So many of us think time management creates rigid constraints and that if we manage our time, we must stop being spontaneous and creative.

But I think the opposite.

Time management is self-love. It lets us honor ourselves and gives us freedom. It opens us up to be able to focus time and energy on all the spontaneous and creative things we love to do.

The best time to learn this is when you have many things pulling at your attention and asking for your time. It is also often the hardest time to make time management a priority. But when you are busy, it is the best time to practice deciding what you will say yes to and what you will say no to. You can try saying yes to getting everything done, but then you’ll probably be saying no to sleep or, worse, saying no to play. That will take its toll and isn’t fair to you. So, today I want to teach you the kindness of time management.

Ready?

Let’s start by setting aside just one distraction-free hour.

Get a piece of paper and create a “want to do” list.

What do you want to be doing? Do you want to walk, nap, be alone, or have time together? Have some free time, great friend time, or creative time. Do you want to finish that work project on time? What about getting to bed at a certain time? Exercise. Have a party. Make a fantastic meal.

What else? What would make this week ideal for you? Keep writing until you can’t think of anything else. You have just created your “want to do” list. Go back and circle your favorite items.

Next, get a different pen or pencil (so the writing looks different), and write down any other “to-dos” or commitments that will take your time this week. This is your regular “to-do” list.

When you are done, you will have a list of everything you want or need to do this week. The list will be overwhelming, and you will feel like you need to do it all, but you don’t. Let me say that again. Just because you wrote it on your list does not mean you have to do it. You get to decide. This can be the fun part if you let it.

Get out your calendar, and block off time to do the things on your “want to do” list that you circled. Plan that time first. It’s important. Do not skip the step of planning your fun time. You will find it much easier to get the other things done if you already have fun things planned. So put those fun want-to’s on your calendar for specific days and times. Do you want all day Saturday to be free time? Ok, awesome. Put “free time” on the calendar for the whole day.

Next, you will go through the other to-do items on your list and put them on the calendar. Start with the things you feel a real commitment to completing this week. If it’s important, then put it on the calendar and be committed to getting it done.

But don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you have to put everything on your list onto the calendar. Pick things on your list that you will NOT do this week. Cross them off, and don’t do them. I like to try to trim half my list that way. It’s so freeing.

When you are done going through the whole list, you will either have decided when you will complete a task, or you will have decided not to do that task this week. And you will have protected the fun things you want to do because you planned those first.

You will protect your fun time plan as firmly as your most important appointment. Seriously. If someone comes to you with a request, “can you do the thing on Saturday?” and your calendar says, “Saturday free time,” You will say, “No, I’m sorry, I have another commitment at that time.”

Is your mind coming up with reasons you can’t protect that “want to” time?

That’s common. But your brain is just not used to prioritizing you.

I know.

You are ambitious, and you want to do it all! You want others to be happy with you. If you truly want to do what someone asks, then commit to it with joy and energy. Go ahead and put it on your calendar. Decide where it fits.

But first: ask yourself. Is this something you “should” say yes to, but deep down, you want to say “no”? Be honest with yourself about that. It’s important.

If you want to say “no,” what does a “no” open you up to being able to do on your remaining “want to” list? (Free time? Volunteer time?)

I hear you saying, “I can’t say no,” and “If I say no, that person will be so upset with me!”

You are right; if you say no, someone might be upset. You won’t have pleased the person. But if you say yes when you mean no, will YOU be unhappy or disappointed? Is that okay with you?

You get to decide. Every minute of every day is 100% yours to decide how to spend. And when you are intentional about it, you will do many more of your “want to’s.”

That is what I love about time management.

It changes things when you decide what you want, what you love, and how you want to spend your day.

You get clear on what you will say yes to and what you will say no to. You will honor what you say yes to and have a positive energy about it. You will fall into bed at the end of the day, happy and tired from the fun things you accomplished.

Saying no when you mean no might be hard. But being honest with yourself and others will take your confidence to a new level. It will ultimately increase your energy for the “want to’s” that you’ve said yes to.

Have a joyful and relaxed week. Go and do all the things you want to do.

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