Put Your Schedule on a Diet

Put your schedule on a diet | Delegation

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve probably heard that healthy, sustainable weight loss is not something that happens quickly; after all, you didn’t put on all those pounds overnight, right?

Fasting, severe calorie restriction, cleanses, crazy workouts, and myriad other “quick fixes” can have a stunningly rapid effect … and once you go back to “eating normally,” you usually regain the weight just as quickly, and sometimes those pounds bring a friend or two along!

The way to lose weight and keep it off usually takes time (1–2 lbs a week is considered healthy) and more than a little work to break some unhelpful old habits and develop some more positive new ones. (For some inspiration, see Baby Step #12, which links to 12 actions to gradually convert into habits over the course of a year.)

What does this have to do with your daily/weekly schedule, though?

You may have heard that a stressful schedule can contribute to weight gain, and sadly, as good as they are, many of the suggestions for beating stress seem to involve a not insignificant time commitment—and who has time for that?

What I’m thinking about today, however, is not tummy pooch but daytimer bloat.

How did our schedules get so crazy? Why do we fill every waking moment (and some that should be sleeping moments) with activity? And why do we think that doing so is 1) necessary and 2) admirable? (For a great song that satirizes this, check out two of my favorites—Sandra Boynton and Kevin Kline—together in Busy, busy, busy, even better in stereo. And if you have small children, Philadelphia Chickens is one of those CDs that you won’t tire of, even as an adult.)

Most of the replies to the question, “How are you?” seem to be one of the following:

  • I’m so busy!
  • I’m so tired!
  • I only slept [insert some number less than 7] hours last night!

My two new favorite words are “swampled” (swamped + trampled) and “exhaustipated” (so tired that you can’t, you know): I think they apply to most Americans, and particularly to working wives and mothers.

So if you’ve gradually gained weight and discover that daily sweet smoothies or coffee “desserts” or “just a lick” of dessert have crept into your diet, and that workout is just not getting done, what are the habits that sabotage our schedule?

We often have a victim mentality about our calendars: everyone from the boss down to the baby have put commitments on there, and while there are a certain number of these non-negotiable tasks, we have to take responsibility for most of the others—and I find that those are usually in the majority in number if not always in time they take to complete.

So let’s step outside the poor-put-upon-me perspective and take a look at what we can control in our schedules.

There are probably as many schedule saboteurs as there are nutrition bombs, and in Are you cancelable? and Are you cancelable? (Part 2), I have written about one of them: cancellation, usually on ourselves and of those self-care activities that ironically might make the rest of the day feel more manageable.

How about delegation (or, usually, lack thereof)?

If you work outside the home and are in a position where you delegate to others or have tasks delegated to you, think about what happens when delegation is done well: a task is given to the person with the best skill set to execute it, the specifications for completeness are clearly communicated, a deadline is given, resources are provided, and off it goes. The job is done to spec by the deadline; next! Of course, there might be some glitches—work not up to par or turned in late—but let’s just stick with the ideal for now.

How you delegate at home, however, probably looks very different … and it doesn’t have to!

I love Tiffany Dufu’s term imaginary delegation: “This is when we mentally assign [someone] a task but never take the step of telling them. We assume that they will intuit our needs or that they’ll naturally step forward if we hang back.”

Yup, totally guilty of that myself.

  • Because for me, a kitchen counter piled with everything and anything that walks in the door—or has help getting there—on a given day is crazy-making, while for certain members of my family (who shall not be named), this was not a problem … until I told them so.
  • Because for me, separating shirts from sweatshirts and underwear from pants, turning socks right side out, and emptying people’s pockets before doing the laundry is a PITA (and totally gross if you have athletes in the house). It’s also definitely something people aged 14, 17, and 50+ can do … and it was not on their radar until I said so.
  • Because for me, cleaning up after making yourself a meal or snack is second nature, while for others the fact that they cooked for themselves was already enough of a help to me. Seriously—no judgment: I do appreciate the effort that relieves me of the task … and still I needed to point out that cleaning up is an expectation of the job.

Naturally, if you’re delegating at home the way you do at work, you don’t necessarily get to choose the person with the right skill set because some or your people are little, in which case you either spend some time teaching the skill at an appropriate age, or you set the “job satisfactorily completed” bar a bit lower. If you don’t, you’ll spend an equal amount of time redoing the job. Accept that sometimes, good enough = perfect: the bar can (and should) be raised as they get older.

Another consideration when delegating at home is that to get something off your calendar and onto someone else’s, you may also need to let go of the way the job is done: at work, you’re looking for a project completed to spec—a good manager doesn’t dictate the means. Be open to the fact that sometimes your “staff’s” creativity in accomplishing a task at home may just surprise you: it’s not a comment that your way has been wrong all this time—it’s a miracle!

Drop a comment about your experience delegating at home—what worked, what didn’t? Got a good story about how someone got a delegated task done in a new and different way than you would have done it?


  1. Just talking about this today, the importance to just add less to any given day. A commitment to one thing ultimately impacts another and we must figure out which commitment holds more value. Sometimes, less is more. Delegating is a good suggestion.

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