In this article, I am using Richard A. Swenson's definition of margin as being "the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits. It's something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations." (This quote is from Swenson's book Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives).
Since I do seminars and workshops on productivity, time management (a misnomer, by the way), getting your "stuff" organized, etc., I am continually studying these topics and interacting with people in my seminars and via email and phone. I never hear ANYONE, especially teachers, say, "Gosh, I have so much time and no real idea what to do with myself." HA! It is of course, the opposite. Everyone is saying, "Yikes, I have way more to do that I can possibly do!" And this is said day after day after day. It's not an isolated feeling. In this article, I offer ten ideas to help you create some margins in your time:
1. Use a planner. A planner is different than your classroom lesson plan book. When you write in a commitment of any type, add time before and after that commitment. It might be 10 minutes on either side or an hour on either side, just depending on the type of commitment.
2. Use just one planner. Put everything that you and your family do on that calendar that might have an impact on you. For example, if your spouse has an evening meeting, even though you don't have to attend, you should place that on your calendar. It might affect you because you'll be responsible for the children, you'll be responsible for making dinner, you won't be able to take your spouse to another event, etc.
3. Don't fill up your calendar. Just because there is a space open on your calendar does not mean you have to fill it.
4. Prepare stickers/labels to put on your calendar that designate "margin" time. Once the sticker is on that spot, call it an appointment and don't schedule on top of that time.
5. Schedule "clearing" or "recover" days. I schedule these days after I have been out of town and need a day to clear the decks or to recover from the travel. It's not a day off, by any means. It's a day to clear out the mail and email, to get my wash done, to return phone calls that couldn't be returned while on the road, to get all my "stuff" put away. A clearing/recover day is a day to clear the decks or to recover so you are ready to hit the ground on the following day.
6. When you are creating your "to-do" list, estimate the time it takes to complete each task and then double that time. It may not take you twice as long as you thought, but it will definitely take you longer than your original estimate. If there is extra time, it's your margin.
7. Don't forget to schedule time to clean/organize/pay bills/etc. Living in a clean and well-organized environment is good for everyone.
8. Leave for all appointments (meetings, get togethers, etc.) at least 10 minutes before you think you need to leave. This is one of the relatively simple ways to create time margins.
9. Talk to your family about margins - for them. Kids don't need to be rushing about when they're little. Call it "quiet play" and make sure they have several times a week for this important activity. Adults need time to read, think and plan and so do children.
10. I'm not a huge believer in the setting-your-clocks-and-watches-ahead idea, but if it works for you, then do so. Move all of your timepieces at least 10 minutes ahead. Or, as another idea, move some of them ahead 5 minutes, some of them ahead 10 minutes, and if having no margins has really been an issue in the past for you, then move some of them 15 minutes ahead. Give yourself a visual that you need to get a move on!
Teachers, you may have once considered the business planner designed just for the executive. Consider that as we are also professionals with more expectations being set upon us, effective decisions need to be made about our time. Using a planner is a useful tool.
Consciously creating time margins is a good first step toward putting margins back in your life. I love to write about this topic because it helps me focus on it as well. Check out the resources below to help yourself stay on track with creating time margins and being more productive.
**Tips: Creating Margins in Your Personal Life
**Tips: Creating Margins in Your Professional Life
**Tips: Creating Time, Energy, & Life Margins: Tips for Teachers
(c) 2008 by Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D., "Ph. D. of The Productivity"(tm)
Through her company, Emphasis on Excellence, Inc., Meggin McIntosh changes what people know, feel, dream, and do via seminars, workshops, writing, coaching, & consulting.