How to Create Margin in Your Overly Busy Life

Most people I know still feel overwhelmed by life’s demands. Despite all the gadgets and gizmos, they don’t have more time. They are only getting busier—and falling further and further behind.

Stressed Man Rubbing His Eyes - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/sandoclr, Image #53566

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/sandoclr

Sadly, many people are convinced their situation is temporary:

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  • “As soon as I get acclimated to this new job, I will have some breathing room.”
  • “As soon as I get my toddler into school, I will have some margin.”
  • “As soon as my spouse finishes his current work assignment, I will have some help with the kids.”

But, the weeks turn into months. And the months turn into years. People go from one “temporary situation” to the next. Before long, it’s permanent. Like the proverbial frog in the kettle, we’ve been boiled one degree at a time.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. You really can live a balanced life. But first, you have to understand what is creating the busyness in your life.

In my experience, busyness come from one or more of the following sources:

  1. Cutbacks at work. The economic downturn has meant that most organizations are cutting costs. This means fewer people doing the same amount of work. Like the children of Israel under Pharaoh, you are having to “make more bricks with less straw” (Exodus 5:6–9).

    The good news is that if you’ve survived thus far, you’re probably great at multi-tasking, prioritizing, and working under tight deadlines. You’re adding value, and that’s why you still have a job. The downside is you’re not sure when your company will resume hiring and give you some relief.

    What to do? Just say “no.” At least to some things. If you don’t establish boundaries, you will eventually burn out or go through a meltdown—and then you won’t be of much use to anyone.

  2. Competition in the market. In the current environment, more people are competing for fewer jobs. More competition means everyone is working harder just to keep what they have. As a result, it is more difficult to stand out and get noticed.

    This means that you feel more pressure to perform. You don’t want to lose the job you have, so you add more hours, more meetings, and more trips—anything to add value. But when is enough enough? You can drive yourself crazy, constantly looking in the rear-view mirror and wondering when your competition will overtake you.

    What to do? Exercise faith. Fundamentally, it does not all depend on you. God is involved in the process. Work hard, but from a posture of faith, not fear.

  3. Online technologies and gadgets. In our increasingly connected world, we are always on, always accessible, 24/7. While new gadgets and software make it possible to do more in less time, sadly, we often fill this with more work.

    These technologies—email, texting, social media—may start out as a way to connect faster and more efficiently. But soon, they can take over our lives, stealing the last bit of margin we have left. While I am an advocate of technology and social media, there is a cost involved, especially if we don’t proactively manage it.

    What to do? Create boundaries. You don’t have to swear off technology, but you do have to be sensible. If you are accessible to everyone 24/7, you’ll ultimately be accessible to no one—especially those that matter the most.

Yes, balance is possible. But it requires that you recognize the forces that threaten to disrupt it and put into place the appropriate countermeasures.

Question: What is the source of most of your busyness? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.sheepfeeder.wordpress.com Kim Hamlin

    Excellent post Michael, and the frog in the kettle reference nails it. I think technology has helped to make us busier. I realized that I was always on….sometimes reading tweets at 2 am. I use my cell phone as an alarm clock so it’s always with me. Now, my phone is set so that tweets do not come through between 11 pm and 6 am., and I cut down how many come through to my phone. I also don’t take any calls after 7 pm any more. I’m still a news junkie, but the boundaries have provided huge benefits in life balance. But, sometimes you need help realizing that something is out of whack, your article is a great reminder!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks. You can also schedule when you get tweets via the Twitter web site.

    • http://geoffreywebb.wordpress.com/ Geoff Webb

      Good for you, Kim. I’m also battling busyness right now by focusing on my daily and weekly rhythms. I think social media and blogs are great tools for building relationships, but I get drawn in quickly and start churning ideas when I’m in here.

      Since that’s work for me, I think I’m going to turn it all off during my weekly sabbath – take 24 hours off from web 2.0; and trust God that I’m not “missing out” and that all you fine people will be alright without me ;)

      Any thoughts?

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        Isn’t it funny how we think if we don’t comment now or check things now, then someone will miss out on our excellent and timely wisdom? How did we get to be so stuck on ourselves?

        I realize your “you’ll be alright without me” was in jest, but there’s an element of truth in there, also.

        Thanks for pointing it out to me!

      • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

        I think many of us are fearful of “missing out” – maybe we’ll miss the big opportunity or that someone else may be able to slip in front of us. The point on trusting God is huge here. We like to be the star in our own picture. But, if we step back a bit, we can see that it is much better to be a part of God’s bigger picture. If we believe God is truly God, then we should be able to trust Him to give us what we need and to put us where we need to be … even when we do take a bit of a break from the world around us.

      • http://twitter.com/DanielBecerra Daniel Becerra

        Setting alerts is another thing you might consider :), but be very specific with the words, otherwise you’ll get dozens of alerts a day :)
        And every now and then, you just gotta say ‘bye’ to someone you follow since it’s not as valuable as what another person offers.

