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

This is Part II of a two-part series on time management strategies for your IVF journey.

You can find Part I here.

Now that we’ve established how useful calendars are for reducing mental load, improving home partner communication, and bringing clarity to a logistics-heavy process, below are eight strategies you can use in tandem with your calendar to lighten the logistical stress of your IVF journey.

Note: Even if you decide to skip setting up an IVF-specific sub-calendar, as discussed in Part I of this series, you can still use your calendar in the ways discussed below to gain a lot of the benefits.

Alright, on to the good stuff…

IVF Time Management Strategy No. 1: For medical appointments, block commuting times and wiggle room from your work availability

We all know it’s unfortunately not rare for medical appointments to run late. Let’s reflect that reality in our calendars so we’re less stressed when it happens.

In addition to blocking an appointment time in your calendar, also block your driving/commuting time to the appointment, plus a few more minutes for parking, walking time, and any traffic wiggle room you might need.

Also, block your post-appointment driving/commuting time in the same way, plus whatever wiggle room you deem appropriate given how delayed some medical offices can run. While it can be frustrating to add an extra, e.g., 45 minutes to appointments and see that time disappear from your work calendar, it’s so much less stressful to have that wiggle room built in when you need it. If you end up not needing it, bonus time! If you do, Future You will thank you for giving her that breathing space.

Note: Consider putting medical appointments in both your IVF-specific sub-calendar and your work calendar – and you might be able to do this automatically using Reclaim.ai or Calendarbridge (see Part I of this series for further detail). Putting the event in your IVF-specific sub-calendar in your personal calendar lets you lay out all of the details in a private setting and automatically shares that information with whoever you’ve given access to that sub-calendar (e.g., your home partner). Putting it in your work calendar blocks your work availability. Doing both lets you keep the work level of detail high (e.g., “Busy,” “Personal appointment”), and you know you can find all the details in your personal calendar.

IVF Time Management Strategy No. 2: To the extent you can, get intentional with those appointment times

When it comes to booking your medical appointment times, if you have the flexibility, think about what timing would be the least stressful for you.

Consider how the relevant medical office runs. Generally, I aim to book one of the first appointments of the day if I can get there in time for it. It reduces the chances that my appointment will start late due to people running behind. I, therefore, tend to ask to book out into the future as much as they’ll let me in an effort to snag those early morning spots. 

That said, also think about your typical workdays and preferences. If your work mornings tend to be crazier and full of fire drills and things settle down around, e.g., 1pm, consider booking an afternoon appointment slot; leaving then will be less stressful for you than earlier in the day. Same goes if getting out of the house is hard with little kids, such that an early morning appointment would just add stress to an already stressful situation; in that case, booking during the workday might actually be less stressful for you. Similarly, if your best work energy is in the mornings, you similarly might want to work then and make these appointments for later in the day when your energy is lower anyway – and just bring some low-energy work to do or fun distractions if the appointment does start late.

Think about what would work best for you, and then aim to get those spots.

IVF Time Management Strategy No. 3: Create a separate calendar entry for questions for your medical appointments

If you’re like Past Me, you sometimes write out questions for your doctor on a phone notes app and then, during the appointment, completely forget about the note and don’t ask them any of your questions.

To help with this, I recommend creating a separate calendar entry in your IVF-specific sub-calendar at the same time as the medical appointment titled “QUESTIONS TO ASK.” Then, write the questions in the notes section of the calendar entry. This not only corrals your questions in one place, but the phone alert for “QUESTIONS TO ASK” will remind you when it’s time that you do, in fact, have questions to ask. 

IVF Time Management Strategy No. 4: Calendaring Recovery Time

Once you get a specific IVF timeline from your doctor, lay it out as much as possible in your calendar(s) – and I use the plural here to note that you might want to lay out all the details in your personal IVF-specific sub-calendar and only block availability in your work calendar where relevant.

