Margin, otherwise known as buffer or white space, is one of the most overlooked + undervalued tools for a productive day.
I’ll be using these terms interchangeably throughout this article. It doesn’t matter what you call it, the thing to remember is that you need it!
Life rarely goes according to plan. We can’t control 100 percent of what happens in life.
Unexpected things pop up.
Even a good opportunity may seem like an inconvenience when your schedule is filled to the max.
The unexpected is one of the things I’ve enjoyed the most about home schooling. You can take time for important life lessons when the opportunity presents itself.
But it wasn’t always that way.
As a work-at-home-schooling mum I’ve learnt the value of having margin in my schedule. Sometimes I’ve been reminded the hard way.
I’ll get to some tips for making more space in your day in a moment. First I want to ask …
Is productivity a trick or treat?
It’s easy to buy into the idea of scheduling every minute of your day. Like it’s some sort of magic wand for productivity that will get things done quicker + easier.
But it’s not true.
Especially since we have no idea what the day will hold. We plan as if nothing will go wrong + everything will be as it’s looks on paper. Picture perfect.
If only it were that simple.
And if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about planning + productivity, life never looks like it does on paper.
Buying into that kind of productivity is a trick. It’s a disguise. And one that keeps you on the hamster wheel of todos.
Planning your day that way teaches you how to squeeze more and more and more and more into your schedule. Well, you get the idea.
It can be the cause of feeling stressed out, worn out and ultimately burnt out.
Productivity is a two sided coin that can serve you well, when you remember to flip it over to the other side.
Treat yourself to space
The other side of the productivity coin is efficiency. Think of it as a chocolate coin because it’s smooth just like an effective + productive plan.
Neither of those two sides of the coin come together without space.
It takes time to analyse how you are doing things so you can do them better. You can read more about how to be more efficient here.
But there’s more reasons to make space in your schedule than being efficient.
And you know I’m all about space, since my business is called WhiteSpace. It’s an incredibly important aspect of great design.
Actually it’s a fundamental building block. It gives visual breathing room for the eye. It improves legibility and helps communicate the message to the reader.
White space gives design meaning.
And just like the meaning white space gives to design, it does the same for our lives.
Have more of this
When you clear the clutter and schedule margin in your day, you give yourself room to breathe.
You have time for the unexpected + wonderful moments to connect with your kids or a new opportunity in business.
With a bit of space you’re now in charge of your todo list rather than it controlling you.
And instead of trying to wrestle your todo list, you’ve now got more time + energy to come up with new ideas, creative solutions, even enjoy a relaxing dinner with your family.
For me, great ideas come when I’m doing things that have nothing to do with my work.
Stepping away from work or a challenging situation to do something peaceful and relaxing is a great way of giving your mind the space it needs to do it’s best work.
Margin gives you options, time to think and be proactive, not just reactive.
With space in your schedule you’ve now got time each day to feed your body, mind and spirit. And get some extra sleep because you’re not running through your todos or trying to remember a bunch of stuff for tomorrow.
And this one took me a while to learn because I was always 10 steps ahead in my mind, living in the moment. I had to make some tough decisions, learn to slow down, say no more often than I was use to + give myself some boundaries. But it was worth it.
The space in your day is the void where you live out our best life. It’s where you bridge the gap between where we are and where we want to be.
You may be forgetting one thing
All that may sound like a fairy tale, pie in the sky or a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow if you don’t remember this one thing.
Space in your schedule, your life doesn’t just happen. You won’t automatically have spare time.
You have to be intentional + purposeful about building margin into your day.
If you don’t guard your time, there will always be another email, job or person ready to show you how to use it.
So here are some tips to help you build some margin in your day so you’ve got time for the things that matter most.
Tips to have more margin in your day
Use these tips when planing your day to leave some space unoccupied to live your best life :
Plan your day the night before
Write a short list, maybe just your top three todos. Create a new time map of your week and purposefully schedule in some blank space and leave it unoccupied. This will help you know what time you actually have to get things done. You may need to lower your expectations. Remember, your plans should serve you, not drive you.
Get clear on what’s important
Remember the word priority is singular. Know what you’re one focus is and plan your schedule around it. Make time for the things that really matter each day. Create a routine + form habits that make doing them automatic.
Set boundaries on your time
It’s amazing how often you have to pull yourself in. Yes, that creative idea is amazing but is now the right time to be taking action. Keep a note book or journal for writing ideas down so you can come back at a more appropriate time.
Say no more often
This one is easier aid than done. But just like working out, your ‘no’ muscle gets stronger the more you use it. So learn different ways to say no gracefully, especially to yourself.
Procrastinate on purpose
Know when to not take action and enjoy putting things on hold. Recognise when you’re using procrastination as a distraction and make some changes.
Give yourself extra time to get things done
We are terrible estimators. Give yourself a bit more time and add on another 5, 10, even 15 minutes to that task.
Be aware of your energy and seasons
Change your routines + schedule to make the best use of the season and the time of day when you do your best work.
Margin, buffer or white space doesn’t just happen. You have to purposefully schedule it in. It may feel awkward first, even wasteful as you mind tells you all the things it could be doing. But stick to it because it won’t take long before you reap the rewards and wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.