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      I found that it’s too easy for me to focus on tweets, status updates and email from my phone when I’m at home for lunch or in the evenings. And so I placed boundaries around that time. I want to be more focused on my wife and kids, not absorbed in a tiny screen seeing what someone else is saying. My goal as a father is to be fully present in my kids’ lives, and in my wife’s as well.

      Glad you found something that works for you. I just wish more people would see the necessity of it.

      • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

        Those are good goals, Jeff. I struggle with those same things.

        • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

          It’s a relief knowing that I’m not the only one who deals with things like these…

          • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

            Maybe we’re the only two weirdos in the world, though… :)

          • Lyn

            That makes three of us. :)

  • http://www.timemanagementninja.com Craig Jarrow

    Michael,

    Great post. I agree with your analogy that most people think that they will just wait until things settle down or return to normal. And then, one temporary situation leads to another.

    It reminds me of the famous quote, “There is no normal life, there’s just life.”

    That’s one I always try to remember. :)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great quote.

    • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

      I like that, a lot.

  • Valerie Norris

    When I lost my job, I took some time off to concentrate on writing. Now, faced with going back to work, I’m already mourning the loss of time and the increase in stress this will cause. Maybe I can find a balance. Thanks for this post!

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren @ Life of a Steward

    It was interesting to me how many of your business-focused tips could also be applicable to other areas. You may have to say no to volunteer organizations or to overzealous church ministries that keep asking the same 20% to do more and more work. And really, when you take a step back, so much of what we do in life boils down to feeling the urge to add value – not just specifically at work but as a person in general. Maybe if we just accepted who we are in Christ it would lead us to the right amount of hard work.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think you are right. We have to be sure of our identity, otherwise we end up in a frantic dance, trying to prove something.

      • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

        Mmmm… good word.

  • http://www.shrinkingthecamel.com Bradleyjmoore

    I think the most important point you are making is that, to some degree, we create our own monsters. A job is one thing, but I know for myself I got caught up in too many other leadership positions in church, non-profits, board of directors, plus wanting to do more writing/blogging and then dealing with a family on top of that. Are we addicted to stimulation? Are we afraid of missing out on something? Is it like we’re in a competition?

    I have cut way back on obligations other than work and one or two organizations that I really love. And every once in a while I just get tired of social media and take a break from that for a while, too.

    Good stuff to ponder here.

  • http://geoffreywebb.wordpress.com/ Geoff Webb

    Thanks for exposing the “It’ll get better when” myth that we all tell ourselves. I often find myself mired in that one.

    For me, busyness comes from all the good things I think I “could” or “should” be doing – they tend to crowd out the good works God has prepared in advance just for me to do.

    I try to keep in mind that even Jesus had boundaries. There were plenty of suffering people on earth during his ministry who didn’t get healed or raised from the dead. He kept in step with his Father and focused on the mission given to him. Thank God he did!

  • http://geoffreywebb.wordpress.com/ Geoff Webb

    Thanks for exposing the “It’ll get better when” myth that we all tell ourselves. I often find myself mired in that one.

    For me, busyness comes from all the good things I think I “could” or “should” be doing – they tend to crowd out the good works God has prepared in advance just for me to do.

    I try to keep in mind that even Jesus had boundaries. There were plenty of suffering people on earth during his ministry who didn’t get healed or raised from the dead. He kept in step with his Father and focused on the mission given to him. Thank God he did!

  • DrDavidFrisbie

    Despite a core belief that Jehovah-God provides, much of our busyness stems from our sense that “the Lord helps those who help themselves.” We are busy because if we slack off or coast, provision will taper off or disappear.

    Where once we had home equity, job longevity, or high interest rates on savings, we now have a black hole. This heightens our sense that unless we get busy, provision will not happen. So we get busier. Surely hard work will solve the problem and increase our provision.

    Unless we are lazy by disposition (some are), most of us A-Types need a fresh understanding of how, why and when God provides. We also need to be deeply and consistently giving away what is provided to us: to those who don’t have.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I totally agree with you. Thanks.

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  • Jamie Chavez

    A very timely reminder for me, Mike, as I am stressing over deadlines (some for Thomas Nelson!). I needed to hear that it is NOT temporary. Thank you.

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Government regulation and unfunded mandates are what keep me busy. You would think with a 26 billion dollar shortfall, the California government would start cutting back on the bureaucratic overload, but they seem to do just the opposite. For margin, I always like to have at least one day a week with nothing much on the calendar.

  • Cory

    Great Post A skill that needs to be learned and practiced. In today’s world we are asked to do more and more and not just at work. My biggest fear is that we are teach our children to be busy and deny that beging still or relaxing is bad, every minute of everyday is filled up. We have instituted no screen times in the house and it adds a certian quiet and stillness to the house. Thanks for reconfirming our decision to slow down.

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  • www.therextras.com

    My Hubby likes to say – computers have given us the means to do faster what we didn’t have to do before.

    I followed your lead and deleted my LinkedIn profile. One less thing to do.

    Barbara

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That is a great saying!

