Forget Balance. Find Margin.

Sep 28, 2020

For many years I've advised my clients to routinely find 10% extra margin in their lives. During times of stress and crisis, this practice is vital. More than ever, we need emotional margin to process the turmoil we're experiencing. We need more psychological elbow room to respond to events that have thrown us off our game.

In times of crisis, we logistically and spiritually need extra room for space and grace. Carving out a 10% margin is the most practical way I've found to do that. One small decision, one small choice at a time.

10% less emails.

10% less social media.

10% more time getting ready for the day.

10% more time winding down for the evening.

10% more space between you and the car in front of you.

10% more time listening than talking.

10% more time being than doing. 

10% changes everything. Maybe even your life.

Think about a typical 40-hour work week (remember those?). Can you imagine being handed a stress-free four hours each week - an entire half day every single week!  Hours just for you, without other obligations creeping in. Four hours of margin for simply thinking, relaxing, imagining, musing. 

How does that happen? Marie Kondo-ing your schedule? (That's actually a pretty good idea).

Here's where the magic resides: you don't earn those four hours by working harder, smarter, faster during the other 36. If that were the case, you would be using your extra hours simply to recover from the sprint.

You have that margin because you set limits and made choices. You drew boundaries. You said 'no' to things. You let imperfect action be okay for things that didn't need to be perfect (and really...that applies to most things.)

You find margin by being more present in whatever you're doing, not by frantically "balancing" an ever-growing list of things to do. You have less to do because you have turned a "maybe yes" into "hell no!"

You've gotten clearer on the essentials and less tolerant of meaningless distractions.

And while gaining that extra margin, you've eliminated other things: reactiveness, a quick temper, rushing, careless mistakes, sloppiness, cutting corners. 

Moving forward, the easiest way to ensure there is margin in your life is to pause for at least 24-hours before you say 'yes' to any new commitment - no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Any one obligation, in and of itself, seems manageable -'s only two board meetings a year

...just a few extra emails each week

...just a few extra errands 

...just a few more numbers to crunch

...just a few more calls to make

...I'll just do it myself until I can find a replacement will be a good experience

And there goes your 10%. Probably more like 20%. 

Heading into the holiday season of the most trying and tumultuous year in memory, start creating extra margin now. 

Yes, it's hard with your kids at home, with your office in your kitchen, without typical entertainment and vacation options. 

But it's always hard. In adult life, there is never a moment when the great organizer-in-the-sky opens the heavens and says "I've cleared your schedule! Namaste!"

In some ways, Covid has forced us to slow down. Look around. 

Are you seeing any margin? If not, now is a great time to start finding it.

Don't waste a chance to make room for breathing - and for being.

Peace to you - 


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