How Do We Create Margin?

Last week I started a two-part blog post on the importance of clearing “space” in our lives, a.k.a. creating margin. If you have not had a chance to read that post, I ask you to pause, jump to last week’s post, and read that before you continue. This will make much more sense if you do.

Okay, I’m glad you are back! Now to answer the question “HOW do we create margin in our lives?”

margin ideas

One thing I asked you to do at the end of last week’s post was to think about this concept of margin each day and increase your awareness of it in your life. Awareness is a vital first step in any important change we want to make in our lives. This past week I became aware of how little mental margin I had in my days. I was brain fried every single day after work. I need more mental margin. What areas did you become aware of? Where could you use more margin?

Next, we all need to ask the questions, “is margin important to me?” If it is not, having me or anyone else encourage you to prioritize it is not going to be enough. All of the changes or improvements you want to make in your life need to be done because you genuinely want to, not because others say you should. Now it might be important to then ask “should gaining margin be a priority to me?” If you find that it would benefit you and your loved ones, maybe learn more about it and it’s benefits. Learning about it may bring you to a place where it becomes important to you.

Once you have identified the areas you need more margin, and you have decided it is important to you, ask the question “What one area is most important for me to gain margin in?” This is an important question for the overachiever out there who get excited and want to change everything at once. Start with one area. Once you have gained margin in that area, you can always tackle another area. As I mentioned above, I am starting this week with trying to add more mental margin in my days. What area do you want to start with? Mental margin? Physical margin? Margin in your schedule? Margin at work? Whatever you decide, start with one.

Next ask “what is within my control to change to add margin and make the upcoming week better?” Part of the reason why I felt so overloaded mentally this past week was because I was having to juggle my job as well as learn my co-worker’s job while she is on vacation for two weeks. My hope is that this coming week will be a little bit easier since there will be less of a learning curve, but I also need to chill out a little bit more than I did last week. I allowed myself to get worked up and focused much of my attention on how HARD it was going to be. This week I am going to try to allow for more mental margin by relaxing and not worrying as much. What is within your control to change?

Another important  thing to ask ourselves is “what can I delegate?” This is hard for many of us to do, but it is worth it! You know, we do not have to delegate big major things, giving away small things can add some time and space to our lives. I had a co-worker ask if she could help me in any way. One day, as I was wrapping up my day and planning out my next day, I wrote her name by a number of tasks that I could delegate to her. One task that I gave her only took about 15 minutes, but that was 15 minutes that freed me up. It felt good to mark the item, that I did not even do, off of my ‘to do” list. Take a look around and see what you can delegate.

And finally, focus on baby steps. Ask yourself today “what small steps can I take to create margin in my day and in my life?” My small baby step for this next week is to read a particular book every morning that helps me keep a positive and “can do” attitude. For me, this helps me keep the right perspective and not sweat the small stuff. What is your baby step for this upcoming week?

Gaining and keeping margin in our lives is an ongoing process, but one that is worth every bit of effort. Yes, there are time when life gets particularly busy, but those times need to be short-term. We simply cannot live our best if we are run ragged. It’s time to prioritize yourself and gain some margin. Everyone around you will benefit, and so will you!

Here’s to taking control and clearing some space in your life!

Margin.

Defined by Dictionary.com as

  • the space around the printed or written matter on a page.
  • an amount allowed or available beyond what is actually necessary.
  • a border or edge.

margin

We don’t think much about a margin until we are updating our resume. We decrease the margin as far as possible to fit as much information as possible about ourselves on one page. We also think about margin when we are in school writing a paper, we may increase the margins (and font size) to help us reach our page requirement.  But we don’t tend to think about the concept of margin as it pertains to how we live our life. Life margin is the space that we leave beyond all of the stuff we have to get done. It’s the space we leave beyond all of the things that are necessary. From my time listening to crazy, busy individuals, I hear that there is very little margin left in our days and in our lives in general, but it is incredibly important.

Margin allows space for the unexpected. Something I am trying to work on in my life is to keep a good attitude even when the unexpected happens. I am a planner. When I make a plan, I want things to go just as planned. Well, we all know that is not how life works. I have found that because this is the way I think, I get easily frustrated and I do not want to live a life of frustration. What I am trying to start is to create my plan, but create it with more margin to allow for those inevitable, unexpected challenges in life.

Margin allows space for our mind to recover. This past week and the upcoming week, my co-worker is on a much needed vacation. Therefore, I not only had to make sure my work is getting done, but her workload as well. This is a common situation that we all deal with on a regular basis, especially when a co-worker leaves the company. Not only do you have to cover their work, but you also have to take on the load of training the new person. These situations take away much of the mental margin we have. I know I felt brain fried at the end of each day and had very little to give to the rest of my life. I did not do well with margin last week, so I am going to try to do better this week because my mind, and your mind need a break in order for us to live our best. Yes, there are times we have to push through with little mental margin, but we don’t want to make it an ongoing habit.

