What if you opened a book and it had no margins? Would you put it down and find something else to read or would you push through to get to the end?
It is the middle of November, with only seven weeks left in the year, and many leaders feel pressured to fill every minute to get things done. For many of us, the end of the year creates or compounds stress as we figure out how to meet year-end deadlines, reach financial targets and achieve goals while working around holidays and planning for 2024. It is no wonder that even though holidays are considered relaxing, magical and heartwarming, they are often equally overloaded, stressful and anxiety filled.
In fact, 51% of employees feel that their stress levels increase as they anticipate the end of the year. In the book Margin, Dr. Richard Swenson suggests that while leaders might have good intentions, they provide little time or space for employees or themselves to breathe, relax and think, especially at the end of the year.
Building in margin in our lives is not merely about figuring out the best way of doing what is required of you. It is about how to create more open, unscheduled time to rest and think. We all need to build margin into our lives, yet most of us don’t know where to start. Consider the following:
💡Make a list of what you can stop doing that isn’t necessary, for example:
1. Avoid saying yes to all requests, especially holiday gatherings.
2. Consider who else might attend a meeting instead of you to gain visibility.
3. Reduce the number of virtual meetings you schedule each day.
4. Decline invitations that cause more stress than joy.
5. Avoid double-booking similar activities such as two book clubs, over-volunteering, encouraging your children to play multiple sports that you want/need to attend, etc.
💡Make another list of what you can start doing to build in more margin, such as:
1. Set boundaries around work and life activities that are most important to you, such as time for a devotional, playing with your child, reading a book for pleasure, playing or just listening to music.
2. Schedule shorter meetings, when possible, or start at 10 minutes after the hour.
3. Leave a buffer of time between meetings and activities so that you’re less rushed or afraid of being late.
4. Block time on your calendar to think each day and for reflection after meetings.
5. On the weekend, schedule time for “Mentor-Me” time for yourself, even if just for a 30-minute walk or soak in the tub.
💡Finally, make a list of what you can continue doing that has worked for you in the past—to help you stay mindful, focused and inspired.
When we make space to think and rest, we live a more purposeful and intentional life, and are able to reduce end-of-year stress. When we spend time away from the routine, we make better decisions—and create healthier margins and boundaries in our life—so we have the bandwidth available for self and others.
How about seeking open spaces today? Take just a quiet minute for yourself. Marvel at the beauty of the changing season and just be.
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