When Your Calendar Overwhelms You

February 12, 2024

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Putting everything in your calendar we do in the Bright Method can be overwhelming. Let’s go over reasons why it’s worth playing through the discomfort.

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Full Transcript

 Episode 41. When Your Calendar Overwhelms You

[Upbeat Intro Music]

Kelly Nolan: Welcome to The Bright Method Podcast where we’ll discuss practical time management strategies designed for the professional working woman. I’m Kelly Nolan, a former patent litigator who now works with women to set up The Bright Method in their lives. The Bright Method is a realistic time management system that helps you manage it all, personally and professionally. Let’s get you falling asleep proud of what you got done today and calm about what’s on tap tomorrow. All right, let’s dig in!


Hey, hey! All right, so today we’re gonna talk about what happens when you either are first starting out using a system like The Bright Method or you’re contemplating using a system like The Bright Method and you feel or worry that you will feel very overwhelmed by the calendar because, as we’ve talked about a lot so far on this podcast, I really believe that we need to put everything we do, all the activities, all the events, all the tasks that we do into our calendar. And I teach tech strategies to make that not quite such a cluttered mess when you put it all in your calendar, but I don’t shy away from the fact that we’re putting a lot in there. So it is going to be more cluttered in there than you’re used to.

So let’s talk about this today because it’s something that definitely happens with some clients when they first start using The Bright Method, and it’s something that I do worry holds people back from using a system like this because they worry they will feel overwhelmed in that way.

Four Reasons You Should Uncomfortably Move Through The Bright Method System – 1:23

So today I want to talk about four reasons why it’s worth playing through that discomfort to keep going with the system so that you can get to the benefits and not either not try the system or throw in the towel on the system too early because of those feelings and concerns. Before I do, I think it’s easy to establish kind of the differences of what I mean.

So when I talk about the before (or a traditional approach) to using calendars, what I mean by that is kind of how a lot of us were taught to use calendars growing up, you really just use a calendar for events or phone calls that you’re scheduling with someone else so that you could not just unilaterally move it around in your calendar. It’s a scheduled event. And how I thought of it is kind of like I used to use my calendar only for the things that I did with or for other people.

On the flip side, kind of when I talk about the after or The Bright Method approach to this, is really, as I said, putting everything in there. So yes it contains all of your events in the ways that we’ve used the traditional calendar but also really calendaring out when you’re gonna shower and get ready; if you have little kids, when do you do bed and bath time; at work, when do you process email and things like that. Now, again, there are tech strategies we can use to make it not super overwhelming, and I approach this very flexibly. So, basically, we use the calendar to build out the default building blocks on when we do a lot of those repetitive things, but then you have total freedom to move them around as your schedules shake out. My schedule is totally different every day it feels like. And so, I just move things around, but I have these default building blocks I get to move around instead of having to think and plan my day from scratch every single time. Okay?

So as we go through this episode, I’m gonna refer to the before or the traditional approach, which is that first one, and then kind of refer to that after or The Bright Method approach as the after, and I just wanted to clarify that before I dig in because that’ll save me from having to explain what I mean every single time.

One: The Bright Method Helps You Reflect on How You’re Really Spending Your Time – 3:20

All right, so the first reason why I think it’s really important to play through the discomfort of feeling like, “Ugh, this calendar is overwhelming now, so I’m gonna throw in the towel and not use this approach,” the first reason that I want to challenge that and nudge you in a friendly but empowering way to stick with it is that it might look overwhelming. I’m not denying that at all. It definitely is overwhelming, especially if you’ve never used this calendar before, and you have a lot on your plate. It’s going to look overwhelming, but it does reflect how you are spending your time in reality, and I think that it’s really important not to run away from that because, essentially, if you throw in the towel, it’s like, “I don’t even want to see it. I don’t even want to know that’s what my days look like because it’s too overwhelming, so I’m gonna go back to living in denial.”

I would just challenge you that there’s a reason you were looking for a different system. Living in denial wasn’t feeling great to begin with, so don’t run back to that. It’s kind of that familiar-is-not-always-comfortable approach. And I just want to really tease this out a little bit more because if you go with the traditional approach, there’s potentially a lot of white space in your calendar.

For those of you in corporate who are completely meeting-heavy, there’s probably not even a lot of white space in your calendar, but using the traditional approach, there is more white space in your calendar than if you used The Bright Method approach. But you know it is not actual free time, right? White space just means your brain goes searching out for what it needs to do on email, on a to-do list, on Post-It notes, on a task management app, on a phone Notes app. Your brain sees white space and is like, “What do I need to do,” and has to go look at all these places to go figure it out.

Then it has to prioritize from all those places what’s a priority, hold it in your head, come up with a plan. Curveballs hit, you have to rearrange the plan, hope you’re not forgetting anything. It’s a lot of logistics that are being managed in your brain instead of your calendar when you use the traditional approach, and at the same time, that white space has this tricky way of making you think you do have a lot of time. So if someone’s like, “Hey, can you take this on,” you look at your calendar, you see a fair amount of white space or more white space than you would, and you’re like, “Yeah, I guess I do have time.” Instead of really understanding how those to-do lists, Post-It notes, all those things actually do take up the time that you’re seeing as white space in your calendar.

