This is my actual calendar for next week. Notice how little margin I have.
Recently, I’ve heard the term “margin” uttered more frequently. Granted, I’ve been listening to podcasts about creativity and time management, but the word kept getting stuck in my craw (I’ve always wanted to say that). What struck me the most was not that I didn’t know what a margin is, but rather, I didn’t know what I was doing with mine.
It never occurred to me that I have been completely neglecting these opportunities.
To clarify, I’m not talking about the margins you adjust on your research paper to help you hit the 10 page minimum requirement. If you are unfamiliar with the term, margin refers to the time between scheduled events in your life.
For example, the time between me waking up and going to work is my “creative” margin. This is time I set aside to work on what I am passionate about – writing.
In a way, we all subconsciously plan what we are going to do with the margins in our life. But are we using our margins effectively?
I believe it is important for our generation to consider how we plan our time. I know quite a few people who always seem overwhelmed and flustered, running from event to event; heck I’ve been like this before. I’ve also known millennials who are lazy because they have no idea what to do with their time (yup, been guilty of this, too).
This blog post is two fold: on one hand, I want millennials to start fighting to regain more margin in their lives, and, on the other, I want them to establish this time for the important things.
Fight For Yo’ Time
It was another long day at work. As I came in through the door, I threw down my bag and plopped down on the couch – I would remain there for the majority of the evening.
“Oh crap, I haven’t written a blog post yet,” I thought. It was pointless. I had the time, but my mind was shot. So I put on Netflix to help fill the void. Erica joined me and we wasted away the night.
I woke up the next day and repeated the same process.
This was last March (2014), a time filled with stress from work and a complete lack of creative juice to keep our Cooking in College blog going. Now you might read this and think it sounds quite ordinary, which it is, we all have these days. However, this was everyday for me!
I was stuck in this horrible routine, and I know some of you reading this are in the same boat.
Now fast forward to about a month ago, when I would come home and race to get blog post written for A Millennial Type, take photos for our secret project, and research for my new podcast.
I went from one extreme to the next, from having too much time to not having enough. The root cause: lack of boundaries.
The struggle we face is not having the time or having too much time. No, the struggle is failing to define what to do with it. We need to set boundaries.
Michael Hyatt, a prominent life coach blogger, is much busier than me, but he structures his week in such a way to make the best use of his time. He’s not a proponent of scheduling every minute of your day and living by the calendar. Instead he recognizes that, “The calendar was made for man, not man for the calendar.”
I agree, the best way to fight for your margins is with pen and paper (or your smartphone calendar app). Here’s how:
- Start with a clean slate – Forget about your current schedule: using a piece of paper, excel sheet, iCalendar or Google calendar, begin by filling in the times for recurring events such as work, grocery shopping, or your exercising.
- Identify the important things in your life – Is spending time with friends important to you? Put that down. Do you want to be more creative? Pencil it in. If it helps you to achieve your goals, make sure it’s on your calendar. (More on this subject later)
- Fill in the empty spaces – It’s okay to have “free time” but here is your chance to fill in the less important things like making time for House of Cards or cuddling with your cat.
- Make it visible – Put your calendar some place where you will see it everyday. If it is too difficult to follow, fine tune it and keep plugging away.
- Accept variance – There will be days when things don’t go according to schedule. Don’t panic, we are all human.
The Important Things
Recently Erica and I published our first ebook, A Millennial Manifesto, which has really taken off. If you still haven’t read it, you can get a copy here for free.
The purpose of creating this book was to inspire millennials to do what’s important in life. We understand that what’s important in your life is obviously defined by you; however, we do believe that there is a common thread among all of us.
In A Millennial Manifesto, we challenge the reader to ask themselves important questions, like:
- Are you living life like you matter?
- Are you just making a mess or creating art?
- Do you avoid conflict or do you persevere through hardship?
- Why did you stop dreaming?
Our hope is that by asking yourself these questions, you will be more able to identify what’s really important in your life, and know what can be discarded.
Well, stop reading this and go take back your time! But one more thing, don’t forget to make time for rest and leisure. We’re not machines after all.