  • Anonymous

    Alignment & Priorities: Very close to your insight, I often find it is less about work/life balance and more about work/life alignment. The key is ensuring you do (for “work”) what you love and keep your priorities right. I wrote about this in 5 Tips for Work/Life Alignment, Not Balance.

    Great tips Mike. Thanks fo sharing!

  • http://bladeronner.com Ron Dawson

    I often see people ask the question “How can I attain work/life balance.” I deal with a lot of self employed visual artists, so it’s a common problem. They’re looking for some easy fix, some magic answer about how to stay sane. All the while they’re buried in their iPhones and iPads. I’ve learned that if you want work/life balance, you just have to MAKE IT. As Nike says, “Just do it.” You have to make a conscience choice to disconnect from the social media world and re-connect with family, friends, etc. There is no magic formula.

    A few months ago we cancelled our iPhone plans and got “regular” cell phones. Primarily to save money on the expensive call plan. But something interesting happened along the way. It used to be that whenever I wasn’t doing something, I’d be on my iPhone checking Twitter, reading email, etc. Standing in line a grocery store. Read Twitter. “Watching” son play at park with other parents. Read E-mail. Waiting for oatmeal to cook 2 MINUTES in microwave, check Facebook. It was a sickness. Now that I have a cell phone with no data plan, I’m more connectet to people actually around me in person, rather than the thousands of “friends” I have on Facebook. Life slowed down just a bit.

    I plan to go back to the iPhone when the time is right, but in the sabbatical I’ve taken, I’ve learned how disconnect and slow down. It would be worth it for more people to take a “iPhone” hiatus for a while.

    Shane Hipps has a great chapter in “Flickering Pixels” about our Nomadic Life that has great points about this topic of connectedness.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      After I spoke at an event earlier this week, someone asked me if I thought it was okay not to have a smartphone. In other words, he wondered if he could still be an effect leader if he wasn’t always connected. I said, “I don’t know, but I think it is worth trying. You might learn something very interesting in the process.”

  • http://LiveIntentionally.org @PaulSteinbrueck

    Mike, I agree that those are 3 big reasons why people feel overwhelmed. Some others that come to mind…

    - Failure to say no. Not just at work, but requests requests to volunteer, invitations to social events, etc.

    - Failure to delegate. A lot of people have a hard time letting go of the things other people on their team could or should be doing.

    - Failure to organize. I know you’re a fan of Getting Things Done, and David Allen will tell you people feel overwhelmed because they don’t have good organizational systems they trust and so their brain keeps reminding them of all the things they need to do.

    - Failure to be yourself. It’s tempting when you see friends, family, co-workers, other bloggers, and people you admire doing really cool stuff to try to be like them – run a marathon, write a book, start your own business, put a well in Ethiopia, adopt a child, sail around the world, become a world-class blogger. You can’t do it all. At least not all at the same time.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Your last point, especially, resonates with me. We have to recognize the seasons of your life. With all my kids grown, I am in a very different season than most who read my blog. You can’t do it all.

      • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

        Wow. Amen. Thanks for saying that. Very liberating.

      • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

        Wow. Amen. Thanks for saying that. Very liberating.

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      That last one describes me as well, all too often…

    • http://modernservantleader.com/ Benjamin Lichtenwalner

      Great points Paul. I especially liked the last one as well. It seems to the first three you mentioned could also lead to the fourth.

    • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

      We were created with natural gifts and abilities. While it is possible to learn to do things that don’t come “naturally” (and, sometimes we have to), we tend to accomplish more, be more efficient, and more fulfilled when we can work in those areas for which we were created.

      These points are great additions to the list. Thanks!

      • Donna G

        And this is where I find myself; after years of doing what needed to be done, I have lost the ability to recognize what I am good at and what energizes me. That is my main aim for myself in 2011–remembering who I am, whose I am and what He wills for me in this life rather than agreeing to do something because I am able to do it or can learn how to do it or am willing to try to do it.

    • http://www.bigb94.webs.com Brandon

      This is a blog all in itself! Great points…

    • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

      Great points, Paul. I have had to learn these the hard way many times. I’ve come to realize that one of the most important parts of goal setting is the calendar. While I think everyone should have a big goal they are working towards, you can’t get there if you can’t schedule it. For many people that means using your list of delegating, organizing, and just saying no to clean off the calendar so you can take on something challenging and important that is unique to you.

  • http://twitter.com/taterhouse Ryan Tate

    I firmly believe that procrastination can end up looking like busyness at times. I become busy doing things that don’t matter, putting off the important things for later. I feel productive by still “doing” something, yet a pile is forming beside me. It is a pile that will not be ignored. My busyness is a symptom, masking the true issue, procrastination.

  • http://www.meeklabs.com John Paul Mains

    In my personal experience I’ve found a big “covert” time stealer that a person may not even be aware of experiencing. If you are doing something you don’t enjoy, or the workplace is a bad environment, or simply a bad boss, it will suck a lot of energy out of you to simply maintain that job. In doing that, you have less energy for family or doing the things you want to do. It doesn’t necessarily take time away, but takes away the energy you could be using elsewhere.

