Recently, one of my colleagues and I were excitedly discussing a new(ish) restaurant that was receiving lots of praise. Let’s make a date, we said. She threw out one option, I threw out another nearly 10 days after that, and then she sent a calendar invite.
Although I was technically free on the first night she suggested, the rest of that week was bonkers, and I wanted to enjoy our time together. Rather than risk feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by the time our dinner rolled around, I pushed it back.
I’ve started doing this more and more lately—stopped overscheduling myself in an effort to ensure I enjoy all my planned activities. Not only has this saved me from grabbing drinks after work in a near-zombie state, but it’s also made my scheduled events so much more enjoyable. At this point in my life, I know how many things I can handle in a week before they start to feel like chores (three max).
After all, no one likes being the person canceled on last minute or being the canceler. But we’ve all done it at some point—reached the end of the workday and simply felt too exhausted to even think about meeting up for dinner. Yes, coming down with the flu is one thing. Getting an urgent assignment from your boss is another. But making plans and backing out last minute because you don’t “feel like going,” or, worse, because something better comes up is crappy. In the long run, it’s not likely to help advance any of your personal or professional relationships.
Like author Verena von Pfetten wrote in the New York Times recently, this carefully thought-out calendar means I’m often that person suggesting getting together three, four, or more weeks in advance—even if, technically, I’m available before then. While this occasionally throws people for a loop (“Wow, you’re really busy!” they say), doing this means I keep these commitments and don’t find myself wriggling out of a plan I’ve made. This means I not only don’t have to be the person canceling, but also that I actually look forward to everything I see coming up in my planner.
If you struggle to keep some free nights for yourself, consider the tactic that Amy Astley, editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest, employs. Before committing to anything, she asks herself if she really wants to go or if there’s a business reason she should go. If she answers yes to either, she makes the plan. If not—the night remains opens.
Look, you might only need one free weekend afternoon or one night each week to recharge. Maybe you only need a couple of spare nights a month. That’s fine. I’m not suggesting that we should all have the same philosophy with our calendars, with our “me” time. But we should have a similar conviction on the importance of sticking to our commitments and not relying on yet another excuse when we want to get out of something. I assure you, it’s a lot easier and less uncomfortable to say no in the first place than it is to have to wiggle your way out.
How do you make and keep your plans? Do you have a foolproof strategy? Tweet me @stacespeaks.
Photo of woman enjoying time with friends courtesy of Portra Images/Getty Images.
Stacey Lastoe is the Senior Editor/Writer of The Muse. She started writing short stories in the second grade and is immensely grateful to have the opportunity to write and edit professionally. Her work has appeared in YouBeauty, Refinery29, A Practical Wedding, Runner's World online, and The Billfold among other publications. She enjoys running and eating in equal measure and lives with her husband and dog in Brooklyn. All three of them are avid New York Mets fans. Say hello on @stacespeaks.More from this Author