Next, consider when you might want recovery time during the process. For example, after both your egg retrieval and embryo transfer, you might feel physically and emotionally spent. Similarly, after finding out whether or not you’re pregnant, depending on the outcome, you may need time for yourself and/or with your partner to process. Consider what you might want to do during those times – and use your calendar to give yourself the space to do them.

For example, you might want to block your work meeting availability and move any meetings now that fall within those periods of time. This will give you freedom if you end up wanting to, e.g., go home and sleep. Similarly, if you find solace in friendships, you might want to ask a friend to come over on at least one of those evenings.

On the flip side, if you need to or want to work after one of those events for distraction (we all handle stressors differently, and if you want to work to be distracted, do it), consider what type of work you’d like to do and whether you’d like to work from home versus the office. I urge you to  consider still blocking your work meeting availability to give yourself the flexibility not to work if you decide you actually don’t want to work when the time rolls around. 

In short, wherever you think you might need some recovery time in the IVF process, block that time now. You can always change your mind, but better to keep your options open at this point.

On a related note, once you have the schedule for a specific IVF cycle, consider building in extra wiggle room into your work schedule for the entire cycle period of time. Chances are you’re going to understandably be a bit more distracted and exhausted than normal. Make sure you don’t plan your work days and weeks assuming your normal productivity levels during weeks when you (understandably!) foreseeably won’t be at that level. Better to have some bonus breathing space than to be feeling like you’re falling behind and scrambling on top of everything else.

IVF Time Management Strategy 5: Calendar fun things for the waiting period between your embryo transfer and pregnancy test results

Once you have an IVF timeline for a cycle, figure out when the waiting period between the embryo transfer and the pregnancy test will likely be. This can be a stressful time for people as often waiting without being able to take action on anything is hard for many of us go-getter women.

Given this, consider what you might want to do during it to help yourself through it. If you see the benefit of being distracted, plan things to do that. Would you like to go on walks with friends? Explore a museum you’ve been meaning to visit in your town on your own? Fly home to your family if that’s a warm and welcoming place to be? While I probably wouldn’t recommend scheduling, e.g., a once-in-a-lifetime trip because you might, despite all efforts, be distracted by the prospects of upcoming news, it’s smart to think of low-lift things you could do to bring some joy and distraction into your life during that phase.

IVF Time Management Strategy 6: Calendar Sleep (I know, I know… weird – but hear me out)

Given the importance of sleep during the IVF process (and, well, just generally), it deserves some protection in your calendar. I, therefore, encourage you to calendar your sleep.

First, it’s helpful to get intentional about when you want to sleep and for how long. If you decide you need, e.g., 7.5 hours a night, you need to make sure that fits into your schedule given other things on your plate.

Second, blocking time for sleep has the nice added bonus of making any white space left in your calendar signify actual free, awake time, which helps you plan what you want to do with it more realistically and see pockets of free time that you might not otherwise have appreciated (and frittered away on Instagram… no judgment – I speak from experience). To be clear, I’m not saying, “be productive with this time!” I mean: think about what you want to do with it – from reading a fun book to watching Netflix to cross-stitching to calling a friend. Consider blocking time for the activities (or menu of activities) you want to do during that time so that tired Future You is more likely to do those things than scroll on your phone.

Third, once you calendar sleep, you can also calendar when you want to wind down, do your bathroom routine, read in bed, etc.

As a reminder, our goal here is NOT to live rigidly – it’s just to reduce how much of this information you manage in your head. As with anything you calendar, think of these as default building blocks that you get to play with, and be flexible! As plans shift, move your sleep block of time for that day. Having that block of time just helps you see, e.g., if you plan to wake up earlier on a certain day to do xyz, you need to get into bed by X time the night before to get your desired amount of sleep, which means you need to head to bed at Y time… all of which you probably managed in your head before but is now visible in your calendar.