    Simply doing what you enjoy seems to give you more time and more energy for the rest of your day. This can be tough of course, but if you can remember that we work really for a wonderful God who loves and cares for us, even those tough days can be brighter.

  • Ashley Musick

    The best way for me to slow down is to turn things off. TV, Computer, Phone… everything has to be off. And because life and business has become dependent on those things, even after I’m unplugged it takes an hour or so to not feel disabled and lost and actually start producing. It’s crazy.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree. I try to do this for a solid week, once a year. I think the Amish know something the rest of us have forgotten!

  • http://twitter.com/doughibbard Doug Hibbard

    Most of my busyness? Failure to self-discipline, to create boundaries within my own time to make sure I do get done what I should get done. I’m too busy multi-tasking to get any one thing done, and it all piles up.

    So, the first place I’m carving a boundary is around that part of the morning entitled “organizing the day” to get a handle on it.

  • http://www.yuzzi.com Rick Yuzzi

    As soon as I retire, I think I’ll be able to catch up. :-) Seriously, I think technology has slowly made things more hectic over the years (the frog analogy you gave). I think back to a time when we had a phone and an inbox (the kind with paper, not emails). We had memos circulated by hand, and got postal mail that was delivered on a set schedule. Yes, there were times when we got overwhelmed, but nothing like today, when there could literally be no boundaries unless you set them. That is key.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Speed is over-rated, isn’t it? Thanks.

  • http://www.walterwillis.net Walter

    Good post Michael. Most of our stress comes from the failure to recognize the difference between a problem and a fact. While we can’t change facts, we can work to fix problems. However, many of us spend the bulk of our energy and time trying to change facts we have no control over, causing much consternation. Being out of control is not much fun but sometimes it is right where God wants us to be as I describe here: http://walterwillis.net/2011/01/out-of-control/

  • Katherine Hyde

    My busyness does not come mainly from technology or from too many hours or too much pressure on the job. It comes from having too many “jobs,” most of which are not paid: writing, marketing my writing, reading books to develop my writing, taking care of home and family, driving and doing mandatory “volunteer” work for kids’ schools and activities, and of course many hours at church. I think most working mothers would identify with my situation more than with what you’ve described. It’s difficult to see what can be cut without someone suffering for it. The writing looks “dispensable,” but that’s the only thing I do just for myself.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      My heart goes out to working mothers. I have often thought, Being a CEO is nothing compared to that!

  • http://studio27b.net Dave Nash – Studio27b.net

    Most recently Social Media has been my biggest “margin muncher.” As a new blogger, I discovered the wonder of people tracking my site down through Twitter (@livingourlegacy). I was fascinated by the direct results I got from mentioning articles. As I watched the site traffic increase, so did my time on Twitter. It wasn’t long till I found myself “robbing” time from other areas of my life…very important areas…all to see the weekly hit count climb higher. That was my first mistake. As my margin shrank, my stress climbed and my family felt it. Over the past month I have really trimmed back on the SM. I still have to fight the urge to tweet my little fingers off, but I don’t want to trade my sanity for 140 characters worth of glory. Sure my site traffice has slowed, but I’m a lot happier man now than I was not too long ago.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Good for you. That sounds like a good choice.

  • http://twitter.com/2020VisionBook Joshua Hood

    It is really all about priorities, isn’t it? There are a million things vying for our time, and we have to learn the power of ‘No’. But how do we know what to say no to? Good is the enemy of great. I struggle with having to say no to good things, that I might accomplish great things. I think that’s why it’s so important for us to sit down and write out our priorities and number them. Then our schedule can naturally follow course.

    Joshua Hood
    2020visiononline.org

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I have found that this gets more difficult as you become “successful.” Increasingly, you have to chose between good and the best.

  • Fred McKinnon

    Managing two full time jobs! See you for some margin time in a few weeks ar re:create

  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    Great insights, Michael. And I think that they have excellent application whether you work in the marketplace or in the ministry. Thanks for sharing.

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  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    When I fail to prioritize in my life, it paves way for busynes. Likewise failing to delegate wisely and trying to be too good to everyone leads to accumulation of commitments and subsequent busyness. It’s up to me to draw the line. Focus and unwavering commitment also helps in concentrating and accomplishing my objectives with ease.

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    I feel lack of assertiveness and people pleasing attitude leads to busyness.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Amen to that. I am a people-pleaser by nature, so this is a really tough one for me.

  • http://www.davidsantistevan.com David Santistevan

    I would say the source of my busyness comes from not focusing on my “main things”. If I start saying yes to too many things that are not the most important, stress is a given. It also really helps that I give my wife the attention she deserves. Everything seems to fall into place if that priority is primary.

    • http://modernservantleader.com/ Benjamin Lichtenwalner

      Your comment resonated with me as well. Having the right priorities is so critical. I often think back to City Slickers:

      Curly says to Mitch, “Do you know what the secret of life is?… One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean !”

