Having Time Margin To Do Important Things

Margin in our lives is needed to be able to pursue our life purpose.  We must build in to our schedules unplanned blocks to address what comes up just from living life, and we must plan in what is important, or it will get squeezed out.

Lately, I have had no time margin in my life.  We just moved into new offices, and the time and energy required to manage the transition, plus everyday duties that continued, sucked all of the excess time I had out of my schedule.  I actually fell behind, and experienced negative time margin for a few days, as things that needed to be done were not done.

At least for me, when we finally get settled in our new environment, I will get the time back that was consumed by our move.  We all have those one time events that demand extra from us.  But what about the daily and weekly pressures that keeps us always scrambling to get things done?

The Tyranny of the Urgent

The urgent has a way of calling us to address the situation, issue, or problem.  We become slaves to the urgent things in our lives as we address them when they arise, and they always do.

But is that urgent thing demanding my time truly important?  I have found that the urgent things are usually not important.  And by the time I have finished addressing the urgent things, there is no time for what is important.  This makes me feel stressed and frustrated because I feel like my life is out of control.

Breaking Free

How can we break free and get control of our time?  As I have learned from others that have gained control of the time in their lives so they can live life on purpose, here is what I have done:

  1. Identified all that was important to me and prioritized them.  My list included: (a) personal devotion time, (b) time with my wife, (c) family time, (d) exercise time, (e) time to plan and strategize for my God-given calling, (f) time to interact with clients, and more that I will not bother to list.  On each priority item, I wrote beside it why it was important.
  2. Became realistic about what I could accomplish. As a driven person, my ambitions exceed my ability to do them.  I prayed for direction by asking God what He wanted me to focus my time and energy on.
  3. Assessed my current life schedule.  What was I doing everyday?  What was I doing in a given week?  What takes my time now?  Tracking where my time was going was tough to do, but this was the only way to really know what I was doing.  I tracked my time for a couple of weeks.
  4. Identified things I was doing that didn’t reflect what was important, based on my priorities and God’s leading.  Some of these things I stopped doing immediately or delegated.  The tougher things to stop doing were tied to commitments I had made to others.  If I was on a board that didn’t reflect my calling, I had to resign.  If I was serving in a ministry that didn’t reflect my calling, I had to quit.  If I could not resign or quit immediately, I gave notice that at a certain point in the future I will be leaving my role.
  5. Built into my schedule what was important.  I learned that if I didn’t plan for it, accomplishment was unlikely.
  6. Built uncommitted time into my day and week.  This has been a challenge, but if I don’t have free time in my schedule, I cannot respond to spontaneous ministry opportunities God brings my way.

I have gone through this process several times because I tend to let the urgent creep back in.  Each time I prioritize and reassess, my stress goes down and my sense of accomplishment goes up.

Do you have the time to do what is important?

Have you successfully created time margin in your life?  If so, what did you do?

Leave your comments.

Resources that helped me get control of my time:

Margin by Richard Swenson available at Amazon.

“How to Create More Margin in Your Life.”  A blog post on Michael Hyatt’s website.

James Dean