Our students have no margin.
That was my takeaway after doing a time tracking activity with the student journalists who myself and another full-time adviser advise.
The last time I had done the time-tracking activity with students, we discovered interesting takeaways about how we used social media or how much Netflix they were watching. They were able to find margin, or space, in their schedules, even when they previously thought there was none.
My current students did not find down time, at least not that they reported. Instead, most of them were running from classes to jobs and back again. They reported staying up late to do homework and feeling like they were always running from one thing to the next. They discovered that they felt this way because it was true. One student literally went from one scheduled class or meeting to the next all afternoon and into the evening. Another student regularly misses required meetings or other classes while she works several jobs and keeps up with a demanding major.
Our students have no margin, and that’s a problem.
“Your best ideas happen during margin time,” said Craig Groeschel, LifeChurch.tv pastor and leadership speaker.
I agree, which is one reason not having margin is problematic. Another is that the opposite of margin is overload, which is stressful and not sustainable. If you are overloaded and don’t find a way to create margin in your life, you’ll burn out and possibly even get ill.
Here are seven ways to create margin in your life.
What do you value most? What are your goals?
Once you know what’s important to you, you can question how your current activities are moving you toward your goals. If they aren’t, you can eliminate them.
Without knowing what’s important to you, you’ll spend your time on activities that have little value.
Aren’t sure how to set or accomplish goals? Read 5 Steps to Accomplishing Your Goals.
2. Eliminate time wasters
As I wrote previously, most of our students didn’t identify or didn’t share time wasters, but they probably have some. If you’re spending more than four hours a day on TV and the same amount each day on your phone, like most Americans, you can’t really complain about not feeling like you have enough time for things that are important to you.
3. Say no
Be picky about how you use your time. Say no to anything that doesn’t further your goals.
Not good at saying “no?” I wasn’t either, but I’ve figured it out now. Read 7 Guilt-Free Ways to Say “No” for help.
4. Evaluate your schedule
Are you doing the things you need to be doing? Are there things you should eliminate. Sometimes creating margin means quitting things we have committed to but no longer serve us.
5. Leave buffers
Give yourself buffer time when scheduling activities. Book enough time in your schedule to have at least 10-15 minutes between each thing. Don’t forget time to eat meals and commute. Also, don’t be afraid to just book downtime for yourself to rest and recharge, even if you have to put it in your calendar as a “meeting” with yourself to make it happen.
6. Reduce tech
I love technology just as much as the next person, but being constantly on our devices makes us feel like we don’t have any off time, even when we do.
Take time away from your phone. Leave it charging in another room so you aren’t tempted to respond to emails, check social media or play games. You’ll feel more relaxed, even if you just do this for a short time each day.
Don’t believe me? Read How You Can “Make Time” by Eliminating Tech Distractions.
7. Guard it
Once you begin to create margin in your schedule, guard it. Don’t let it refill with tasks that eliminate the space you’ve created. No one else will do this for you.
Once you’ve created a life without margin, you have to work to get it back, but it’s worth doing. What other ways do you recommend to create margin in your life?