Priorities: Creating Margin In Your Day

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Time is an equal opportunity provider. Everyone gets 24 hours in a day and we do not have the ability to slow it down or speed it up, even though at times it feels like the day is moving at a snail’s pace, and other times like it’s flying by. Stress is also inside those 24 hours and it’s actually a normal part of life. On and off, stress can have a useful purpose in gaining perspective. It can motivate us to get that promotion at work or run the last mile of a 10K. However, nobody escapes the pressures of modern life so we need to determine how to spend the 24 hours we have each day. What if we improve the way we manage ourselves and our time by prioritizing? One goal would be determining how important a task is and its urgency.

William James said, “The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.” Having too many priorities paralyzes people. When we make everything a priority, nothing ends up being a priority; this realization can teach us about what we consider to be most important. We can follow a few priority principles, for instance, working smarter has a higher return than working harder. This can save energy, increase productivity, increase motivation, and increase our self-esteem. However, working smarter requires creativity. There are times when we need to re-think how a task is done, whether at the job or non-job related. Also, it helps to be proactive rather than reactive. Prepare, plan ahead, anticipate problems, seize the moment, and invest time in people.

With saying all of this, it is beneficial to learn how to create margin because it gives us time to think. Margin is unscheduled time that you can use in whatever way refreshes you. This in turn improves self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Particularly, for people in a leadership role, if all time is spent completing tasks and not thinking about what they’re doing, they won’t be a very effective leader. Margin creates space for energy renewal, relationships, exercise, recreation, travel, music, or whatever recharges your batteries. Lastly, “Strive for progress, not perfection.” – Unknown. Some days will be harder than others, but keep pushing through. Fall in love with the process. Be patient with yourself, work hard, and remember that success is dependent on effort.