Under Scheduling: The Cure for Too-Busy Lives

Lily Jones essays

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My husband is all for no plans. On the rare days where we don’t have anything to do, he loves the accompanying feelings of freedom. But me? I’m comforted by a jam-packed schedule. When I have days without much to do, I get anxious, then start feeling overwhelmed and stuck.

Now that we have two kids, our days are more and more filled with outings, doctor’s appointment, and obligations. There are endless classes that we could sign our kids up and a constant list of chores to get through. After wrestling with my desire to have constant plans, I’ve realized that our entire family does best when we have some wiggle room in our schedules.

Our fast paced lives lend themselves well to being over scheduled. Kids are shuffled from preschool to swimming classes to play dates as we run around with coffees in our hands, escorting them from activity to activity. But research shows us that young kids learn best through unstructured playtime. Though I sometimes feel I’m being neglectful when I don’t sign my daughter up for every enrichment class, I’ve learned to embrace under scheduling.

After focusing on cutting down our family’s plans, I’ve found that all of us have more room to breathe and enjoy each other’s company. My daughter uses her imagination more as she’s faced with blocks of unstructured time and my husband and I have a moment to catch our breath and enjoy the company of our family.

Following these three tips has helped me create a little more space in my family’s busy schedule:

Trim Your Plans
My dad always said that if you are invited to more than two parties on the same day, go to noneof them. While I don’t always follow that advice, I do recognize its value. If you are overscheduled, sometimes it’s best to stay home. In the busiest of times, allow yourself for cancel plans for no reason other than preserving your sanity.

Look at your family’s plans. What can you cut? Think about the things that make you feel the most stressed. Are there certain days that just seem too busy? Now find something to skip and cross it off your calendar.

Focus on Fun
When’s the last time you truly enjoyed your time with your kids? Think about times where you felt free of distractions and able to give your kids your full attention. Sometimes I go days around my kids without true moments of relaxation.  

Now make a commitment to plan something you enjoy every day. When each member of the family does this, you’ll have a day filled with fun and everyone will feel like they got some special attention. These activities can be mellow—my “fun thing” is often a trip to a local cafe for a caffeinated beverage. But just knowing I’ll get a moment for something I want to do makes the less-desirable parts of my day more manageable.

Plan for Free Time
It may seem weird to plan for no plans, but I’ve found that my days feel more spacious when there's a balance between activity time and unstructured time. When I’m alone with the kids all day, one social activity plus one chore seems to be the right mix for us. We’ll meet friends at the park, come home for lunch and play time, then go walk the dog or pick up a few groceries in the afternoon.

Sometimes we have days that have back-to-back plans, but I’ve learned that too many plans make me feel stressed while too little plans make me feel anxious. It’s all about balance.

While you might suffer from FOMO (“fear of missing out”), embracing under scheduling can bring much needed balance to too-busy lives. Instead of always saying “yes,” let’s support each other to choose the activities that bring us satisfaction and balance. Cheers to doing less!


About the Author

Lily Jones

Lily Jones is a mother, educator, and founder of Curiosity Pack. Holding an M.A. in Education from UC Berkeley, she was a kindergarten and first grade teacher before moving into teacher education and curriculum development. Her mission in life is to inspire people to love learning.

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March 2015 – Simplify
We are partnering this month with the marvelous minimalists:
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