We recently conducted a Team offsite. It was what many organizations do in preparation for a new year. Our leadership director, Jennifer Owen-O’Quill, did a fabulous job in leading us through the thought process for focusing on things that help drive success.
During our discussion, the topic of life margin came up. For those who were familiar with life margin, this resonated highly. Those that were not, it needed some further explanation. In short, it was about the real vs the ideal. In other words, how do we make the big things happen without getting excessively overwhelmed? We work on creating margin in our lives.
Scott Eblin in his excellent book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative,
reminds us that we need to be mindful of what our best looks and feels like. My experience has been that the resolution to almost all our professional / personal challenges is linked to how mindful we are of the balance between these four areas:
Time, Energy, People and Communication
Tips for creating life margin:
§ Define the ideal vs the real and intentionally sculpt time to move life towards the ideal.
§ Actively manage personal energy in addition to managing time on the calendar.
§ Set tactful boundaries around people and limit exposure to negativity or toxicity.
§ Know our default personality wiring and that of the important people around us.
The goal is to create some margin for error and for the unexpected. For this to happen we really
have two choices. We can either work faster or accept that not everything will get done, (at least
when we think it should). Please understand this is not excusing lack of productivity, quite the opposite, it’s protecting it! If we can intentionally build in margin, we have some wiggle room and will become less stressed, healthier and more productive.
Living habitually in an overwhelmed state is a recipe for disaster
I will be presenting in an academic setting on Stephen Covey’s seventh habit, sharpening the saw. To sharpen the saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have--you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual.
Stephen Covey points out examples of activities that create life margin and sharpen the saw below.
1) Physical: Beneficial eating, exercising, and resting
2) Social/Emotional: Making social and meaningful connections with others
3) Mental: Learning, reading, writing, and teaching
4) Spiritual: Spending time in nature, expanding spiritual self through meditation, music, art, prayer, or service
Some of my favorite / memorable quotes from Mr. Covey:
§ Start with the end in mind.
§ Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
§ The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
§ The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule,
but to schedule your priorities.
§ Trust is the glue of life. It's the most essential ingredient in effective communication.
It's the foundational principle that holds all relationships.
§ There are three constants in life...change, choice and principles.
§ Live out of your imagination, not your history.
§ Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.
§ The way we see the problem is the problem.
§ Effective leadership puts first things first. Effective management is discipline,
carrying it out
So, let’s go out there and create some life margin then fill in around the edges. Cheers!