“The hurrier I go, the behinder I get,” said Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Though written over 150 years, it remains a timeless truth, even as it seems the pace of our lives have quickened considerably from Alice’s time.
For all the activities we engage in professionally and personally, we feel like we’re falling farther and farther behind. And in our hurry to catch up we sacrifice the one thing that can keep us going: our margin.
Margin is that time we have that’s unassigned by a demand. I like to think of it as creative space–time to think creatively, not reactively. The problem is, getting creative time like that consistently is hard to do. There are three things keeping you and me from creating more margin in our lives:
- We’ve become acclimated to our present approach. We’re wired to take the path of least resistance. That’s because, as neuroscientist Gregory Berns puts it, our brains are “a lazy piece of meat.” We form habits in the way we work, the way we respond to events, how we prioritize, etc. It takes either a great deal of intentionality or a crisis to revisit our habits and why we do what we do.
- We respond out of anxiety. Let’s be honest about anxiety for a moment. It’s real. And it keeps us focused on the next thing that needs to be done. We respond reactively to the urgent, moving from one thing to the next. Those of us with a high bias for action can actually feed on the adrenaline that comes from achievement, knocking things off the list like bowling pins. Though we might complain about the size of our to-do list, secretly we don’t want the list to end. We dare admit that it fuels our sense of identity, accomplishment, and meaning.
- We don’t have an alternate strategy. When we get overloaded, we know only one course of action: start canceling things. We renege on promises. We cancel appointments. We try to recover whatever possibility of hope we can to catch up by bailing out on our commitments. It’s just for a short time, we tell ourselves, perhaps unaware how our only strategy creates its own problems.
A persistent lack of margin creates fatigue and saps your creative best. If you find yourself being more reactive and less creative than you’d like to be, then I invite you to join me at the Strategic Margin Workshop on November 11th at the Minnesota Valley Country Club in Bloomington, MN.
I’ll be sharing practical tools, built around solid cognitive science principles, that leaders can implement to improve how they think about and manage their business and personal lives. These are the same tools I’ve developed over the last four years that have helped me lead two companies, two non-profits, serve on several boards and still have time for creative endeavors.
As a reader of this blog, you will receive a $100 discount off the registration by using the promo code: “LG16”
Comment below: What are some of the obstacles you’ve found to creating margin?