How to Create More Margin in Your Life

The last five weeks have been incredibly busy for me. My new book, Platform, launched on May 22. My daughter Madeline got married the next weekend.

Businessman in a Meadow - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #6378441

Photo courtesy of ©

Since then, I have done seventy-three radio, podcast, magazine, and newspaper interviews. I have also had eight speaking engagements.

To be honest, it has been overwhelming, especially because I am committed to keeping up with my blog and podcasting. It finally came to a head last week.

I realized that if I didn’t take action now and regain control of my calendar, the train was going to come off the tracks.

So, I went back and reviewed my Ideal Week (see image below). I learned a long time ago, the best way to change anything is to start with the end in mind.

I didn’t worry about how I was going to make it happen; I first needed clarity about what I wanted my calendar to look like.

In a word, I needed margin.

In his excellent book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, Richard Swenson, M.D. describes margin like this:

Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.

Margin is the opposite of overload. If we are overloaded we have no margin. Most people are not quite sure when they pass from margin to overload. Threshold points are not easily measurable and are also different for different people in different circumstances. We don’t want to be under-achievers (heaven forbid!), so we fill our schedules uncritically. Options are as attractive as they are numerous, and we overbook.

If we were equipped with a flashing light to indicate “100 percent full,” we could better gauge our capacities. But we don’t have such an indicator light, and we don’t know when we have overextended until we feel the pain. As a result, many people commit to a 120 percent life and wonder why the burden feels so heavy. It is rare to see a life prescheduled to only 80 percent, leaving a margin for responding to the unexpected that God sends our way.

Margin is not something that just happens. You have to fight for it.

Everyone, it seems, wants a piece of you. And no one seems to appreciate the fact that you are a finite resource. (Perhaps you don’t even realize this.)

That’s why creating or re-visiting your Ideal Week is so important.

I was first introduced to this concept by author Todd Duncan in a series of audio recordings he made that eventually became the book, Time Traps: Proven Strategies for Swamped Salespeople.

The idea is similar to a financial budget. The only difference is that you plan how you will spend you time rather than your money. And like a financial budget, you spend it on paper first.

My Ideal Week

My Ideal Week—the week I would live if I could control 100 percent of what happens—is divided into a simple grid (see image above). Each day has a theme. In addition, each day is segmented according to a specific focus area.

Last week, I discussed My Ideal Week with my wife, my assistant, and my two managers. I realized that I didn’t have any hope of implementing it unless all of us were aligned on my intentions. I then updated my Ideal Week spreadsheet and distributed it.

Here’s how it works:

My themes are listed on the very top row:

  • Monday and Tuesday are devoted to my blog and podcast. This is the foundation of everything else I do.
  • Wednesday and Thursday are devoted to Special Projects. This will vary from season to season. For the next few months, I will focus on media interviews and speaking. When I get ready to write my next book, I will focus on writing. If I have a speaking engagement, it has to come out of this allotted time.
  • Friday is my day for appointments. Taking a page from my friend Don Miller, I am relegating all of these to one day a week. It is very difficult to write when I have any meetings on the same day.
  • Saturday is for personal chores and recreation.
  • Sunday is for worship, rest, and planning the next week.

My focus areas are listed in the left-most column:

  • The early morning hours are devoted to self: reading, praying, and working out. I usually listen to audio books or podcasts while running.
  • The middle of the day is devoted to work. I start at 7:30 a.m. and finish promptly at 6:00 p.m. If I don’t, Parkinson’s Law will become operative: “Work expands to the time allotted for it.” That is exactly what I have experienced over the last month. I have lost my “hard boundaries.”
  • The end of the day is reserved for my family, friends, and (on Sundays) planning. Currently, we don’t have any children living at home. Consequently, Gail I eat dinner together almost every night, taking time to connect and catch up.

Activities that contribute to my goals and priorities are shaded green. Those are not related to my goals are shaded red. Those that are grey are simply not scheduled. This represents “margin.”

This scheme is admittedly subjective, but it is helpful to me to make sure I am working on what matters most.

