Building Margins into Your Calendar

Do you have a schedule that is so packed, you can’t even get it all done? This is a struggle for so many of us and the question is, how do I simplify it?
In the culture of today, this is normal. It’s “normal” to have things scheduled for every family member from 8 AM to 7 PM. It’s “normal” to have your children in several extra-curricular activities and to spend more time driving offspring around than you do veg together at home.

The first step in simplifying your schedule is to remove things that no one wants to do.

If you hate doing it, find a way to stop doing it.
I personally don’t enjoy meetings. I never want to be on a committee. I don’t mind putting in hours to get something accomplished, I don’t mind pitching-in in other ways. But the last thing I want to do is sit in a meeting. This automatically rules out PTA.
As soon as I say that, I breathe a sigh of relief. I will make cookies for the bake sale and donate things for silent auctions, but the idea of sitting in a meeting to decide when to do those things makes me want to hide in a dark corner and rock.
Perhaps it’s things the kids have that need to go. If they hate taking music lessons, evaluate how important it is that they have them. Is it O.K. that they complete the basics of the instrument and then stop? Who is insisting on the lessons and what is the core reason that motivates that decision?
Or maybe they really don’t like chess club, but signed up because it’s “that’s just what you do.” And now twice a week, it takes up time when they would rather be home building with Legos.

If you can’t get out of the current commitment, then plan a way to have this be your last go-round. 

If you are a member of the PTA but recognize that you don’t want to be. Follow through with this commitment and let people know that you won’t be participating again next season.
If you’re committed to music lessons for the entire school year, then follow through with that, but plan on stopping at the end of the school year.

Build-in margins

Most of us think we can accomplish way more than we actually can in the time given to us. Maybe it’s the coffee and maybe we aren’t honest with how long things take, either way, we find ourselves rushed and running late because when we made the appointment across town, we didn’t account for traffic adding so much to our travel time and that 30 minutes between school and trombone lessons seemed like plenty of time when it was being scheduled.
When you have your calendar out, limit what you allow there. If you have a day that is packed, don’t plan to squeeze in extra.
Keep plenty of time open between appointments. Consider where you live and what the commute is like on a typical day. Give yourself some “breathing room” in between. This means planning to leave 10 – 15 minutes before you “need” to.
When you are booking things on your calendar, schedule it so you have that extra 15 minutes before an appointment.

Block out time for nothing.

The only tool you have for creating more time is the word “No.”
Plan out times on the calendar to not have plans. This means that if you mark Wednesday night from 6-10 as “veg time” then guard that commitment as you would an important doctor appointment.
If you want more time to enjoy family or work on hobbies, then stop giving your time away to other things. Make these commitments to yourself and your family and keep the commitments. If it’s on the calendar, then you have plans and you can say “no” to whatever opportunities or obligations that come up.
It’s good to be selfish about those times. This is self-care; family-care.
Time to stop letting other people’s priorities take precedence over your own.
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About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey after I'd been doing a yearly decluttering challenge for 4 years and started to see a change in my home. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, please join our FREE Facebook Group: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group


  1. Anna on 02/28/2018 at 1:37 pm

    Where can I find that digital planning sheet for iPad in the picture at the top?

  2. Fiona Campbell on 04/07/2018 at 8:30 pm

    Good advice…thank you!

  3. Anjell Bejanian on 01/25/2022 at 12:29 am

    Wonderful idea. I often jot down so many things to do on a given day and I feel so overwhelmed that I get to do one or two and I feel like a loser.
    Realistic goals, realistic with the amount of time and things that are not priorities will help me. Thank you.

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