Confessions of a Chronic Over-Scheduler

It has been a month of very few blog posts and very little free time.  Tonight, I find myself writing from 30,000 feet with two little kiddos perched next to me watching movies on our long flight back from Christmas in State College.  It honestly feels like this may be the first free moment in my life in December.  Maybe I will say this every year, but this seems to have been the busiest holiday season yet.  All fun things, but lots of things.

We traveled back to Ohio for Thanksgiving and flew back to Park City on November 28th.  From that day, until today, every work day and every evening had a purpose.  Some work or holiday preparation task that had to be completed.  November 29th – get the Christmas tree and decorations up.  November 30th, first ski days planned.  December 1st – begin the board meeting at the kids school.  December 2nd – Christmas cards created.  December 3rd – finish the full lists of who gets Christmas cards and get the hunt for addresses closed for the year.  December 3rd – work event.  December 4th – prep for Christmas cookies.  December 5th – Christmas cookie party.  December 6th – holiday calendar started.  December 7th – finish and order holiday calendars, 3 holiday parties.  December 8, 9, 10th – work trip to Ft. Lauderdale.  December 11th – kids school holiday party.  December 12th …. Gingerbread house….you get the point.  This schedule went on all the way up to December 21st when we flew back east.  We survived.  It all happened, and we had a wonderful Christmas with Jon’s family.  But, today I am tired and a little sick.  I can’t help but wish for a relaxing night or two in front of our Christmas tree at home with no place to go, no task to complete other than just relaxing.

It makes me wonder, what has to give in my life to have things be just a little less scheduled?  I don’t want to give up any of the fun things we fill our life with, but I also feel like keeping the pace we keep makes things go by at the speed of light.  I worry that with all of the things going on, I am not able to live in the moment.  My brain is always planning or processing the next thing to do as that is the only thing that makes them all able to fit into our schedule.

The funny thing about this is that I have always been of the belief as a parent that I won’t over-schedule our kids.  I see so many families of elementary age kids (and older) and they have so many activities going on that it seems like they don’t get time to just “be” together.  Jon and I talk about this and purposefully work to have our kids only in extracurricular activities if it is something they really enjoy, and only about 2 a year.  Ironically, I don’t apply this same principle to myself.

calendar-book-636Why am I a chronic over-scheduler?  Here are a few things that I have thought about.  Good, bad and ugly.

A Feeling of Obligation – Bad, even Ugly at times

I feel obligated to do as many things as I can with my time.  Obligated to my family, to my work team, to myself.  I feel like if I can do something, I should.  I feel lucky that throughout my life I have learned to be confident in my ability to take on almost anything.  This confidence is based in a belief that although I may not be great at whatever it is that I am trying, I will try to figure it out.  I also love variety.  The problem with the combination of these personality traits is that they lower the barrier of saying “yes” to things.  And when I say yes, I build obligation.  So, why do I feel obligated?  Who knows.

A Desire to Be Helpful – Good, but also Bad when it means no time for me

At the core of who I am, I like to help people.  I see something that I can help with, and I offer to help.  Often times this adds things to my list to do list and I want them there.  The most obvious sign of this is my list of both formal and informal mentees.  Over the years, this has been one of the most fulfilling parts of my professional life.  Ultimately, it is what has led me to want to lead a large team of marketers.  The trade-off, and there is always a trade-off is giving up time that I have for myself.

A Way Things Should Be Done – Generally Bad, and even Ugly

This is the one I have worked the most on in my quest for self-improvement.  I have historically had the perception in my life that there is a “best” way to do things.  This standard that I created for myself often times added a fair amount of stress to my life as when things aren’t done this “best” way, I get frustrated.  In the beginning of leading teams, this belief that there is one way to do things (my way) made me a horrible leader.  Nothing was ever good enough.  The best thing about this experience was that it forced me to change.  Having kids was the next big life change that helped me to value things not going my way.  My kids almost never see how brilliant my way is!  By having this belief, it has historically caused me to take more time doing things than they need.  In a life of time scarcity, this is a problem.

I Love Doing Things – Good!

I truly love relationships, challenges, being active and trying new things.  This is the most honest and good reason that I over-schedule myself.  I like it.  Doesn’t mean I like some of the consequences of the over-scheduling, but I do truly enjoy doing the things that I do.

So, good, bad and ugly this seems like why I do what I do.  Any advice out there from other over-schedulers?  Is it a lost cause, or can you change this about yourself?

Gaining Perspective

Does everything need to have a goal, a purpose, a schedule or a way it “should” happen? I would love to say it doesn’t in my life, but it wouldn’t be true.  It seems that in order to accomplish everything that I do these days, everything is scheduled and analyzed. Starting at 6am with a workout through 9pm once two kids are in bed, there is a purpose and schedule for almost every minute of my life.  After 9pm, I try to catch up on everything that didn’t meet the daytime cut which can include chilling with Jon, reading a book, blogging, cleaning up email from work, or just brainless television.  Occasionally, a girls night trumps the evening routine.

This last weekend started with me leaving work at noon on Friday – a rare treat.   Jon and I had scheduled an anniversary two night getaway at the Montage in Deer Valley Friday and Saturday night.  So, I drove up from work and we had a late lunch.  Before departing for Deer Valley, I decided to squeeze in my workout since I had missed it Friday morning.  So, I took off from our house on my mountain bike with a plan and a schedule.  I had to be back within an hour so we could take off for our relaxing weekend.  Mid-trail ride, while I stressed about the pace I was on, and whether I would make it back by our scheduled departure time while getting an adequate workout in, I stopped and took the picture above….and took a deep breath.


Who was I racing?  Why did I feel like I had a scheduled departure time for our “relaxing” staycation that had no start time?  Why did I feel like if I didn’t ride the trail I set out to ride, I wasn’t getting “enough” exercise?  Wow.  Perspective needed.

It all worked out.  I took a left-turn on my ride, where I was supposed to go straight.  I looked up while I was riding my bike and took in the early fall leaves instead of focusing on my handlebars.  Ultimately, I went “late” to my relaxing anniversary weekend and everything was fine.  My daily reality is that I put undue stress and pressure on myself because I think the only way to accomplish my schedule is through perfection.  Not true.  Releasing the pressure made me enjoy things more.

Tonight I am as relaxed as I have been in a long time.  After living through a weekend with no schedule and a lot of fun, I have realized I need to let go more.  I need to live with less rules, and less expectations of myself.  From here, my challenge is to continue this perspective by trying my best not to have a schedule that makes me lose this perspective.