Practical Time Management Strategies to Reduce Your Logistical Stress & Mental Load During Your IVF Journey: Part I

Kelly Nolan

The IVF process carries the double-whammy of being emotionally and logistically stressful. While we can’t remove all stress from your IVF journey, we can reduce as much of the logistical stress as we can – thereby reducing your overall stress level. 

To that end, let’s go over practical time management strategies to help alleviate the logistical stressors and mental load of your IVF process.

Given that this first strategy can take some time to set up, today, we’ll cover the first strategy, which is to create a separate sub-calendar for your IVF journey to help you make sense of all of the IVF logistics and improve your communication with your home partner, if you have one.

Part II of this two-part series will include eight ways you can leverage your calendar to further lighten your mental load and feel on top of all of the IVF logistics. 

Create a separate IVF sub-calendar for all the IVF-related events and tasks

A quick introduction to sub-calendars

Taking a quick step back, from a general time management perspective, I’m a big fan of reducing logistical stress and mental load by getting all of the time-related logistics out of your head and into a tool designed to manage time: your calendar(s) – and, in particular, a digital calendar (even for you paper lovers like me!). 

Using calendars (plural, as most people separate work and personal calendars to varying degrees) to tie all of your events and to-do’s to time in one/two places clarifies what’s on your plate, when you’ll do each task, and if and how it all fits together in your day, week, and month. 

To do this without rendering your calendar a muddied-up mess, I encourage you to create sub-calendars. In short, a sub-calendar is a separate “calendar” within your calendar (given how confusing it is to talk about calendars within calendars, I call them sub-calendars). You can put events and tasks in a sub-calendar, give it a unique color, click it on and off from view, and share a specific sub-calendar with others without sharing everything in your larger calendar. 

This ability to click sub-calendars on and off helps us load up our calendars with all of our time-related activities (thereby, lightening our mental loads) in a manageable way because we can filter what we see at any given time.

You can create sub-calendars in Outlook, Google, or Apple calendars (click those links for instructions for each). 

A quick word that’s important to understand: I advocate a flexible calendar approach, particularly with tasks (versus events you schedule with others). If you calendar time to do a certain task and your day’s plans prevent you from doing it then or you just don’t feel like doing it when the time rolls around, just move the time-blocked task by dragging-and-dropping it in your calendar to a new time. Remember, we’re using your calendar to lighten your mental load and bring clarity – not to live rigidly.

Why create a separate IVF sub-calendar?

Turning back to our IVF-specific discussion, I encourage you to create an “IVF” (or some other name you’d like – e.g., a clever code name for your fertility journey) sub-calendar.

There are three main benefits of creating an IVF sub-calendar:

1. Lighten that mental load without overwhelming your calendar

First, it allows you to load up your (likely, personal) calendar with all of the time-related details of your journey without overwhelming your day-to-day calendar. 

Use your IVF sub-calendar not just for all of the appointments but anything time-related so we can reduce your mental load and bring you more clarity. For example, you could calendar:

  • When to take medications (calendared on a repeating basis),
  • When to give yourself injections (same),
  • Reminders to pack up your injections and/or medications each day you’ll be out of the house when the relevant times roll around (which you’ll see more easily in your calendar as you see how those times interact with the other plans of your day),
  • One-off reminders to do things like following up with a pharmacy about a medication, and
  • Even the days your male partner, if you have one, must refrain from ejaculating before the sperm donation. 

All of these things come back to time, so use that calendar to streamline where they live and make sense of them and how they interact with the rest of your life. This will give you more clarity and lighten that mental load.

2. Some emotional protection should things not go to plan

Should something go sideways in a particular cycle of your fertility journey and suddenly future appointments and reminders in your calendar are no longer applicable, a sub-calendar gives you the power to hide that whole sub-calendar going forward (even removing it from your list of visible sub-calendars in your calendar settings), which also removes all of those appointments and reminders from your calendar in just a few clicks. Being able to hide your sub-calendar quickly prevents you from being constantly reminded of what could have been when you run across something in your calendar that no longer applies. 

As a side note, I also did this throughout my pregnancy journeys – putting all doctor’s appointments, what week we were on, etc. information in that separate sub-calendar so that if we lost our pregnancy, I could quickly remove those suddenly painful reminders from my calendar. I wanted the ability to make sure that the tool I relied on to run my day-to-day life wasn’t also constantly and painfully reminding me of what I’d lost.

3. Sharing capabilities with a partner and/or support system

By having all IVF-related information in one sub-calendar, you can share your IVF sub-calendar with your partner (or someone else supporting you through the process) so that they have access to all of the information without you having to share your whole calendar or send them constant calendar invites.

This helps you not have to be the constant reminder-er person, share the logistical load across both people, and helps them see and appreciate how much you’re managing and doing as part of this journey so they can better understand your experience and support you (e.g., while many partners intellectually understand that you’re giving yourself injections and taking medication, seeing how frequently it happens and how it interrupts your days in such a visual way helps them absorb its impact on you and your life in a deeper way).

Two IVF sub-calendar tips

Where the IVF-specific sub-calendar lives – personal and/or work calendars – is up to you. I recommend starting with it in your personal calendar for privacy reasons, and you’ll get phone alerts for your scheduled tasks during the work day. If you’d prefer to also see these tasks on your work computer, you could create an IVF-specific sub-calendar (or a watered-down version of it) in your work calendar, as well. While the lawyer in me wants to make sure you know you never have total privacy in anything you create in a work account, you can check the settings to ensure you’re not sharing this new sub-calendar with anyone – which means your average colleagues won’t be able to see it, meaning you have a pretty good level of privacy in it. My recommendation: start with your IVF sub-calendar in your personal calendar only, see how it works for you, and adjust as needed

In addition, a critical thing to be aware of is that sub-calendars don’t block your availability (even if they’re created in your work account). You will still need to block your work availability where necessary in your work calendar (e.g., for doctor’s appointments, commuting time, and wiggle room).

I recommend building in time 1-2 times a week to do this reconciling (e.g., on Tuesday and Friday afternoons at 3pm, schedule a 15-minute calendar appointment to “Reconcile work and personal calendars”). You could also check out apps like Reclaim.ai (if your work calendar is with GSuite; I encourage only using the syncing capabilities) and CalendarBridge (if your work calendar is with Outlook) to do this reconciling automatically so long as you work calendar security settings allow it. Just be sure to have your personal calendar share only at the “busy” level of detail, assuming that’s what you prefer.

Check out Part II for more time management strategies

Alright – come back for Part II of this series, in which we’ll dig into ways you can leverage your calendar to lighten your mental load, make the logistics of your IVF journey easier, and set up and nurture your support network so you have people to lean on during your journey.

And if you love practical time management strategies like these, know that I help professional working women manage it all – personally and professionally – with less stress and more calm clarity through my realistic time management system, the Bright Method. You can get a free taste of the Bright Method here and follow me on Instagram for bite-sized strategies here. I truly nerd out on this stuff, so never hesitate to reach out to discuss anything!

Kelly Nolan is an attorney-turned-time management strategist. After experiencing overwhelm as a young patent litigator in Boston, Kelly figured out a time management system to help her show up in the ways that she wanted to at work and at home – without requiring her brain to somehow magically remember it all. She now empowers other professional working women to manage their personal, family, and career roles with less stress and more calm clarity using realistic time management strategies. Her system, the Bright Method, has been featured in Bloomberg Businessweek, and her work has been published in Forbes, Fast Company, and Parents. Learn more at www.kellynolan.com.

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