Creating Margin in Your LIfe – It’s Not Just about Cleaning out Your Closets!

Springtime is here and for many of us that means spring cleaning. I really enjoy cleaning out my closets and organizing my home and office. Cleaning out my closets and cabinets gives me margin. It allows me to create physical space for any new items I want to buy and to see what I already have more clearly. It feels great once things are cleared, cleaned and organized.

Luckily that spring clean feeling does not have to be confined to closets and cabinets. Every year I choose a theme for the year (more on that in a future post) and last year my theme was Margin. In addition to cleaning out my closets, I vowed to examine the space, or lack thereof, in my calendar, in my finances and in my relationships with a goal of creating more margin in my life overall. I define margin as the spaciousness in various areas of my life. With margin, there is room for growth, development and the unexpected pleasures of life. Without margin, there is clutter, stress, anxiety and the potential for disaster.

So, now that its spring once again, I am revisiting this theme and looking at the margin in my life. I know my closets need a good spring cleaning, but where else in my life can I purge and create more space for what’s next?

My calendar is usually the first place I look for additional margin. As a coach, one of the things I hear from clients all the time is that they are crazy busy. Many of my clients say that they run from meeting to meeting to meeting only to then return emails, return phone calls, drive home and start the craziness again with dinnertime, helping with homework, putting kids to bed, catching up on housework, exercise, etc. The list goes on and on.

I am exhausted even thinking about this type of schedule. There is no margin at all in a schedule like this one. There is no extra time to think, plan, or even breathe. Furthermore there is absolutely no room for the unexpected, and we all know that life is filled with the unexpected. While I am happy to say that my calendar does not look like this anymore, there was a time when it certainly did.

Now, after years of work, I have created much more margin in my day-to-day life. I try to schedule meetings and phone calls with time in between for breaks. I build in extra time to travel to and from events in case there is unusual traffic (which in Atlanta there often is). While I frequently arrive early, I use that time to return phone calls and emails or to read and think.

I also try to avoid overscheduling my free time by leaving days and portions of days completely open to see what will unfold. And, even with all this change, there is still room for improvement and some spring cleaning. I am once again looking at my calendar and considering carefully where I feel rushed, pressed for time or without the room to breathe or think. These are the times when I need margin, and by looking critically at how I schedule, I hope to create more of that sort of needed space.

I also plan to once again look critically at the margin I am creating in my finances and my relationships as well. The same basic principles apply. Where there is margin, there is room for breathing, for what’s next, and for the unexpected.

Where do you need more margin in your life? How will you create that much-needed extra space?