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        I love that scene. I use it one of my presentations.

  • Anonymous

    What you shared about work is so true. We all have full plates. Saying ‘No” and looking for a new job is encouraging. I’m near my breaking point.

    I believe that technology is to life as color is to a black & white picture: it enhances the picture but it’s not the picture. I see people with their gadgets and they are no more efficient than they were before the gadget. In fact, I think people get faster in their inefficiency with their gadgets.

    Managing time, takes a process. I sit down every Sunday evening & look at my week. I block out unscheduled time for :Planning, rest, preparing for meetings or doing NOTHING. I look at my schedule everyday to know what I have to do that day. Every Friday evening, I make sure my calendar is updated with new meetings or things I have to do. If I didn’t have a process and priorities, I’d be in reacting mode all the time.

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    Workaholics are conscious in ensuring that they are busy always. Busyness is inconvenience which an be cured with one’s own intention and clarity of thought.

  • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

    Thanks for the great post, Michael. My wife and I are currently looking for ways to simplify our lives, and we’re looking at ways to re-arrange our schedule so that we can create a day of rest for our family, as well as cutting things out of our schedule.

  • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

    Thanks for the great post, Michael. My wife and I are currently looking for ways to simplify our lives, and we’re looking at ways to re-arrange our schedule so that we can create a day of rest for our family, as well as cutting things out of our schedule.

  • Anonymous

    The source of my busyness is for sure the technology we now have. Over the past year I’ve added Facebook, Twitter, and Blogging to voice-mail, email, and texts as ways that I communicate with people. Managing all of those while maintaining boundaries at home and at works is a challenge. Upon your recommendation, I started using Hootsuite and other such tools to manage the flow of information and communication. One of the best things I’ve done is create messages that let people know when they can expect to hear back from me and not just when I am going to be completely unavailable but why – (family time, important meetings, etc.) People seem to respect that sort of transparency and are not as demanding, thus creating some margin in my life. – Dan

  • http://kabarnes.wordpress.com/ Karen Barnes

    One problem with busyness that I always have is finding the balance between really good things. The source of my busyness is often caused by good opportunities such as leading a small group, going to church activities, finding volunteer opportunities, etc. It can be a struggle to figure out how to find more margin by having to cut back on these “good things”.

  • http://kennysilva.net Kenny Silva

    Technology has made my life easier, but has also made it much busier. I’m much more accesible than I should be. I’ve also created new ‘urgencies’ in my life by being that accesible. I’ve set the expectation that I’ll blog daily. I’ve also set the expectation that I’ll reply to comments, tweets, etc. That creates lots of little tasks throughout the day. Without strong boundaries, that weight has the potential to crush me. Rhythm and balance are my constant pursuit.

  • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

    Wow…amazing timing of this subject. This has been on my mind a lot lately; and, just this morning, while spending time in the Bible, I read Hebrews 4. The first part of the chapter challenges us to ‘not fall short’ of entering the “rest” that God provides and has created for us. We were not designed to work 7 days a week and then to fill the rest of our time with other stuff.

    I have found that when those margins disappear, then we tend to eventually leave out the things in life that are most important – time for ourselves, time with our family, and time with God. All three of these, especially the last one, is so important in gaining the energy, motivation, and fulfillment that we ultimately desire.

  • http://www.charlesstone.net charles stone

    Right on Michael. Our inter-connected world is my biggest challenge as a pastor and as a gadget freak. What did we ever do without our smart phones :)

  • http://www.christopherscottblog.typepad.com/ Christopher Scott

    The single source of my businesses is school.

    On top of working full time, I also am finishing my degree which means most evenings and all day Saturday is devoted to school work.

    Besides that, I still have to work hard to not get too busy. When requests come from friends, co-workers, or church asking for more of my time, the answer is usually no.

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  • Andrew Acker

    Ultimately, it’s my responsibility strength that keeps me busy, because I’m bad at saying no, and especially bad at not following through. Add to that the “spontaneity bug” and all of the sudden some free time becomes friend time and while my relationships with people are great, my inner clock is just ticking with the weight of what I feel needs to be done…

    • http://www.bretmavrich.com Bret Mavrich

      You’ve got to check out the book Getting Things Done, by David Allen. He’s got a great productivity solution for exactly that, and it applies to almost every area of life.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        This is a great book. David has had a huge influence on me.

        • http://www.bretmavrich.com Bret Mavrich

          I ended up purchasing Omnifocus for Mac and iPhone. Great tools to execute the GTD approach.

          Have you read, Making it All Work?

          • Andrew Acker

            I have Omnifocus for Mac & iPhone as well and have consulted Allens material…but I think I need to dive a little deeper into it. Because everything is just mounting up. Sometimes I feel like there’s an asterisk to the passage of “you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things” At some point, it can become too many. I do not wish to become irresponsible in any way, rather working on the things with the most influence.

