Throughout the last few years, I’ve become a firm believer in the need for margin in my life. Without it, I become overwhelmed and overworked.
Having white space in my day allows me to breathe, think and keep my creative juices flowing. It gives me energy and zest for life — which is a beautiful thing.
Now, I know that about right now, most of you are simultaneously nodding your heads and shaking them back and forth. You long for that breathing room in your day, but it seems impossible to pull off with your current packed-to-the-max schedule of must-dos.
Well, here are four suggestions that have helped me achieve that much-longed-for and greatly needed margin in my life:
1. Have a Plan
While I think there is such a thing as spending too much time planning to stall the actual execution, I’m a big proponent of spending at least fifteen minutes mapping out my day before my day begins.
I just jot down the things I need to accomplish and am planning to accomplish that day and the approximate times when I plan to do them. I typically write these lists out for each day in a cheap notebook. It’s nothing sophisticated, but having a simple plan for each day improves my productivity and focus in a big way. When I finish one thing, I move onto the next.
Of course, there are interruptions, and things that come up. And some days, if a fairly big disaster happens, I end up chucking the list or completely re-vamping it. But if I didn’t have a plan in the first place, I’d be guaranteed not to get as much done. In fact, I’d probably spend most of the day running around in circles.
2. Simplify and Say “No”
Want to know a surefire secret to having more margin in your day? Plan less to do from the get-go. It works every time!
In this day and age, it’s almost as if there’s some sort of holy merit in packing our day to gills. As if busyness is next to godliness.
But all that sets you up for is exhaustion, burn-out and a mom who doesn’t have time to enjoy her kids and nurture her marriage.
So when I’m done writing my daily to-do list or plan, I try to make a habit of evaluating the list immediately and crossing off three non-essentials before I even start on the list. This exercise not only instantly frees up some space and time in my day, but it also helps me focus on the most important things instead of getting caught up spending a lot of time on something that might not really have much worth or value.
3. Get Up Early
I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve found that when I get up at least 30 minutes before my family does, I seem to have at least an extra hour or two in my day. However, when I wake up when my kids do — or am woken up by them telling me excitedly that it’s time to get up, I start the day behind. And I rarely catch up.
Being intentional about setting the alarm clock at least 30 minutes before I know anyone else in my family will wake up gives me time to sip some coffee and read my Bible and then make a game plan for the day. If I’m able to get up a little earlier, I can also slip in some blogging, exercise and maybe even a shower before the whole house is up and bustling with activity.
4. Do the Hardest Things First
I’ve discovered that I’m really good at spending the day stalling, keeping busy with lots of different non-essentials to avoid doing those things that really need to be done but that I dislike doing. This leaves me exhausted at the end of the day with little to show for my efforts but a lot of busy work.
As I’ve realized this, I’ve been challenging myself to stop putting off that thing I wish I could avoid but must do. Instead, I make myself just do it. And do it first thing.
It’s amazing how much more I get done when I start my day by doing the hardest things first. You know what else? I seem to float through the rest of the day with ease and cheerfulness because I got the burden of my hardest thing off my back first thing in the morning.
What tricks and tips do you have for finding more margin your day?