Margin allows space for our body to recover. What tends to happen when we go, go, go and go some more? What I see so often is our immune system gets weak and we get sick. Do you realize that wearing ourselves down affects our bodies and our immune system? What breaks my heart even more is when I see wonderful people who are sick still pushing forward because they “should be there” or “can’t miss it” or “it has to get done”. We are not taking care of ourselves and our bodies if we cannot take a break. Building margin into our lives is good for our health.

Margin allows space for calm and intentionality. What is calm and intentionality, right? Calm and intentionality should be listed on the endangered species list because they are almost extinct in our lives today. When we build margin into our lives there is time to sit in the sunshine and take some deep breaths. Margin creates time to get out of reactionary mode and think intentionally about our lives, our relationships, and our future. Calm and intentionality are components of living our best life, but they are likely found in the area of margin in our lives.

If you were me, I would be thinking, “This is great Jen, but how do I do this? How do I create margin in my life?” Well, I am still working on figuring that out myself, but I am going to jump into the “how” in next week’s blog post. In the meantime, your assignment for this week is to think about this concept of margin each day and increase your awareness of it in your life.

Until next week, here’s to keeping some “white space” in our lives, taking some much needed deep breaths and continue to strive to live our best!

Three Main Ingredients for a Great Life!

What are the ingredients for a great life? I have been asking myself this very question for a number of weeks because I do not feel like I am living my “Best Life” right now. I have started a new job, and with that comes a period of adjustment, a period of time where my old “normal”  is gone and I need to find a new, wonderful “normal” again.

ingredients

I think we can all agree that one of the ingredients to living our best life is prioritizing the “most important” people and things. I have been doing pretty well at this the past few weeks with some tweaks here and there, but I have realized it is not enough. I have come to see our “most important” things as the foundation to living our best life. It is essential to build the rest of our life on, but it is not everything.

Next we have the ingredient of what “needs” to get done. This is not always a fun ingredient in life, but the reality is that it exists. John’s and my life were filled will annoyances this past week that “needed” to be dealt with. We received an unexpected medical bill that required some phone calls as well as unplanned check writing. I had a delivery of some liquid laundry soap that decided to break in transit. Is it bad when the box is in a trash bag on your front porch and the bottom feels mushy when you pick it up? In addition to these annoyances, the laundry still needs to get done. We needed to get to the grocery store. Things “need” to get done in our lives, and that is never going to change. What we can do is: recognize it is a part of life, stop fighting the annoyances because they usually win, deal with them as we need to, and try to keep a decent attitude during them. Things will always “need” to be done.

The last ingredient, what I consider the sweet spot, it is when we take time for the things we “want” to do. This is the area I have been lacking in since I have started my new job. I have filled my time with the most important people and things. Check! I have been dealing with what “needs” to be dealt with. Check! But I have not been taking time to do the things that bring added joy to my day. These are the things we feel are selfish because many times they are all about us. Well I am hear to tell you, this is the areas that bring some spice into our lives and is not selfish. I am writing this post on my birthday and even though I have a lot of things that “need” to be done today, I decided to sleep in this morning just because I wanted to. I am going to treat myself to a pedicure here shortly and do a few other things just because I want to. Prioritizing the things we “want” to do is so very important!

We all know that we cannot distill life down to three ingredients, but if we can get these three right with the right attitude, we will be well on our way to living our best life.

Here’s to loving ourselves, loving others and approaching everything else that comes our way with the best attitude we can muster up!

P.S. Below is the link to this month’s “Something To Look Forward To” Calendar! It’s time to start planning some fun stuff for the months to come!

June 2017 STLFT Planning Calendar

Be Aware!

Awareness is a starting point for change. Becoming aware of our posture allows us to sit and stand taller reducing back pain. Becoming aware of how our bodies utilize the food we eat allows us to lose weight, lower your cholesterol or feel more energized. Becoming aware of our stress level and how it affects others can help us make adjustments that will benefit us and those we care about.

Doggy Love

This past week I ran around quite a bit more than usual. I accepted a job offer and suddenly found myself having a ton of things to get done before my first day of work. My daily schedule instantly had little routine and with appointments that were changed at the last-minute, my days were packed to the gills. Through all of it I knew there was some elevated stress, but I was doing pretty good, I was handling it. About half way through the week, my dog started to show symptoms of being sick, and within a few days it was apparent that I would have to get her into the vet. They checked her over and did not find anything wrong with her. Then the vet asked me if there are any major changes happening in our lives or our schedule? I shared with her that I would be starting a new job and this week had been unusually busy. She indicated that there was a good possibility that her symptoms could be related to anxiety. Suddenly I became aware of the fact that between the interview prep, interviews, waiting to hear about the job and then the sprint to get ready for starting day, my stress was elevated and this had a negative effect on my sweet dog.

