If you feel like you have lost control of your time, or that your activities have control of you, now is the time to create a plan to reclaim your life. It may seem like an impossible task, but following the simple steps below will help you achieve this goal.

First, make a list of the top priorities in your life. You could narrow your list to three general categories, such as career, family, and recreational activities. Then list specific activities included in each category.

For example, in the category of family, those with kids should focus on listing events that can’t be missed, such as sporting events and school plays. Those who are providing care for a parent should include important commitments such as scheduled doctor’s appointments.

In the category of career, your hours at work will certainly take up a large section of your weekly schedule. Usually you don’t have much choice in the number of hours you work, so you will have to schedule your other priorities in your free time.

Hopefully you will have some time left over for your favorite recreational activities. Whether it is time at the gym, church activities, or volunteer work, it is important to  allow a few hours a week in this category.

Everyone’s list will look different, but putting it on paper will make it easier to decide what you can and can’t compromise on. Once you have your list of priorities, then you can decide on your limits. If you decide you are willing to have two evenings away from home, then when you are asked to commit to a third night, you will know it won’t fit in your schedule.

If you are in the middle of an exceptionally busy time at work, you might need the weekend to recover and catch up at home. Knowing you need that time will make it easier to decide about potential weekend activities.

After you have listed your priorities and decided on your limits, you can fill out your weekly schedule. Purchase a calendar that you can take with you. There are many brands of day planners you can purchase, so shop around for the type that best fits your needs.   

Getting your schedule written out is a great step towards reclaiming control of your time. Be prepared to stick firmly with the schedule, especially when you are asked to take on a new commitment. If you have an answer prepared in advance, you will be less likely to give in to pressure.  A simple response might be to say “no thank you, I cannot commit to that.”  You really don’t need to give further explanation.  

Every three months or so, take the time to evaluate your current commitments. Is your schedule working for you?  If you are feeling overbooked, then decide what needs to be removed from your schedule.  If you find yourself needing to back out of an obligation, simply state that your schedule is too full and you need to make some changes.  That way, the schedule is to blame and not you. Sometimes circumstances require that you give up activities you love for a period of time. Try to remember that you can always resume those activities when your workload lightens up again.

By spending some time analyzing your priorities, you can design a schedule that best fits your needs. You can find the balance you have been looking for, and reduce your stress at the same time.