Does this sound like it might be helpful to you? Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Create a template. You can either download my Ideal Week template or start from scratch. It’s up to you.
  2. Identify your themes. This won’t be possible in every situation, but it is helpful if you can assign a theme for each day and then batch similar activities together.
  3. Schedule the important activities. These are the ones you will shade green—they contribute to your goals and priorities. Allocate time for these first.
  4. Fill in around the edges. Now schedule the less important activities. These are ones you will shade red. These items must be done, but they don’t really move you toward your goals.
  5. Tweak and fine-tune. I usually have to go through several iterations before I get it right.
  6. Share it with your team. If they are not aware of your Ideal Week, they may inadvertently sabotage your plans. But if you are aligned, they can help you stay on track.
  7. Don’t be legalistic. The calendar was made for man, not man for the calendar.

If you are like me, not everything can be shoe-horned into the template. However, having this document will better enable you to to create the margin you need to get the important things done while still enjoying your life.

Question: Do you feel like you are out of margin too? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • John Richardson

    Wow Mike, you don’t really realize how busy you are until you put everything on paper. You have succeeded well in filling yours up. Since I’m going to start working from home full time at the beginning of next month, I want to create this type of schedule up front. It’s weird, but when you list everything out like this, it almost feels like you don’t have control of your life.

    I created a similar schedule a couple of years ago, using Google Calendar. You just create different calendars for separate activities, and lay them out on a weekly grid. I put a post together which explains the concept. Using this tool, you can quickly map out your life and move things around. It’s flexible and allows for daily changes.

    Here is the post…

    I still don’t know how you do it. Flying somewhere would completely take up a day on the calendar for me, yet you almost live at the airport. How you fit everything together, is a mystery to me. Seeing your schedule is very eye opening, yet I can’t imagine how you put all the writing, speaking, and commuting times together. You ought to write a new book… “How to schedule your life”… I’m sure it will be a best seller…

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, John. I do use Google Calendar for my real calendar. In fact, I have tried to use it for my Ideal Calendar and my Annual calendar, but I keep coming back to Excel. I’ll take a look at your post.
      One thing to note: going forward my travel and speaking has to come out of the Special Projects account. I can no longer just afford to add it into the mix.

      • John Richardson

        Having the privilege of being on your book launch team, I was amazed at how much time and effort a successful book launch takes, not to mention, how much time it takes to promote the book after it comes out. I think that is one reason I have not pushed harder on expanding my niche. I have not had the time to devote to speaking and travel if success actually came. Now that I’ll be working from home, I’ll have a lot more time to schedule for marketing and outreach. Hopefully I can fill the time with activities that have a successful payoff.

        • Kelly Combs

          “An hour and half each day processing e-mail” – don’t forget John, that’s with a Virtual Assistant who helps with that load. 

          • Michael Hyatt

            Also keep in mind that I hate moving stuff to my to-do list, so I am often doing the tasks that are requested. That also includes responding to blog comments like these, because they come to me via e-mail.

      • Heather C Button

         I’m curious about the fact that you both have weekly and annual calendars, not monthly? How do you organize the bigger projects with deadlines? Because I’m in the constructions industry and writing, my commitments tend to be monthly deadlines, or appointments in groups, or very sudden “we need you on site now” types of things. Any tips for those kinds of events?

        • Michael Hyatt

          I should have also said that I do quarterly planning. However, I don’t do monthly planning. This is just the nature of my work. But if yours is different—and it seems like it is—then do monthly planning. The main thing is to find a rhythm that works for you.

      • Travis Dommert

        Makes total sense to use Excel for ideal, Google for real life.  There is something powerful about creating a simple ideal calendar completely devoid of reality…that’s why it is “ideal”!

        • AarronPina

          Travis – wholeheartedly agree on the Excel/Google matter. [Though I sometimes find the ubiquity of my Google Docs spreadsheets better than Excel…] I just commented on a similar issue on another blog, and Michael – you may already be familiar with this, but David Rock’s book “Your Brain at Work” explains crucial brain concepts in very simple language and metaphor.

          One of his recommendations is this: rather than working project to project, which often wears our brain out for the day because of the constant downshift/upshift of moving from one discipline to another, do what Michael suggests by grouping common brain activities into one block of time. You may not complete projects in the same order than you did before, but you will conserve precious brain resources (oxygen and glucose) and accomplish more in less time.

          Grouping all “creative writing” or “branding strategy” work into one block may not get any one project complete, but it will leave you fresher later in the day. This is a vital best practice in creating the ideal week calendar. I also have a “Burning Desires” note in my Evernote dashboard (favorites) that outlines 5 key “must get done” projects and 5 “nice to haves” I can keep an eye on throughout the week.