It suddenly dawned on me that we all deal with stressful things on a daily and weekly basis. We deal with them as best we can, but like me, many times we forget to realize that our stress does have an impact on those around us, most importantly, the ones we love.

Becoming aware helped me in three important ways:

  1. My awareness helped me slow down, breath, and intentionally reduce my stress. I was reminded of a book a I read years ago called Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff, And It’s All Small Stuff. One of the things I took away from the book was that my “To Do” list will still be here tomorrow. Our chores never end and I needed to remind myself that stressing myself out and trying to get everything done was not good for anyone.
  2. My awareness prompted me to make sure I continued to prioritize those I love. The greatest gift we can give is the gift of our time. I made sure I stopped and distributed as much love as I could. Low and behold, it made me feel much better too!
  3. My awareness reminded me that it’s ok to ask for help. Many times we feel we need to take care of things ourselves, but that is a lie. There are times we simply need help. I don’t know about you, but it is hard for me to ask for help.  In order for me to prioritize my most important things, I had to ask for help.

If your stress level is on the high side right now, take a moment to think about how your stress is affecting those you love. Did a late night project keep you from snuggling and tucking your kiddo into bed last night? Did your lack of rest cause you to snap at your spouse or co-worker? Are you always thinking about work, and not asked your loved ones about their day?

Life involves stress, but becoming aware of it, how it impacts our lives, and the lives of others is the first step in making a change for a better future.
Here’s to taking care of ourselves, then passing that onto others!

Life is Like the Hokey Pokey

You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out, you put your left foot in, and you shake it all about! Just writing that reminded me of all the family weddings and roller skating parties I went to in my life where we boogied to the Hokey Pokey. But you are probably wondering, where in the world are you going with this post Jen? That’s a good question…

Sea Ocean Sand Beach Vacation Coast Chill Bare Concept

One of the areas that I wanted to change in 2017 was to enjoy life more. 2016 was great, but it was hard. It was filled with great things, but many times, at the end of the day, I felt very “Meh!” The question was, how could I change that this year? I spent a lot of time out of my comfort zone last year. One things I wanted to try this year was to keep one foot out of my comfort zone and one foot in my comfort zone. That sounds great theoretically, but the implementation of it looks a lot more like the Hokey Pokey.

This past week I have been nudged out of my comfort zone and it is a good thing, but uncomfortable. The question is, how can I keep that one foot in my comfort zone? How can I still enjoy this time even though it is uncomfortable? How can you too?

The first thing I had to do was identify the things that I enjoy. These can be big things or little things. I believe it is important to fill our lives with both. I took time to think about this and wrote some things down. I know many of you simply don’t have the time to do that, but I think we all instinctively know some of the things we enjoy. Here are some of my simple daily enjoyments.

    • I love to get outside, to be in the sunshine most of all.
    • I love to rest my mind and body, which for me means sitting, relaxing and not looking at my smart phone.
    • I also love being physically active, like taking a short walk.
    • I love doing things for others, small simple gestures.
    • I love being at home.
    • I love feeling productive and organized. A 15 minute house pick-up does me good.
    • I love a hot cup of coffee!

What are some small things that bring you enjoyment? If they don’t instantly come to mind, keep it at the forefront of your mind this week and notice the small things that bring you joy.

Secondly, try to fit a few of them into your day. This is important every day, but essential when we are living outside of our comfort zone. When we are outside of our comfort zone, these small things will bring life to our day, a spring to our step, enjoyment instead of “meh!”

All of us are pursuing our best life, and I am very proud of you as you continue to push forward in your life. Let’s not forget to enjoy it, too. You deserve the simple pleasures of life.
Here’s to dancing the Hokey Pokey, stepping one foot forward while having a blast!

Here’s a Quick Way to Add Pizzazz to Your Life!

We sit here in January with an entire year in front of us. We are also coming off one of the most event filled times of the year. I don’t know about you, but I am asking myself “What is next?” Life is filled to the brim with work, family, friends, school activities, maybe church functions, and keeping up with household chores. You know I love routine, but we can easily fall into a rut of busyness and life can begin to lose it’s Pizzazz.  One remedy that brings some life back into our busy world is to always have something on your calendar to look forward to.

look-forward-to

I have a dear friend who modeled this for me in past years. Early in the year she started to plan, and she made sure her and her family had something on the calendar to look forward to. In the middle of one summer, her work schedule became crazy busy, but she did not falter on her plans to get away and have fun. At one point, we discussed how she was better able to deal with the stress of life and work because she always had something to look forward to on her calendar. Her and her family would get home from one activity and keep an eye on their next planned adventure.