Random sleep-related side notes: In addition to calendaring the quantity of your sleep, consider taking steps to improve the quality of it. For example, as I age, I’ve (unfortunately) noticed that even half a glass of wine leads to me feeling more tired in the morning because alcohol apparently impairs our ability to get deep sleep. (My friends with Oura rings confirm this sad reality.) So, I’ve cut out all alcohol unless I’m out with friends. Similarly, when my brain is whirling when I’m trying to sleep, I’ve learned sleep meditation apps (guided meditations or sleep music) are critical for slowing down and calming my brain. Know yourself and what affects your sleep, get intentional, and use your calendar to help you where it makes sense. 

IVF Time Management Strategy No. 7: Use your calendar to protect your relationship

Given that the IVF process can be tough on relationships with your partner, if you have one, it’s worth leveraging your calendar to support it. This can be a two-pronged approach.

1. Corralling IVF talk to free up more time for fun

IVF can tend to dominate relationship talk for months on end, boxing out the more fun and flirty conversations of the pre-fertility journey days. SART advocates a smart approach of aiming to discuss anything IVF for 20 minutes a day – and, I would advocate, only 20 minutes a day (or some other amount of time and frequency of conversation that you intentionally pick). This both gives you the space to communicate and frees up the rest of your time from IVF talk so that the other parts of your relationship and personalities can enter the picture again. 

To that end, consider calendaring your, e.g., 20-minute time slot each day (or, again, whatever amount of time and frequency you want – e.g., 30 minutes three times a week). Move it around each day as your schedules shake out. This will reduce the mental load of the timing of that conversation. And, as with anything that involves someone else, go in knowing it probably won’t happen every day. Aim for 70% of the time, and that will be great!

2. Calendar date nights – and reminders to book date nights

At a frequency that makes sense to you (e.g., weekly, monthly), schedule a date with your partner. Consider banning all IVF talk during it or intentionally putting a limit on it (e.g., the first half hour but then no more – and set a timer!). 

To actually get to do this, schedule time once a month to “plan a date” (or ask your partner to do this). This might entail finding a date that works for both of your work, life, and IVF schedules, scheduling a sitter if you have children, and making a reservation or deciding on an activity. Protecting time to plan it increases the chances it will actually happen!

IVF Time Management Strategy No. 8: Foster those friendships

Friendships really do get us through hard times. To that end, think about which friends you’d like to confide in and lean on during the IVF process. Consider scheduling time now to reach out to them at a frequency and time of day that makes sense to you (e.g., twice a week when you’re driving home from work and it works for a time zone difference; every other week on a Saturday morning walk). This can vary by friend – e.g., you might want to call one friend twice a week and another every two weeks. 

To be clear, this is not scheduling calls with friends. These are just reminders in your calendar that only you see so that you remember to reach out to friends at a time that likely works for you and them based on time zones and typical schedules. On a certain day, if you don’t feel up for it, ignore the reminder! Having the reminders just increases the frequency of when you’ll reach out to friends, giving you the friendship support (and laughs) we all need. 

Similarly, consider starting this now, even if you’re far from an IVF cycle. Not only will it bring you the benefits of those friendships now (something we can all benefit from just generally in life), but you’ll also have stronger friendships going into your IVF journey because you’ve poured into them for months. You’ll feel more comfortable leaning on them and get better support from those stronger friendships.

On a related note, if you’re not doing so already, consider finding a therapist or resuming therapy if you think that would be helpful to have in place as support during the IVF process and beyond. 

In short, get intentional about the support you want in place during this process and start building it in now so you maximize your chances of having it when you want it.

In short, use that calendar to reduce that stress and mental load

Alright – that wraps up my time management strategies to help alleviate the logistical stress of your IVF journey. And because I’m sure there are more incredible strategies out there that others have come up while going through IVF, please feel free to share any that have worked for you below in the comments.

Most importantly, best, best wishes with your IVF journey.

And finally, if you love practical time management strategies like these, I’m a former patent litigator who now helps 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
Kelly Nolan

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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