          • http://www.bretmavrich.com Bret Mavrich

            That’s what I’ve found. I read the book and took the first few steps, but then two months later things still weren’t working. I’m finding that I have to actually practice his method with diligence. It by no means is a silver bullet.

        • http://jhwist.tumblr.com/ Henrik Wist

          Can’t praise David Allen enough for his work on the stressfree productivity. I struggle once in a while with 100% commitment to the method, but still, the impact is unbelievable. The best part about it is that everyone else whom I have “converted” is thankful for having me introduced them to GTD.

          • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

            I have had the same experience.

  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to busyness and it stems from not saying NO enough when I should. I’ve become much better at but still some work to be done.

    I’ve learned that, like other things we want in life, if you want more margin then you have to make the choice to obtain it. It won’t happen unless we are intentional about it.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I still have work to do on this, too. I am especially bad about saying yes to things far in the future, because I don’t feel the immediacy of it. But tomorrow eventually becomes today—and then I have to deal with it.

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  • http://www.bretmavrich.com Bret Mavrich

    I think @DavidAllen’s assessment of the way work has changed—from work with defined outcomes to knowledge work with no defined finish lines—helped me identify the source of that “busy” feeling. His GTD system takes a while to learn, but I’m finding the more I put it into practice, the more I leave myself margins; not just time in my schedule, but a clear head without the looming shadow of dread that I’m forgetting something or missing something.

  • http://relevantbrokenness.com Marni Arnold

    Since I am a stay-at-home mom, an online student, homeschooling a preschooler, blog, and coordinate a recovery ministry at Church – I find myself busy with trying to find balance. *laughing at myself*

    In deep sincereity, I find myself going in all directions just to keep some kind of semblance to my life. Being a stay-at-home mom doesn’t equate to being lazy like some think. It is a lot of work on a daily basis, especially when you take on what I have along side of it – and trying to find some balance is more challenging than if I had someone else dictating my schedule. So I am in a flux right now in trying to find that balance to my schedule so I can tend to all the duties here at home to keep in peaceful and functioning (treating it as it really is – God’s house, not mine or my family’s alone) – which still getting my studies accomplished, get some lesson/craft time in with our son, get good blogs posted at least 6 times per week, and coordinate each weeks ministry meeting we hold…all on top of getting some time in there for just some chill time with myself and also my husband, and now and again a cup of coffee with a good friend.

    I am working at it – so hopefully something will come up soon. However, these tips I believe will serve as a great reminder to continue to seek that balance – and it is not as hard as I am probably making it out to be. :)

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    I’ve been unemployed for more than a year, I have no family and virtually no social life. (Not complaining. I love it.) Yet I feel that even without a job, family, and friends, 24 hours isn’t enough time to do everything I want to do in a day.

    Of course, I’ll need a job soon, or I’ll end up in the poor house. But it has been my experience that working a full-time job plus doing chores (such as laundry and grocery shopping) makes it difficult to even get in an hour at the gym each day let alone do anything meaningful on the side, such as reading, writing, and other labors of love, which are, ultimately, those activities that make life worth living.

  • TNeal

    I appreciate the comment “Exercise faith” under the 2nd heading. I’ve not received a regular paycheck in over three years. Yet, in the same three years, God has given me plenty of reasons to exercise or grow my faith. His providential care has been consistent and timely. In recent months (more honestly days because I’m a little thick-headed), I’ve stopped worrying. God’s repeated message month after month and year after year has been “You can trust me.”

    For my wife and me, our current circumstances have provided some of our happiest and deepest moments. Although I haven’t received consistent paychecks, I have enjoyed the work I do and hope to have more opportunities to develop my skills. The rest is in God’s capable hands.

  • Anonymous

    Michael, I love that closing line: “If you are accessible to everyone 24/7, you’ll ultimately be accessible to no one—especially those that matter the most.” It’s SO true!

    I made the simple decision just this week to turn the vibrate feature on my phone off. So my ringer is either on or off. When I’m at home, unless I’m expecting an important call, the ringer stays off. Same thing in meetings.

    I’m liking my decision so far.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Good for you. My oldest daughter sometimes reminds me, “Dad, you’re not saving lives; you’re just making books.” That’s the shot of reality I need. I don’t need to act like I am on-call 24/7. Thanks.

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        But those books you print are helping to change and save lives. Still very important! :-)

      • Donna G

        Having worked in healthcare for a while, we use a similar phrase for decision making and for giving ourselves some grace when we have failed. “Will/did anyone die or was irreparable, long-term harm caused?” Sometimes we get caught up in believing we are more important than we are. I think it has something to do with our sinful nature wanting to elevate us to be on the same level as God. Which does not put us in good company…

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Good for you. My oldest daughter sometimes reminds me, “Dad, you’re not saving lives; you’re just making books.” That’s the shot of reality I need. I don’t need to act like I am on-call 24/7. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/B_Schebs B_Schebs

    For me, the biggest source of my “busyness” were mental blackhole items like Facebook, games and TV. I found that once I cut the cable, and went to Netflix only I am watching more meaningful programs. the vast amount of documentaries provide neverending knowledge. I also got rid of the smart phone. This was a bit of a shocker to everyone, especially since I work for a cell phone company. but not having my corp email and facebook and twitter blowing up every 30 seconds day and night had me making dinner with my wife on a daily basis, for the first time since we were married over 5 years ago. We were both on the go so much that making a meal at home was a once a month thing (only when her mom came to visit). removing the “tech busyness” from my life has dramatically increased my enjoyment of it.

