Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Creating Margin in an Overcommitted World

Steps to Finally Put Some Margin in Your Life

When we hear great leaders in any field say, “I realized that I had to be in control of my own life so I made some painful decisions that I wish I had made years ago.

In the past weeks, I’ve mentioned the importance of creating margin in your life. The book Smart Leadership also puts the spotlight on this—to be the best version of yourself, margin is absolutely necessary.

But how and where do you begin?


STEP 1: Truly understand margin and what you are shooting for!

You have to have 100% confidence that you know where you are headed on this one. Then YOU will be able to create margin effectively. So keep these in mind:

  • Margin is NOT a vacation. Yes, you need a vacation from time to time, but just because you scheduled a vacation, it doesn’t mean it can double as margin.
  • Margin is NOT a time blocked for emails. Don’t create “margin” just to catch up on work and backlogs! Productivity is a whole different story.
  • Margin is NOT extracurricular. It’s not optional. It’s not something to do “in your free time.” Margin must be INTENTIONAL. Your “busyness” and lack of energy to work on the important things are both a result of not being super intentional in this area.


Step 2: Know what margin looks like!

You’ve got to know what margin actually is. When you create margin, you create the following:

Focus time – It can be as short as two hours a month, or even an entire day per month. When most people see the results, they go every-other-week! Focus days are when you THINK, REFLECT, and PLAN. Assess your past month and pick out learnings and frustrations. If I had one hour of margin built-in to plan my next four days, I would do this:

  • 3 minutes of meditation/quieting my inner self.
  • 8 minutes of asking what went great the past week
  • 2 minutes of recognizing my areas for improvement from the past week
  • 15 minutes reviewing my calendar of the next week. What can I give away, etc.
  • 5 minutes break (water or tea)
  • 10 minutes deciding which 1 priority would be the most meaningful to complete
  • 10 minutes breaking that down into “doable” parts (What info, which calls, etc)
  • 5 minutes working on a prioritized list: items I could do in 10 minutes or less.

Morning Ritual – A lot of leaders choose to create margin in their life every single day by way of a morning ritual. What happens during morning rituals? Anything! It can be reading, meditating, or some other spiritual practices. Again, this is not something you do when you’re FREE. It’s a daily ritual for margin. (Check out Miracle Mornings.)

Daily Review – Similar to the morning ritual, the daily review is a daily commitment. It’s when you review what happened during the day, and if what happened contributed to your growth. Some leaders choose both a morning ritual and daily review (see steps 2 and 3 above).

Personal Retreats – Some leaders have annual personal retreats, and they have it blocked off—it doesn’t get canceled or postponed. Instead, it’s the rest of their schedule that works around this. Many great leaders take the week after Christmas.

After Action Review – This is interesting, because it’s a good reminder that margin is not only for individuals. As a leader, it’s always best to set an example. One way to do this is to set aside time with your team right after a major event or activity. Take time to assess what went well and what didn’t—and come up with solutions together.

Third and final step in creating margin: Learn to create margin in the moment

While margin can be planned out and scheduled, Mark Miller also talks about a very interesting concept: summoning margin on demand. How do you do it?

  1. Stop. Hit the pause button on any impulsive reaction. Learn the discipline of not letting the moment control you.
  2. Listen. Take in what’s happening and listen actively without thinking of how to respond.
  3. Think. Take time to think and really get into it: options, insights, clues, and strategies.
  4. Decide. Finally, come to a decision on how you’re going to act in the given situation.  

Boom! You just read something.
Now one question remains: are you going to do something?


You won’t get it right the first time—that’s not the goal. You will accomplish YOUR GOAL of becoming more intentional about getting margin in your life.


Take 10minutes to start. If you have the time now: deep breath… exhale… deep breath…exhale… now start. If you don’t have the time now, where is the exact time and exact place you’ll be when you give this a shot for 10 minutes? Put it in your calendar in the next few days—then accomplish that goal!


How’s your progress in creating margin? Are you stuck somewhere? Feel free to hit me up!


Dr. Rob

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