I like to think that at 35-years-old I know how to create margin in my life. After all, I speak on the topic, I write about the topic, and I preach it to all my friends any chance I get. But wouldn’t you know, yours truly found herself feeling a tad overwhelmed recently.
I have a problem. I tend to commit to too many things because well, I really like to get stuff done. At any given time, you’ll find me wearing many different hats including being a mom and a wife. Like now for instance, I’m secretary of PTO, a Girl Scout Troop leader, an intern for a famous Christian speaker/author, a substitute at a preschool, a parenting freelance journalist, and a soon-to-be graduate school applicant. What the heck is wrong with me? I asked myself that question a few weeks ago and felt the need to write down what was most important to me so I could start to scale back on a few things.
As I sipped my coffee and thought about all of my commitments, I was reminded about the three most important things in my life; Dylan, Hannah, and Elinor. I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote their names down. I listed everything else that was taking time away from my kids and I rated them in order of importance. I asked myself questions like:
- Does this bring me joy?
- Do I like this?
- Is it worth my time?
- Do I enjoy what I’m doing?
- Is it adding value to my life?
If my answers reflected anything other than a positive response, I knew it was time to reevaluate my commitment. I made some decisions and decided to sleep on it to make sure I felt the same way in the morning. One of the hardest things for me to do when I’m trying to make more margin in my life, is to let go of things that I “think” I need to be doing. But here’s the thing, sometimes I have to give things up even when I don’t want to. So I went back to my piece of paper and wrote down my criteria for which things were allowed to stay in my life and which ones had to go.
- What’s my favorite activity I’m involved in right now?
- Do I have the time needed to commit to this?
- Is this something I could let go of and give to someone else?
- Have I fulfilled my obligations?
- Is what I’m doing causing me to lose sleep and stressing me out?
Breaking things down into bite-sized pieces like this helps me to create more margin in my life one day at a time. The more things I say “yes” to now, will result in me having to say “no” to other things in the future. I want to be able to have the room to say yes if something new comes my way. I also want to be able to do the things I love and do them well.
When I start snapping at my kids for the little things…when I stop returning my friends’ phone calls because I’m too busy…when I’m eating my lunch standing up…when I’m late on my writing deadlines…when I haven’t been to the gym…when I’m spending more time in my car than in my home…I know I’m too busy and I need to make some changes.
Creating margin one day at a time requires first, an awareness of feeling overwhelmed and two, a desire to want to make some changes. If you can do those two things, you have the power to take control over your entire life.