How time management & “margin” can bring you more peace & joy
The generic “ how are you?” question used to always elicit the response- “I’m fine.” These days, it seems the new normal is “I’m busy.” Busyness has become a badge of honor and pride in our culture. We equate busyness with success, productivity, and even popularity at times. Often, we fear if we don’t respond with “I’m busy” then we might be labeled as lazy, unmotivated, or uninterested. How can we change this?
We would argue that the root of our busyness issue lies in time management. We find our selves busy because we over commit and allow our obligations to determine our schedules. We must regain control over our commitments and create vision for our lives by determining what is truly important to us.
Tips for breaking free from “I’m busy”:
1. Commit to a calendar: If you are an electronic person, utilize your ical that you can easily be accessible on your computer & iphone. You can create individual color- coded calendars for each of your children, your workout classes, household maintenance, and social events. Or, you can personalize your favorite paper calendar from places such as Erin Condren or the Mom Agenda. Do not commit to an event before you check your calendar for conflicts and “full” days.
2. Learn to say no: It is perfectly acceptable to decline an invitation. Know your limits and be firm with where you need to draw the line to protect your personal health and family life. Even if you are free you may decline. Carving out time for your self is critical.
3. Create Margin: Like the margin on a legal pad or novel, you must learn to allow for empty and blank space in your day. There will always things that pop up and sometimes you just need those extra 45 minutes before carpool to catch your breath. It is in the margins of life where we find our peace, rest, and sanity.
4. Work backwards: When you have a project due or a party to throw, it is best to work backwards. For example, if you have a presentation at the PTA board meeting in a month, set weekly task objectives to stay on top of it. Or, if you are hosting a dinner party, lay out all your recipes, create a timeline for when each dish needs to go in the oven based on cooking time and temperature. Complete your prep work the night before and lay out your serving pieces with sticky-notes with where things will go.
5. “Check-ins:” Always look ahead so that things don’t catch you off guard. Sunday night, review your week to prepare anything that needs to be done in advance. Each morning, glance at your calendar so when you leave to take your children to school, you have your daughters dance bag, your yoga mat, reusable grocery bags, and a birthday gift for the friend you are meeting for lunch. You will feel less frazzled and caught off guard when you can visually review the upcoming weeks and days.
6. Goal setting & prioritizing: Make time for what is important to you. With the new year upon us, it is the perfect opportunity to carve out a few moments to truly define your “big picture goals” based on your values and desires for the upcoming year. What do you want to be about? Who do you want to be?
Here is your challenge: Try to create “margin” in your day for the little things you really love- walks with friends, yogurt dates with your kids, a glass of wine with your spouse. When every minute of the day is maxed, we miss out on the things that truly bring us joy. This new year, resolve to let go busyness and add more “margin” to find simplicity in your own life.