          This is probably where I’ll keep my new “Ideal Week” snapshot (or just a link to it in a Google Docs spreadsheet).

          Thanks, Michael and Travis!


  • Joanna

    Having right margins and structure has been somewhat challenging for me lately. I’m unemployed so am spending my time job hunting, undertaking an online course, being involved in various ministry things and writing. Most of those things are very flexible in regards to when they need to be done so a version of Parkinson’s law can start to kick in resulting in disproportionate amount of time being spent on particular tasks if I’m not careful. One of the things I’ve found helpful is to do the most important things (usually job applications) earlier in the day so that if for whatever reason it takes longer, it is eating into the time of the less pressing things, rather than non-pressing things muscling out the important thing. Even just identifying what the important thing is (and therefore which things aren’t as important) helps. 

    Achieving things earlier in the day also gives a sense of momentum for the rest of the day usually leading to a more productive afternoon. If I’ve managed to be very productive in the day, I feel less guilty about having more relaxed evening. 

  • Larry Carter

    What I hear you saying is plan your life or your life will plan you.  Thanks for the inspiration to take control of our lives.

    • Michael Hyatt


    • Jeff Randleman

      Well said.

  • Dave Anderson

    Michael, I have a system that is eerily similar.  I read Margin a decade ago and still pull it off the shelves.  I block schedule my time as well.  

    My most creative times are in the mornings so I use that for blogging and other writing.  My afternoons are spent on marketing/generating business.  As a solo consultant who is just starting, my afternoons are hugely important.  

    I am an extrovert so interacting with people in the PM keeps me from hitting the afternoon blahs.  But I am going to recalculate my time with more writing in the front of the week like you did.  If I get that done on Mon-Tues I will accomplish building onto my foundation and not feel the pressure at the end of the week.

    • Michele Cushatt

      Dave, I’m the same. My most creative times are in the morning. I find if I get on email or online, the creativity part of my evaporates in the day. I have to do that first, then use the afternoons to do all the business-y things, like email, planning, phone calls, meetings, etc.

  • chris vonada

    Typically, I have to build about 2 hours a day of margin into my schedule. With that, I can typically keep an even keel throughout the week and stay on track, without getting all stressed out or in a funk. That seems like a lot, but I do have a lot of “spontaneous” commitments (both family and work-related) that come up on short notice, and fitting these in are important to me.

    • Michael Hyatt

      The important thing is that you know that. Now you can do something about it (if you haven’t already).

  • KC

    Michael- This is such a great post. As a husband, daddy to three little kids, pastor and avid blogger, I need more margin!  The template is great. Thank you for sharing this resource. 

  • Steve Borek

    Interesting concept.

    The one thing I’ll take from this is the appointment idea. I’ll put that into action now.

    • Michele Cushatt

      I liked that too, Steve. Peppering the week with appointments always ends up making me far less productive. I try to keep them on one day as well. Any ideas which day will work best for you?

  • Michael Nichols

    The past several weeks have been crazy for me too (not nearly as busy as yours!). I reviewed my ideal week last week to get back on track – it makes a difference! A couple of years ago, I developed my ideal week from your template and resources from Building Champions. Here’s my process –

    Thanks for serving  your community!

    • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

      @pk2vzjax:disqus Love your blog – subscribed!  

      • Michael Nichols

        Thanks Louise! Welcome!

  • Dastrick

    Michael this is a great post.I know this is to give people a basic idea of how to plan out your time. Do you also  plan out what you will be writing on each day or week? 

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I typically do that in my weekly review on Sunday evening. But I don’t get too detailed—and I go with the flow if I get a better idea during the week.

  • Rachel Blom

    This is so helpful Michael, thanks for sharing. I do have one very practical question: what do you do when travel interrupts your ‘schedule’? This is a tough one for me. When I’m home, my perfect schedule works like a charm. But when I travel for speaking engagements and such, it’s completely messed up and I lose this oh so important margin…How do you deal with this?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Travel has to come out of the two days allotted for Special Projects. I can flex. For example, if I travel on Monday and Tuesday, I reschedule my blogging and podcasting for Wednesday and Thursday. What I am no longer willing to do is just to add that on top of everything else. Hope that helps!

