Organizational gurus usually recommend that the first step in cleaning your closet is to empty it completely. Next, sort the contents, separating into piles of “keep” and “get rid of.” (Get rid of can mean donate, of course.) Then put back into the closet what you intend to keep. The end result is a neat, thoughtfully edited version that is much easier to work with because it only contains what you truly want and need.
In a way, this is what quarantining during the Covid-19 pandemic has done for my calendar. At the beginning of March, I completely emptied it. Over the last four months I’ve had time to look at each item and analyze whether or not it’s something I want or need in my life. Now as life begins to “re-open” I’m in the process of slowly putting things back in. The end result will be an edited version of the former because, of course, I’ve come across things that I no longer want or need and they have gone into the get-rid-of pile. And of course, I have rediscovered useful and enjoyable ways of spending my time that, in all my busyness, I had forgotten about. It’s analogous to finding an old forgotten pair of slippers in the back of the closet; once you find them and wear them again, you remember how much you liked them.
I want to stop here and recognize that some things on our calendars are not things we want to do, nor things we choose, but things we have to do that we cannot leave by the wayside. I categorized those things in the “need” pile. And I do empathize with how it feels to be weighed down by too much of that. What I’m addressing is not the things we need to do, but rather the extras we neither need nor want, and yet we add onto our calendar. Those are the things I’ve re-evaluated to determine if I truly enjoy them, or if I just add them onto my schedule out of habit.
I see the positives, when I’m done adding back in, will be two-fold. One: the things I’ll have going on are only the things I need to do or want to do. And two: the total number of things going on will be fewer, which means I can spend more hours on the things I have chosen. And isn’t that a more authentic way to live life, paying close attention to what truly brings us joy and filtering out what we can of the rest?
Sometimes it’s fun to be busy. But I’m trying to distinguish between busy and productive. This doesn’t mean I’ll be productive all day every day. I’ll still spend time on unproductive things, just because they’re fun or relaxing. What it does mean is I’ll evaluate those things with a closer eye, keeping in mind that busyness can be a slippery slope. And accumulating too much busyness crowds out the more important things, pushing them to the back of the closet so to speak, where they are forgotten. I plan to clean my closet (and my calendar) more often, because it allows me rediscover forgotten treasures.