By Julia Lee
“Unschedulables” is not a word you will find in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, but in my opinion it should be. It literally means events that are not able to be scheduled, and I think this single word encapsulates the nuance of the constant unexpected happenings that come our way.
I first heard of the term while accidentally stumbling upon a live feed on YouTube one Sunday morning. I laughed at the irony of landing on this stream because “unschedulables” is a concept I thought about often this past year as I reflected on how to balance life’s unscheduled moments with more grace and poise.
If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that life doesn’t go as scheduled. The whole world had a different plan back in March of 2020, then life as we knew it changed overnight in ways we never imagined. And now, as we enter this new stage in the pandemic with the dreaded Delta variants, what we all expected would be a normal school year is no longer so normal and plans for returning to work may have upended. This means there will be a lot more uncertainties to manage, daily calendars to balance that will change with little to no notice, and new “unschedulables” coming our way we won’t be able to anticipate.
Plan for tomorrow by blocking out tidbits of time to leave room to adjust
I have so many calendars. I have a calendar for my personal events, a calendar for my kids’ school and sports schedules, multiple calendars for work, and a calendar to keep track of my husband’s activities. My iPhone’s calendar app is my go-to guide for staying on top of them all!
With so much on my plate every day, I have learned that to optimally function on a daily basis, I need to make sure I have some buffers built into each day’s schedule to allow room for the “unschedulables”. Don’t set yourself up with such a tight calendar that you can’t handle some curveball at work, the dreaded phone call from school to pick-up your sick child or an impromptu game of 1:1 basketball with your pre-teen son (that rarely these days asks to hang out). It’s important to allow space in your schedule for pockets of sanity during a particularly busy day or time to be spontaneous and do something fun like taking the kids out for ice cream, or to tackle the “unschedulables” that come your way.
In our fast-paced society, there’s always a temptation to do more; add more to our calendar; say yes to your boss, your family, your friends. Too often, these schedule additions leave us feeling tired, stressed and overwhelmed. Most of us know when our plate is too full, but shove down feelings of dread and do what is best for everyone else – later regretting these decisions. So, take some time today to look at your calendar and see how you can cut out what isn’t important and block some time to adjust for those spur of the moment activities and mental breaks.
Make space in your mind to handle life’s “unschedulables”
My husband started a ritual of taking his coffee on our patio each morning. He works for a very busy advertising company in Manhattan where the tempo of his day is fast and furious. Spending 15 minutes outside enjoying the weather and a cup of Joe calms his mind before it gets cluttered up with work issues and sets him up to take control of his day. A similar activity can help you set your daily tone. Don’t look at your phone the first few minutes of the day and instead mediate, pray or reflect on the day to come.
It isn’t just the mornings, however, when we should take the time to clear our minds and center ourselves. During the day, take a brisk walk around the neighborhood, play tug with your furry friend, watch a funny YouTube clip, call up a friend for a quick chat, or cuddle with your snuggly kiddo. Don’t wait until you are overwhelmed to do such a spontaneous activity. Take some time out to recharge and set yourself up for success. These small actions don’t take a lot of time and they really are the most precious moments in life, allowing us to be the best we can be.
The Korean word “yehyoo” literally means having the luxury of space to be composed. We can’t control the unscheduled events in our life, but we can control our mindset. As you are faced with your “unschedulables”, I hope you can find space in your mind and block out time on your calendars to remain composed and full of grace and poise.