Free time is like gold. Those spots that sit wide open and unscheduled on our calendars are rare treats to be cherished and guarded. They offer us space and rest, a treasured break from the burden of an action-packed schedule. 

Because here’s the thing: a woman who lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule will often ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.  

So, together, let’s examine those things that sap our schedules, those places where we dread saying yes but feel powerless to say no. And maybe in doing so, we’ll find the courage to change the way we spend our schedules, which changes the way we spend our lives, which changes the way we spend our souls.

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If you’re like me, these five things hype up the pressure to say yes and sap the life and space out of your schedule:

1. Living reactively. So often, our schedules are set by one thing: Other people’s requests.  We let the demands of others dictate the decisions we make. We become slaves to others’ demands when we let our time be dictated by requests. We so quickly live reactive lives instead of proactive ones. And reactive lives get very exhausting, very quickly.  We get requests.  We fill up our schedules all the way to the limit.  We leave very little white space.  We live lives that exhaust us.  We never change our approach.  Therefore, our days are too crowded by our own reactiveness, and we never experience the thrill of that deep soul satisfaction that comes with proactive living.

2. Neglecting my “soul thing.” Sometimes my soul feels underwhelmed because I know there is more God made me to do, more than the dizzying demands that I fill my days with. What is that thing that you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about? That thing that has been on your resolutions list January after January? That thing that makes your soul come alive?  Dare to proactively take time to write out that new big goal, that thing that makes you feel like you, your “soul thing.” And then, dare to schedule time to work on the first few steps toward it.  

3. Delaying the no. Yes and no are the two most powerful words in the English language.  If we use them well, they shape our schedules, and therefore our lives, with assurance, clarity, and power. Yet, we so often use them poorly. In my own life, I too often delay the no. I know I shouldn’t say yes to every decision. I know it, I know it, I know it.  But I don’t want to disappoint someone or seem unwilling, so I delay saying no. I drag the decision out until it’s eaten up my whole mind and my whole day.  Delay, unlike sugar, will not always help things go down better.  Say no with swiftness and gracious honesty.

4. Believing the “Wonder Woman” lies. It covers the news, social media, pop culture… this pressure for women to do it all.  Our culture is pervaded by a lie that says a woman’s worth is in how much she does.  And so our minds soak up that belief, little by little, whether we realize or not.  The burden to say yes is huge. But the truth is, saying yes all the time won’t make me Wonder Woman.  It will make me a worn-out woman. We want to be wise women, not worn-out women. Wise women go where wisdom gathers, not where wisdom scatters. Wisdom scatters when we wrongly think busyness equals effectiveness. Wisdom gathers when we surround ourselves with people who remind us of our truest identity, a precious identity based on who we are, not what we do.  

5. Forgetting the sacredness of relationship. There is a beautifully messy band of people I call my own, and we need time together. Space to connect and just be. But I’m a task girl. I like getting stuff done. And so I have to remind myself over and over to unrush, to park my mind and my heart in the middle of a sacred relationship. I call it the unrushed yes, the yes to those I love that strengthens the fabric of relationships so they can better withstand the wear and tear of everyday life. And I want to make sure it’s people, not projects, that occupy the sacred places of my heart. Yes, sometimes relationships are complicated, but they have the power to force us into a much simpler rhythm. Let yourself be still alongside those you love. Put the task list away, and let your children or husband or friends remind your heart of what’s good and true.

Every day we make choices. And then our choices make us. We have options. We make choices. Then we live the lingering effects, good and bad, of those decisions. And those decisions determine so much about our lives. Much of what I live today is the result of the choices I made yesterday.

Understanding this helps me feel the weight of the decisions I will make today. What a glorious or ominous thing this might be for me, for you.

So as you go about your week, keep an eye out for these schedule-sapping tendencies. Take them one at a time, conquering each individually on your journey to underwhelm your schedule so God has room to overwhelm your soul.

Lysa TerKeurst is the New York Times bestselling author of "The Best Yes," "Unglued" and "Made to Crave." You can find her online at LysaTerKeurst.com.