  • http://twitter.com/DanielBecerra Daniel Becerra

    Great stuff Michael! I specially like the “exercise faith” point. I did struggle with this, not trusting them to do it, and I HAD to check constantly, but I exercised faith, and that has freed time and let worry out :)
    I also love the approach of Brian Tracy: Eat the frog in the morning, meaning doing the toughest, least-likely-to-get-done first. If we do the one thing we’ve been putting off for a while first in the morning, that will energize us and gives us a sense of accomplishment to get on to other things the rest of the day.

  • http://twitter.com/NewEnglandHiker Roy Wallen

    In these times, I think we all let the environment of instant messages, instant news, instant updates, instant responses, and othe rinstant interruptions get to us. A wise man once told me that a stable stool has for even-length legs:
    1. Stay close to God
    2. Stay close to your family (starting with your spouse, as applicable)
    3. Stay engaged in your work
    4. Stay committed to free time (time to do what YOU want to do)
    It has worked for me.

  • http://www.brianhinkley.com Brian Hinkley

    I have a long list of thing to do when things settle down. Stuff I was going to do after we moved and the kids went back to school. With a two week old daughter I find I have less time. Some of us try to fool ourselves by saying that we are multi-tasking. I tried to check my Facebook and Twitter on my phone while feeding the baby until I was busted by my wife. Apparently there are things that require our undivided attention and the rest has to wait.

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Great thoughts, Michael. I ink it all comes back to determining priorities and making those first.

  • http://twitter.com/ThatGuyKC K.C. Procter

    I think #3 is my biggest area of opportunity. Between work & home computers, smartphone, etc I truly am accessible to everyone AND no one.

    Thank you for the candid advice.

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  • http://twitter.com/MattBeard Matt Beard

    “Work hard, but from a posture of faith, not fear.” I need that tidbit right now. This season is one of uncertainty for me but I have to remember that I’m uncertain simply because I don’t know what the future holds. At times, it seems to easy to forget that I know Who holds the future.

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  • http://www.StephanieLJones.com Stephanie L. Jones

    Michael, thank you for a great blog! I find myself rushing and in a hurry – trying to make up for the years that I spent drinking, getting high, partying, racking up debt, etc…, especially lately. I don’t think a day goes by that someone doesn’t ask me about having kids. Initially my answer was quite simple, “I’m not ready.” Recently, I’ve allowed it to put pressure on me. Is this wrong? Absolutely! God is helping me to work it out.

  • Anonymous

    You’re so right. I’m always hearing from people in my organization that “As soon as…….I’m going to get focussed and get go work.” The next week I hear the same thing. Like you said they think their situation is temporary. It seems to me that it’s temporarily permanent.

  • http://musicroad.blogspot.com kerrydexter

    I’d be interested to hear you go further with the idea of working from a position of faith. As someone who works for herself, that’s something I draw on all the time, and it’s been just as challenging if not more so, as it is for someone who works for someone else. but I’d like to hear your thoughts on this and how to refresh and renew that faith while holding to that in hard times. thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/lovinglyyoursG Georgiana

    I have learned that life is not about a destination but a daily journal that we travel one day at a time. It has it’s peaks and valleys of busyness and it’s those times that pace and balance are needed. Priorities need to be accomplished in a timely manner. God never gives us more than we can handle and we can do all things in His strength.

  • http://twitter.com/samdavidson samdavidson

    Balance is important, as you recognize. For me, I don’t view balance in life like a scale, where everything is weighted equally. Life is too dynamic for that. I look at balance like a gymnast on a balance beam. Everything is in constant motion, but it stays balanced. That’s the true trick for those of us with jobs, family, a passion to chase down, and hobbies to enjoy.

    Thanks for shaing these tips.

  • Ben

    I like what you have to say most of the time, but this post left me frustrated. I’ve been thinking about it all weekend. Can you give some practical advice on how to say, “no” to your boss?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You have to provide an alternative, like, “I already have a commitment for this evening (hence, I can’t work on this tonight), but I could get it done by Thursday. Will that work?” Or, I’m currently working on Project X, which you had previously said you wanted by the end of the day. I can’t add this additional project now, unless you want me to do it first, instead of Project X.”

      You have to establish boundaries and then be creative. Good bosses will respect this.

