ClockAt the start of every academic year, there’s often a fair amount of commentary in the news, online, and in conversations about the importance of scheduling “down time” for children. And adults aren’t immune to being “over-scheduled” either. Schedules can feel quite full when we combine family responsibilities; work; commuting; volunteer activities; and other obligations with socializing; running a household; sorting through our mail; eating chocolate; and most importantly, carving out time for prayer, quiet, or reflection. As autumn adventures beckon, this is the perfect time to consider our existing commitments and what additional activities we can realistically participate in during the coming months. In the past year, I’ve learned that to achieve my version of organizational bliss ’tis better for me to be under-scheduled rather than over-scheduled.

During the past many months, I have carefully examined my involvement in almost every activity on my plate. Over time, after thoughtful consideration, it has become clear to me which activities I should continue pursuing and those that should fall away quite naturally. This does not mean that we should all clear our schedules and never do anything. My schedule is far from empty, but I’m delighted to report that every activity in which I’m participating is something I have thoughtfully chosen. As one who loves to carve out time for quiet – and as one who also has a full experience with work, household and family responsibilities, involvement in my church, volunteer positions, social activities, and the like, scaling back on things was a wonderful learning experience and one that I’d recommend that everyone at least consider.

Every several weeks, the hubster and I will identify some evenings or weekends or a combination thereof in which the words “Hold” or “Do Not Schedule” appear on our family calendar of events. This simply means that we are choosing to not schedule that time…and so we might go off on a fun day trip or stay home and mow the lawn and cook a tofu stir-fry for our upcoming weekday lunches. The focus is on having that down time to do whatever we’re inspired to do that day. We’re good about not scheduling activities when we place a “Hold” day, and in doing so, we give ourselves the mental quiet and space that encourages and supports our adventures in the days and weeks that follow.

By scaling back on activities, we can choose to carve out more time for quiet or reflection or prayer. We can choose to focus on the activities we’ve chosen to continue including in our life, and we can make the choice to not jump from one activity to the next without a spare moment in between for quiet. I’m now learning to follow my new motto: “When in doubt, under-schedule.” This fall and throughout the year, allow for “down time.” Allow for time in which to re-group, re-focus, and rejuvenate. In my humble opinion, you’ll be glad you did.

* Photo by Jonathan Eggers

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