11 Tips For Keeping An Open Schedule, And Having More Alone Time

If your weekly planner looks anything like mine, then it is positively overrun with to-do lists, work deadlines, and lunch dates with friends. And, for the most part, that's a totally good thing. But there is something to be said for keeping an open schedule and having more alone time.

I know, the very idea of an open schedule probably fills you with dread. After all, most of us have trained ourselves to be ever-busy. If a single evening is free, we fill it up instantly with dinner plans, or a trip to a long lost friend's house. And that's so very sweet. But why do we never consider spending the evening at home?

To get to the bottom of our epidemically busy schedules, I reached out to Nicole Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC, who believes we overbook ourselves for a variety of reasons. Speaking about those of us with overstuffed schedules, she says, "First, they have not learned the essential skill of saying 'no' ... They imagine all sorts of horrible outcomes if they dared to say 'no,' and need to learn how far this is from the truth." (Yes to this.)

There's also the issue of wanting to be the perfect friend/partner/employee. "The problem is that they will burn themselves out and end up with nothing left for anyone." Clearly, that's not good. And neither is packed schedule, with no room for mental health days or a recharging night spent alone. So let's give ourselves a break by following some of the tips below for keeping an open schedule, and having more sweet, sweet alone time.

1. Learn How To Say "No"

Let's start with this one, since the inability to say "no" is at the root of all scheduling problems. One of the best tips (because it's kinda scary to turn people down) is to say it fast. "Don’t keep your friend hanging for days or weeks, hoping she’ll 'forget' about it," said Alexandra Franzen on TheMuse.com. Simply spit it out, and move on.

2. Ease Up On Social Media

OK, so maybe our busy schedules aren't entirely Facebook's fault. But witnessing everyone else's lives in real time certainly does make sitting at home feel like a super lame thing to do. So give yourself a break from the feeds, and see if you feel less inclined to overwhelm yourself with outings.

3. Schedule It In

If it's in your calendar, you take it seriously — work meetings, trips to the gym, doctor's appointments. So why not try scheduling in free time, and then holding yourself to it? Set aside a two hour block of time for laziness on Saturday morning, or refuse to take calls on Sunday night. Once you get used to doing this, it'll become part of your otherwise busy routine.

4. Relish In Your Errands

Running errands all by your lonesome is a great way squeeze in some alone time, according to Anna North on Jezebel.com. This means leaving your roommates at home, not calling your SO whilst you drive, and definitely not dropping by work just to "check in." Trust me, grocery shopping in solitude can be a near Zen-like experience if you give yourself the chance.

5. Cancel On Friends The Right Way

There's a sh*tty way to cancel on friends, and then there's the nice and polite way. The bad way is bailing last minute, or simply not showing up. The good way is calling well in advance and explaining yourself, so as not to leave them hanging. If you do it politely, it's totally OK to occasionally back out of plans, if it means having some time to yourself.

6. Don't Agree To Everything At Work

If you're constantly working late, it could be that you are taking on too many responsibilities. While I understand that you want to get ahead in your career, staying late every single day is only going to burn you out. So practice saying no to your boss. To make it easier, quickly follow up your refusal with some other alternatives, according to an article on CareerCast.com. That way you can go home on time, guilt-free.

7. Go On Vacation With No Plans

Vacations are the perfect time to practice your newfound relaxation skills. So whatever you do, don't overbook yourself. This means no 7 a.m. paragliding lesson, followed by an 8 a.m. breakfast reservation across town. The key here is waking up in your hotel, and having the whole day stretched freely out before you. If you're the type of over plans vacations, you won't believe how amazing it will feel.

8. Turn Down Endless Party Invites

Unless it's your sister's wedding, or your best friend's baby shower, it's totally OK to turn down invitations. You don't have to go to every bridal shower you're invited to, much less every wedding. The moment you realize this is the moment your schedule becomes free as a bird.

9. Refuse To Help Others Move

Yes, having friends means getting roped into things you don't want to do (i.e., helping them move). But remember that you're a free and autonomous soul who can and should say no to such things — at least some of the time.

10. Stop Checking Your Phone

As I said above, refusing to answer calls on Sundays is a pretty good way to keep your schedule open. But how about making this a weeklong tradition? If you can stomach it, try checking your phone only during specified times. Same can go for Facebook, if you so desire. Checking everything less often will not only free up your time, but make actual social interactions feel all the better, according to Scott Young on the blog PickTheBrain.com.

11. Tell Your Partner You Need More Space

If nightly dates fill you with joy, then keep doing your thing. But if your relationship is starting to feel overwhelming, it's perfectly fine to let your partner know, according to Shawn McKibben on MindBodyGreen.com. Simply be honest, and they should be cool with scaling back, and letting you recharge.

Because that's what this is all about — making the time to recoup, dabble in hobbies, and just generally enjoy your own company. It's an incredibly healthy habit to have, so start keeping your schedule open, and enjoying more free time.

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