Marsh. “Many ambitious women have a tendency towards people pleasing and are afraid of how someone else will think or feel about her if she says no. It’s important to consider for yourself am I doing this because I want to or because I feel obligated in some way? Am I truly obligated or am I creating a story about the obligation? We sometimes go into elaborate story telling regarding why we must do something, but the story might not be true. We are imagining how the other person is going to react before we’ve even spoken to them. This is problematic because you can never know how a person actually feels or what is going through her head. Moreover, even if you could, it is not your responsibility to keep everyone around you happy.”
4. If you have to “squeeze it in,” just say no.
“When someone asks you to do something and you begin to think, “maybe I can squeeze this in between my workout, meeting, and emails,” it’s a good indicator you should say, “no,” said Val Matta, VP of Business Development at Career Shift. Tell the person you appreciate him or her for thinking of you, but you can’t help out at this time. Briefly explain the other commitments you have, and that you don’t want to say “yes” to something you can’t devote the amount of time required for you to do your best work.”
[Related: 8 Things That May Be Decreasing Your Productivity at Work]
5. Use a printed, monthly calendar.
Theresa Sintetos, who recently began her first full-time job after college, said that she had to learn this lesson the hard way. I couldn’t agree more with her tip: “Throw it back to a paper calendar. This may sound so passé, but buy an old school agenda, and write in pencil. Calendar programs and apps are great but they often aren’t as flexible as your life is. Physical calendars allow you to write in the margins, create unimposing to-do lists and literally see your life laid out in front of you.”
6. Schedule in your personal time.
Bonnie Treece, a millennial entrepreneur, said that she schedules “me time” into her calendar just like she would any other appointment. Even though I know that this block of time is for nothing in particular, it allows me to easily turn down invitations to things I don’t want to attend by saying that I’m busy or already have plans. Whether the bubble bath is part of those plans or not – taking this “me time” really matters! If you want to manage your life effectively, it is crucial that you keep some time blocked off for yourself. This time should be sacred and used only for things that relax or rejuvenate you; work-related tasks should never be scheduled during this period. It’s essential to remember that until you take care of yourself, you won’t be able to perform your job as well as possible or be the best friend/mother/daughter possible.
[Related: 3 Simple Ways to Stick to a Schedule When You’re Working from Home]