How to cleanse your calendar & life: part one [the easy part]

When you look at your calendar or your to-do list — wherever you keep track of how you are spending your life-minutes — how do you feel?

I remember a moment, a few years ago, where I scanned my calendar for the upcoming week and felt an overwhelming, sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach.


I resented nearly everything on my calendar — every appointment, every commitment — and I felt angry at myself for agreeing to do them. So angry, I felt physically sick.

Living with that much resentment is like wearing a thick, heavy, fur coat while carrying 30-pound weights in your pockets in the middle of summer. It’s sweltering and exhausting. It makes it virtually impossible to be your best, do excellent work, and make progress with your goals.

The solution?

Cleanse your calendar.

There are times in your life where you must ruthlessly cleanse and declutter your calendar — and then fight to keep it from getting cluttered up with the wrong commitments again. Your wellbeing — and future success — depends on it.

This is not an invitation to “flake out” and let people down, nor is it an invitation to “skip” things that are difficult (but that you really need to do).

When I say “cleanse your calendar,” I am talking about courageously editing & simplifying your life so that you can become the person you want to be.

This is about operating at your highest level of integrity — not your lowest.

Ready to cleanse? Here is how to proceed:

– Scan every item on your calendar for the upcoming day, week, month, season or year (your choice).

– When you find a commitment that makes you go, “Ugh. Don’t want to do that,” take note. Build a list of your “Ugh” items.

– Think about “invisible commitments,” too. Things that you spend a lot of time doing but that don’t necessarily appear on your calendar or to-do list. (Things like: “Checking Facebook” or “Dealing with email.”) If some of those invisible commitments make you feel Ugh-ish, then add those items to your “Ugh” list, too.

– Go through your entire “Ugh” list. Spend a moment considering each item that you don’t want to include in your life anymore. For each item, ask yourself, “Am I feeling resentment… or resistance?”

There is a key difference here.

Resentment = a feeling of heaviness, bitterness, self-directed anger. You don’t want to do this because it doesn’t feel meaningful to you. This item is not helping you to become the person you want to be. It doesn’t belong in your life and you wish it were gone. Once it is gone? You will have tons more energy to devote to other projects, goals and causes. You will feel light and free.

Resistance = a feeling of tension, nervousness, fear of failure. You don’t want to do this because it is difficult and might challenge or push you. This item might create temporary discomfort, but deep down, you know it is necessary and in the end it will be worth it. This item does belong in your life. You’re just feeling lazy or scared, in this moment. You might wish it were gone. But if you choose not to do it? You will feel disappointed in yourself, even regretful, for breaking an important promise to yourself.

To use a real-world example:

You might feel resentment about getting on the phone to speak with a particular client or friend, because this particular person only wants to complain, never takes action, and just wastes both of your time. This has been a recurring theme for months and this person shows no willingness to change. You’re sick of it. You want to clear this phone commitment — and possibly this entire relationship — from your life because it is just not working. It’s draining your energy. It’s not a meaningful use of your time.

On the other hand, you might feel resistance about getting on the phone to call up the newsroom at your local TV station to pitch a story idea and try to get publicity for your work, mission or cause. You are nervous. You are worried you might sound like an idiot. You are afraid they might reject you. Every cell in your body is screaming, “Nooo! Too hard!” You don’t want to do this — but you know that if you go through with it, the potential rewards are huge. You will feel proud of yourself if you do this, disappointed in yourself if you don’t. Doing this represents an act of courage. Courage is always a good use of your time.

Feel the difference?

OK. Go back to your “Ugh” list.

– Separate the items on your “Ugh” list into two sections: resentment and resistance.

The items on your resentment list have got to go. (These items are not helping you. These are weighing you down and ultimately making you weaker.)

The items on your resistance list should probably stay. (These items are helping you, even though they might be difficult to do. These are making you stronger.)

Of course, it is relatively easy to make nice, neat lists and say to yourself, “Hooray! Now I know what to do!”

Writing and planning are great. But actually making the changes you need to make?

That is much harder. (Ohhh… I know.)

That — the “hard part” — is what we cover in part two of this mini-series on how to cleanse your calendar. Read it here.