So because of that, ignorance is not bliss. We really have to just embrace and confront — I wouldn’t even say embrace — confront and see our current reality so that we can make adjustments. That brings me to point two.

Two: The Bright Method Helps You Get Breathing Space in Your Life – 6:06

Point two is turning to the adjustments. If you want more breathing space, the answer is not to run away from a Bright Method approach just so you see more white space in your calendar. That doesn’t actually give you more breathing space. What we need to do is instead say, “Let me understand where I am at, what my current reality is, like I would see in a cluttered Bright Method approach, so that I can make adjustments to get breathing space in my actual real life, not just in the calendar, but in my real life as well.”

So, to tease this point out a little bit, just to be really clear is when your calendar is overwhelming to the point that it’s not just how it looks. It’s like actually when you read through the things it feels overwhelming, there’s just so much in there, that is because your workload is overwhelming. It is a workload problem. It’s not a calendar problem, and it’s not a you problem. There is nothing wrong with you. If you have too much in your calendar that you really can’t move it around or anything like that, it’s just a reflection that your workload is overwhelming, and that is a tough reality to confront but don’t run away from it.

It’s kind of like financing and money (our own budgeting). It can be really uncomfortable to see the limits of money, just as it is to see the limits of time, to see where the money’s going, to have to make adjustments. We all get that kind of, “Ugh,” that feeling sometimes when we think about money, same with the calendar. And that’s not fun. I don’t love equating my system to something that we all kind of dread, but it is the reality, and by confronting it and working through it, you get so empowered in a way that living in denial did not give you.

Because when you’re empowered, you feel more confident in making the calls of, “This is a priority and this is a priority, and these things are not a priority. That has to be punted. That has to be eliminated. This has to be delegated.” You just have more control over what you are allowing on your plate and also what you are like, “I can’t get rid of this, but let me outsource it, let me delegate it.” You’re taking control of it instead of just living kind of in reactive mode, which we’re a little pushed into by the traditional approach. When we don’t have a clear view of everything on our plate, we just kind of react to whatever comes at us as an urgency thing, where if we can confront our reality and then decide to make adjustments to give us more breathing space, not just in our calendar by getting us more white space, but actually in our real life and having that reflected in the calendar, that is a very powerful place to be, even when it is slightly uncomfortable.

I just want you to know this is something that’s an ongoing thing. Life has this funny way of changing and throwing new things at us, and I’m going through that right now. I just feel like I want more breathing space in my life, so I’m looking at things, what I’ve calendared on my calendar, and I’m like, “You know what? This just doesn’t rank compared to everything else, so this is gonna get punted out until April. This is actually not even worth my time to warrant it being on the calendar because the ROI on my time is just not there, and it’s taking away time from other projects, so I’m just gonna eliminate it.”

It’s an ongoing evaluation, but it’s only an evaluation I can do because I’m seeing it visually in my calendar. I’m seeing all these little blocks of tasks and all projects and all that kind of stuff compete for time and energy in my calendar so that I can look at it and say, “Eh, this doesn’t rank. Uh, this has got to be eliminated. Ope, I can delegate this.” I, at least, have never found a system that helps me understand the constraints of my time and how I can make modifications to my schedule to give me that breathing space in real life in this way.

So, to recap, point one is it’s going to be overwhelming for some people, but it reflects how you are spending your time in reality and embrace it because the alternative tricks you into taking on more, and it sends your brain into overdrive, and it’s just there’s a reason it’s not working for you. Don’t run back to the familiar. It’s not a comfort zone thing. It’s not comfortable there, and you want to really look for something that will help you see your reality and then point to make adjustments so that you can get more breathing space not just by seeing more white space in your calendar but actual breathing space in your life by making some tougher decisions that are easier to make when you can see how all the things that are going on in your life compete for space in your calendar so you can delegate, so you can eliminate, so you can punt things out for a couple months, whatever it might be, but in a much more aware and clear way than you might be used to.

Three: The Bright Method Makes it Easier to Communicate About Your Workload – 10:55

Along those lines, when it comes to the clarity, is point three. I have also found that this system, for some people, makes it so much easier to communicate with the people that matter in their lives about their workload. This is at home and at work. Now, some people will actually show their partners at home or even their bosses at work their calendar once it’s all laid out and say, “This is where I need help.” And I am always a big proponent of not just showing the problem but also coming up with solutions, both because I think it demonstrates leadership and will get you a solution that you actually want versus something they’re gonna make up for you. But it can be really powerful.

If your partner doesn’t help as much at home as you want, and you get the sense that they want to, they just don’t always know how to, by showing your calendar to them, you overwhelm them a little bit. You’re like, “This is all that I’m managing, and this is why you taking this thing, this thing, and this thing off my plate and putting it on yours on an ongoing basis would really, really help.” It helps them see all that you’re managing so that they understand it more, they’re more motivated to help.

