This essay originally appeared in our monthly newsletter for The Mom Hour podcast. To get our emails, subscribe here. –Sarah
There’s a silly scene from Friends where Chandler and Joey are trying to navigate London and Joey struggles to read a map. The only way he can get directionally oriented is to put the unfolded paper map on the sidewalk and stand on it. My husband and I refer to this scene anytime we feel the need to see something clearly laid out, analog-style, for the purpose of a better understanding. “I need to get in my map” is our shorthand for “I need to see the whole picture and take the time to orient myself within it.”
This weekend I spent a lot of time “getting in my map,” wherein the map was our family calendar for the rest of 2019. The last week of October was bananas in our house, with a birthday, then Halloween, out-of-town visitors, a major Taekwondo event, and all the usual school stuff that happens when Red Ribbon Week meets Jog-A-Thon fundraising. (Also: Halloween.) Plus, as you’ll hear about in much detail in this week’s podcast episode, our fall extracurricular schedule got a bit out of control and is about to change for the better. In short: I was ready to turn the page, and November is looking awfully pretty to me, with her unscheduled afternoons, earlier bedtimes, and a whole week of pie at the end.
Sometimes, I think, people who love to plan get a reputation for being inflexible or even unfeeling–favoring a color-coded schedule over a spontaneous dance party. It’s easy to assume that because we love to schedule things, the things on the schedule must be productive, purposeful, and, by extension, a bit boring. Or that by attaching events and to-dos to a time on the calendar, we zap them of their joy. Or that all this scheduling is in service of doing MORE with our limited time.
But that’s not how it feels to me. The time I spent “in my map” this weekend wasn’t about a productive November and December at all; it was about a pleasurable one. I looked lovingly at the week of Thanksgiving, blocking space for a musical jam session with extended family. I asked my husband out on a date night. I texted my neighbors to put our annual kids’ caroling night on the calendar. I lined up volunteers for our school library, making sure I had coverage so that I’m not stretched too thin before the holidays. I asked my kids what they remember about last holiday season so that the things we want to do most get put on the schedule first. I fought hard with our podcast recording schedule (not gonna lie; it nearly beat me) so that Meagan and I don’t need to worry about the show while we pack for the Blissdom conference and so that our producer doesn’t spend his Thanksgiving weekend working on our edits.
For me, calendar planning creates the environment where I can be relaxed, connected, and (maybe) even a little spontaneous. I don’t think of it as filling empty blocks of time; I think of it as creating and protecting them. Because, as it turns out, it takes as much forethought to do LESS as it does to do MORE.
So whether you thrive on the holiday hustle or desperately want to slay/sleigh less of the day, I recommend spending some time with your calendar in the next couple of weeks. Get in your map now, so you can step out of it and look up at the twinkle lights later. I think you’ll be glad you did.