  • Dblindseyjr

    Thanks for the thought-provoking article, Michael. I agree: we don’t have to unplug, so long as have balance. But unplugging (for a short time) was recently used as a method for people to learn how to regain control their lives, rather than allowing technology to control their lives: http://www.covenanteyes.com/2011/01/04/what-if-you-unplugged-from-tech-for-a-week/

  • Dblindseyjr

    Thanks for the thought-provoking article, Michael. I agree: we don’t have to unplug, so long as have balance. But unplugging (for a short time) was recently used as a method for people to learn how to regain control their lives, rather than allowing technology to control their lives: http://www.covenanteyes.com/2011/01/04/what-if-you-unplugged-from-tech-for-a-week/

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com Nikole Hahn

    It’s a struggle. Between family time, rest time, church time, work time, etc, it can feel as if I spend my day running instead of enjoying the place where I am in my life. It’s a daily goal I strive and most of the time succeed. I have to say no. I have to turn away from the computer in order to get rest. It’s a dance.

  • http://brandonwjones.wordpress.com/ Brandon W. Jones

    Michael,
    You brought up some very valuable points. Even though we have advanced in so many ways, we have also gone backwards in other ways. Our oral and interpersonal communication skills are suffering because we are always texting, emailing, tweeting, etc., but we are not talking to each other. It is very important that we set our overall priorities straight and then follow them consistently. By doing that we will keep everything in order. Thanks for the great post!

  • http://twitter.com/jimsimply James Cain

    I always appreciate your posts. Busyness is the elephant in the room, particularly for young families in the suburbs. I’m a bit skeptical about multitasking though, at least as it usually plays out. Are we better at what we do when we focus our attention? And is that worth reordering priorities?

  • http://twitter.com/jimsimply James Cain

    I always appreciate your posts. Busyness is the elephant in the room, particularly for young families in the suburbs. I’m a bit skeptical about multitasking though, at least as it usually plays out. Are we better at what we do when we focus our attention? And is that worth reordering priorities?

  • http://twitter.com/jimsimply James Cain

    I always appreciate your posts. Busyness is the elephant in the room, particularly for young families in the suburbs. I’m a bit skeptical about multitasking though, at least as it usually plays out. Are we better at what we do when we focus our attention? And is that worth reordering priorities?

  • http://twitter.com/jimsimply James Cain

    I like what you say here–these things all eat at my margins. An additional challenge is determining when multitasking starts to hamper your effectiveness. I’ve read a bit about the “myth” of multitasking, and I’ve found that what I do (and who I am) is far better when I fully attend to what or who is in front of me.

  • http://debomendoorhetbosch.blogspot.com/ André Bor

    Thanks for this great post. I would say “The graveyard is full of busy people who thought they were irreplaceable”. And the world keeps turning…

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  • RebeccaLivermore

    This blog post really hit home for me. I’m self employed, so I don’t have the issue of having an employer, but instead I have multiple clients. Though I don’t have a traditional job, I still have to please people.

    I really like the point that you make about working hard, but not out of fear, but faith, recognizing the part that God plays in our security and success. It’s so important to remember that ultimately God is in control and that we have to focus first on pleasing Him and then trusting Him with the outcome. Thanks for that reminder.

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  • http://www.logan.cc/blog/ Bryan

    Two things that I’ve found have saved me a bunch of time.

    1) If you don’t have a DVR, get one.  You go from “watching whatever is on now until what I want to watch comes on” to “watch what you want to watch and skip commercials.
    2) Get rid of TV altogether. Spend that time doing what you want.  But don’t replace it 100% with video games or you gain nothing.

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  • Mary Catherine

    great reminders Michael – I am working hard to make sure we have the grants to support our staff. I have a boss who relies on my ability to get the grants out the door.. I am working hard to prioritize so that I worker smarter not harder. I am using a software that tracks my usage on my computer so I can focus more on getting specific tasks done and I am not losing time in e-mail and social media

  • jm101699

    It is a matter of priorities however when it is game time it is very hard to stop and re-evaluate when too many people and things are demanding for your attention. Great post.

  • Erich Robinson

    Thanks for tweeting a link to this older post (I missed it when you first posted it). This is a theme/issue that is near to my heart (something I’m always working on). I recently shared a post to feature 3 resources to help with an overloaded life. You can find it here: http://resourcesforus.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/three-resources-to-help-you-deal-with-an-overloaded-life/

  • Sean

    Actually, I make it a policy not to be overly busy. I say “no” so stuff (very valuable word: “No”), weighing how much doing more would cost me in terms of “me” time. One only has so much time to do justice to one’s commitments. You cannot do everything–once you admit that, you’re already a lot better off. You can have it all, but it may not be all at once; it may come in stages. That’s fine. And if you don’t get it all, maybe what you don’t have wasn’t that important anyway. I’ve also had to stop comparing my life to others’–stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. Balance, balance, balance, and my life goes better when I live MY life, not somebody else’s.

  • Don Olund

    Margin is key to longevity in personal and professional health. I regularly establish “planned time” and take advantage of “pockets of time”. Planned time is on my calendar (date nights with wife, playing basketball for me). Pockets of time (usually an hour or less) show up during the day and give me time to connect with myself or with a family member. It does a good job of filling my emotional tank and clearing my head.