Having something to look forward to provides three things.

  • It provides a reward to work towards. We all love a reward. Having something planned and on our calendar is like being a child having a big yummy lollipop to look forward to. We can keep an eye on it and know that it is just a matter of time before we get to enjoy it!
  • It provides a life-preserver when life get’s really stressful. We have all been under loads of stress. When we have something on our calendar to look forward to, we see that relief is in sight.
  • It provides much needed fun and joy. When the planned activity arrives, it adds an immense amount of fun and joy to our lives and the lives of those we care about.

Each month, I am going to include a Bonus Resource for you. It is a “Something To Look Forward To” Planning Calendar. I will include it with the blog post that is closest to the middle of the month allowing us to make sure we plan some fun stuff for the next month. There are many activities that we will need to plan further ahead than this, but it will be a good reminder for all of us to make sure we have some fun stuff planned.

On the “Something To Look Forward To” Planning Calendar, I encourage you to, at a minimum, add something for:

  • You and your loved ones.
  • You and your co-workers.
  • Something just for you.

Click below for your “Something To Look Forward To” February Planning Calendar

february-2017-stlft-planning-calendar

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s to a year of fun times with those we care about!

Why it is So Hard to Take Time for Ourselves – And How to Fix It

It is Friday night, my husband is out with friends and I could really use a break. Like so many of us, I have been working hard this week as well as working through some unexpected issues that popped up. The question then is, if I could really use a break, why am I still writing this Blog Post? Why is it so hard to stop and rest or stop and do something just for myself? And you know, it’s only going to get harder as the busyness of the Holidays approach. How can we prioritize ourselves, get the rest we need and have some fun too?

salad-water-garden-plant-cropped

Right now I feel like there is so much that I need to get done. I keep telling myself that I will push through these last few things then rest, but the list of “To Dos” never ends. I desperately need to do some yard work. For some that sounds like more work, but for me that is a very relaxing activity. I love the fresh air, the sun on my face, and getting my hands in the dirt. I am hoping to finish this Blog Post tonight and come tomorrow I am setting the “To Do” list aside and getting outside for some “Jen Time”.

What do I need to do to make that a reality?

  • Prepare. I am going right now and pulling out my yard work clothes. One thing I know I will need in the morning is to remind myself first thing, with my pile of yard clothes, that yard work is the plan for the day. I also need to make it as simple as possible for myself in the morning. The less I have to think about, the better. Let’s say you would love to get up early and go jogging. Pull your clothes and shoes out tonight and have them waiting for you when you get up. Even set out the breakfast you want to eat. Make it as simple as possible. (One moment please, I’m going to get my clothes together…seriously!)
  • Okay, I’m back. What else do I need to do to make sure I have my “Jen Time” tomorrow. Communicate! Earlier, my husband and I were talking about our weekend plans and I let him know that I was going to work out in the yard Saturday morning. This is important because one thing that can pull us away from our needed time is the people we love. It is vital for us to share with each other what our plans are, that we really need the time, and then respect that time. Communication is key.
  • Keep it simple. It is important not to overcommit because our plans can easily turn into more stress. Plan less and if you end up getting more done, it’s a bonus. Folks, this is tricking the mind for our benefit. I am planning to work on just the front landscaping tomorrow. When I get that done, I will feel great! That amount of work can be accomplished in the time I have set aside. Now, if I have time left and decide to do just a few more things, that is going to be a bonus! This applies also for a day out. If you plan four destinations, one right after another and you only get to experience half of them, you feel bummed or you feel like you missed out. Plan one, maybe two things, enjoy them and add more if time allows.
  • Join a friend. Have you ever agreed to go do something with a friend, then at the last minute you REALLY did not feel like going? This happens to me all the time, but I go because I made the commitment to my friend, and what happens? I have a great time! Making plans with a friend keeps us both motivated, and life is so much fun with friends! This example does not completely apply to my landscape work for tomorrow, but I will tell you that silence and solitude are my friends and I will enjoy them tomorrow!

These are just a few ideas. Taking time for ourselves is hard. The reality is, just like everything else that is great in our lives, it takes intentionality to make it happen. We deserve down time and we are better wives, mothers, friends and co-workers when we prioritize it. Do you have any “you” time on your calendar in the next few weeks? If not, block some time off just for you!

Here’s to getting rejuvenated so we can live our Best!