I believe that one of the keys to living a life you love is to have margin built into your life. Margin is also necessary to be able to take action on a dream.
So, what do I mean by margin? I define margin as the extra, intentionally unused space.
On a word processing document, you set the ‘margins’; which is the area your text and illustrations will stay within. Likewise in design, we use the term ‘white space’ or ‘ negative space’ to designate that part of the sign, ad or website that is between visual elements.
This creates balance, increases legibility, higher comprehension and increased attention to important messaging.
Likewise, in life, we need margin to be happy and content. Life happens. Things don’t go according to plan. Kids get sick. Mom calls just to chat. A shipment of a key resource gets delayed. Things always take longer than you think they will. These situations come up and the amount of margin in your life will determine if you can roll with the punches or if you are in a crisis situation. I believe that building margin is important in several key areas of life:
Add an extra 15 Minutes
Time management is an obvious place to start. If you leave for work an extra 15 minutes earlier than you have to and there is a slow down on the freeway, then it is ok. The worst case that happens is that you get to work 15 minutes early and can get settled and get a cup of coffee. Adding a few extra minutes into your schedule to allow you to get to something just allows you to arrive in a peaceful state of mind. I highly recommend that you look at your schedule and identify the times of day you are stressed or harried. Would a few more minutes possibly make a difference?
Things always take more time than you think they will.
Things always take longer than we think they will. When you are tackling large projects, plan in extra time for hick-ups, changes, and challenges. Create for yourself artificial deadlines. Dates that you try to hit but know that it won’t be the end of the world if you run past this date.
I do this at Christmas time. I try to have all my shopping and gift wrapping done by December 20th. The reality is that I am almost always wrapping one last gift on the 24th. However, if I can have a majority of the “work” done by the 20th I am far less stressed and enjoy the season so much more.
Schedule down time for yourself. This might be time to sleep in on a Saturday morning. Or an evening that you intentionally block on your calendar. Humans need space to think, reflect and rejuvenate. For the very busy person or the Type A’s among us, this can feel like wasted time. I urge you to take this time. If you can be outside or in nature that can be even more beneficial. The most creative people in our culture are militant about protecting their quiet time. If you can find some space on your calendar for you; you will find your energy renewed, enthusiasm revived and creativity restored.
Consider observing a Sabbath Day. Many religious practices incorporate a Sabbath day into their practices and routine. The idea is to complete your work in 6 days and have one day of rest. I find that blocking one day where I do none of my “regular” work is very refreshing. This day for me might be very busy, I might do housework or run around, but I try not to do any computer work that day. Some of my friends skip social media or electronic devices one day a week and report a huge increase in happiness, energy, and productivity. I invite you do make your own rules and try some different elements to design a Sabbath day for yourself. Create a day that you find rejuvenating. One that increases your energy and passion for life.
Health & Energy Margin
As hard as it is to do, we must admit we are finite beings with finite time and finite energy. I know that many of us are trying to be all things to too many people. It is a huge trap with the (false) belief that life must go on this way. The reality is that if we do not meet our basic health needs or our bodies will break down. Then we will be forced to take the breakthrough sickness and crisis. I encourage you to take a look at the following list and decide if you want to take action on any of these areas. Only you can decide!
The research that I am seeing is showing that we are most productive with 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is a popular topic these days so I will let you google it. Anything by Arianna Huffington (Huffington Post) on this topic is a worthwhile read.
Managing our energy. We must protect our most productive times for work that matters.
I have found that having margin in our finances is the margin that reduces my stress the most. Having flexibility in regards to money can help you go through the bumps of life in a calmer way.
I am a big fan of Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University. This is a comprehensive money management program that can bring great peace to your life. He recommends a series 7 steps. The first step is the emergency fund. This goal is to have at least $1000 in savings that is kept for emergencies. This can help with unexpected car repairs or when a major appliance goes out. Just this one activity can bring an amazing amount of peace to your life.
Another resource for creating margin in your life is the book “I will teach you to be Rich” by Rami Samit. He has some great insight about how to think about money. He also has some effective ways to save money on common expenditures.
Life is no fun when we are overworked, overwhelmed and out of cash. Therefore, I encourage you to look at the areas of your life that are causing you stress. See if you can find a way to add margin to that area.
Saying no to some things (even temporarily) can bring some peace and sanity to your life. With that space, you can see clearly ahead to other changes that could be made or to follow the dreams of your heart.
I wish you peace in your life and space to dream your dreams.
Please let me know what you plan to do this week to add margin to your life. Also, if you have a tip or trick that is working for you, we would love for you to share.