Then the approach that I’ve definitely heard from other clients where they’re like, “I don’t know I just need help! I’m overwhelmed! I just need more help,” and it’s like, “Yeah, but what help,” or “What do you need,” or “Why are you overwhelmed,” or “Aren’t we all overwhelmed,” where you can kind of show them, “This is how much I’m managing. It is so much, and I need more help,” or “More help from you,” or “This is why we need to hire someone. This is why we need to outsource this component of it.” Using a system like this that makes it so visual helps you both get on the same page so that you can make those calls together on the same page of where you need the help and what help would really help alleviate some of this pain point stuff.

Similarly, at work, I would say that not everybody does this. I think it’s kind of strange how kind of personal your calendar can get, and so, some people don’t want to show their calendars to everybody. I have had some clients who have great relationships with their bosses, and they will show them the full calendar and be like, “This is where I need help,” and the boss is like, “I didn’t even know you were in all these meetings,” or “I didn’t even know you had all this work on your plate. Let’s readjust.” I’ve said this before, but bosses typically have no idea how your workload is stacking up. They kind of maybe generally know what they’ve given you, but they don’t know what that means for your workload this week or next week or this month. And by showing them the calendar, you can kind of get on the same page with them a little bit if you want.

Even if you don’t want to do this, you get more clarity on where you need the support. It kind of goes back to point two of making adjustments. You get more clear on what are the adjustments that could really help with this so that even if you don’t go in, you have the specifics and more of the evidence at your fingertips so you can say, “I’ve got these ten projects on my plate right now. It’s making it really hard to accomplish the two priorities. I recommend we do XYZ given that I view this as our top priority right now.” Using a system like this equips you with specifics in a way that I don’t think many other systems do, and it’s not even just The Bright Method.

What I’m trying to say is by putting it all in your calendar, you get more clear on your capacity, on your workload, how all of these things are interacting. It’s an unrealistic amount. Therefore, what’s your proposal on what you keep, what you don’t, all that kind of stuff. Then you go into a conversation, again, with a boss that’s not just like, “I’m overwhelmed,” and they’re left trying to figure out how to help you where you’re like, “This is the solution I recommend,” and hopefully it’s a solution you want, and you can then also make a better business case if someone else needs to be hired, for example. “If someone was hired to take on these ten tasks, I would have 15 hours a week freed up to actually move the ball forward on these two projects that we’ve talked about.” Something along those lines, really, by having the specifics in the ways that we’re talking about, it helps you communicate better, it helps you get on the same page better, and it makes your argument and negotiation more persuasive and powerful because you have the specifics at your fingertips in a way that you might not have before.

Four: The Bright Method Lightens the Mental Load – 15:10

The fourth and final point is a little bit different but hugely powerful is the mental load that is lightened. I really believe that, yes, using The Bright Method approach is definitely gonna clutter up your calendar, but it is going to lighten up your mind, and to me, that is the more important thing. It is so much more important to have a lighter, freer mind that can focus and bring its intellectual and creative A-game at work and be present at home, than to have a nice-looking calendar. That is maybe different than you, but that is something I really strongly believe in.

So point four is lighten that mental load, lighten up your brain. Yes, we’re gonna clutter up your calendar. Again, with tech strategies to make it hopefully less overwhelming, but still we are going to clutter up your calendar, but we are going to lighten up your mind, and that is really I think what we are all craving.

Words From a The Bright Method Client – 16:02

So I wanted to wrap this up with the words of a woman who learned The Bright Method (because I just think it’s better to hear it from other people), and she said:

“Using The Bright Method that Kelly teaches has been an amazing eye-opener about how much time tasks actually take and how unrealistic I had been about project timelines. Most importantly, it helped me say no more easily to low-priority tasks and requests. Learning to shift my perspective by using the calendar has been the most helpful tool for me. Before, I thought it was overwhelming to see so many tasks and events in the calendar. Now I recognize it’s a reflection of how I’m spending my time.

This course helped me address a problem that I didn’t realize I had, which was having unrealistic to-do lists and not allocating appropriate time in my schedule to complete tasks. I feel more in control of my schedule now, and I have more clarity overall. This course won’t just help you get organized and manage your time, it will help you prioritize what matters most. The system Kelly teaches will bring you peace of mind and greater clarity. It feels amazing to know I can stop searching for a time management system that works for me!”

So I hope that you give it a shot! Maybe you’ve been a little shy in the past about trying it because of this cluttered approach, and it does clutter up your calendar, but it’s worth it for all of the reasons that we talked about before. If you want to give it a test drive, feel free to check it out! You can take a five-day program that’s totally free. It’s called The Reset and Refresh, and you can sign up for it at www.kellynolan.com/refresh. I’ll also put a link in the show notes, and you’re also welcome to DM me on Instagram the word “refresh” and a little robot assistant will send you the link.

I really appreciate you being here. Thanks so much, and I’ll catch you in the next episode!

[Upbeat Outro Music]

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