      • Rachel Blom

        It sure does. What you’ve done then is create margin for traveling by dedicating those days to special projects and making those flexible. I can see how that could work for me, because I am indeed adding travel to my already challenging schedule…so I need to make some decisions here. Thanks!

        • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

          Thanks for asking the question I was wanting to ask, Rachel!  And thanks, Michael, for giving us practical advice.

  • Simon Fogg

    Andy Stanley’s Take It To The Limit series is a classic on this subject and uses “margin” throughout. Took my small group through this content a couple or so years ago. Very helpful. See

    • Michele Cushatt

      Great recommendation, Simon. Thanks.

  • Bruce Van Horn

    Great post, Mike! As a business owner, husband, father, elder in my church, writer, musician and marathon runner, I have a very hard time fitting it all in.  On top of that, I’m also a giver, so I have a hard time telling people “no”.  I’ll use your advice to create a little more margin in my life!

    • Jeremy Statton

      The schedule helps you say “no.” When faced with something new it makes it easier to identify what will fit in and what is truly important.

      • Michele Cushatt

        Yes, exactly. The schedule becomes the bad guy, not me.

    • Michael Charles

      I can relate Bruce! I’m doing all the things you’re doing up to Musician. I also work as a full time project manager and run a not-for-profit foundation. I find it very difficult at times to fit everything in. My goal this week is to start prioritizing better. But I do understand where you’re coming from.

  • Dave Ferguson

    Michael, awesome presentation Saturday at “A Day About Books”.  I bought several copies of the book for my clients and also have the audio on my Ipod.  Great content.  Thanks

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Dave. I appreciate the encouragement. Competing with the band was a challenge!

  • Dick

    Mike, This is a great reminder.  It is easy for me to get sucked into the tyranny of the urgent.  I find I need to keep my ideal week posted in a bright, prominent spot so it is calling out to me.  I appreciate the clear reminder.  I am going for a run. Cheers! D

  • Dustin LeBlanc

    One of the most memorable sermons my pastor ever gave I think was one he called Margin.  When visiting Dublin it had been a long time since his last proper coffee (they don’t frequently drink coffee the same way American’s do and Bob is a coffee addict!).  He asked them to fill his super large coffee to the brim because he wanted to get all he could while he was there…if I remember the story right it was a “hot” car ride home and his mild burns reminded him that he needed to live with some more margin in his life :)  That was the anecdote of the sermon anyway, there was more substance in there too but I always remember the story!

  • David Peterson

    Get chart, I really like the visual.  My life is hectic with wife, kids, home, church, and blog. Never know if I’m coming or going some days. Thanks Michael for the post, I’m going to try this and pass it on to my wife.

  • Jeremy Statton

    I felt I had my schedule planned, but then I had some issues develop that showed me how little margin there was. When life became crazy, I had to know what I would cut out first. This can be important as well. Knowing what you can take out if you nned that space.

  • Rich Brooks

    While I love the idea of “margin” and “the ideal week”, I struggle with how to attain it because of the realities of other intrusions and the friction when it comes up against other people’s “ideal weeks.”

    What happens when you only do meetings on Friday and they only take them on Mondays? How flexible are you with your calendar.

    Also, how do you get buy in from your team to let you run your calendar in your ideal way? I’d love to see more on that. Thanks for the great post!

    • Michael Hyatt

      It all depends on how badly I want to meet with the other person. If it’s really important to me, I am flexible. If not, it has to be on Friday. I let it be the other person’s problem.
      I get buy-in from my team by first sharing the Ideal Week with them, asking for their help, and then monitoring each calendar request to make sure it fits in the appropriate slot. If something has to go elsewhere, I make sure we compensate somewhere else.
      For example, if a company wants me to come speak on Monday, then I schedule my blogging on Wednesday or Thursday to compensate.
      Hope that helps.

  • tmabie

    Is there a way to have a “printable” version of this either from the email or web version?  Thanks

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes. Scroll down to the bottom of the post where it says, “Share and Enjoy.” Now click on last icon: “Print with PrintFriendly.”

  •!/PaulGustavson Paul Gustavson

    Michael — Excellent piece here.  I needed it.    The quote  “Work expands to the time allotted for it.”  had me fall out of my chair.  I asked myself – “why do I allot my whole day sometimes?”

    I also enjoyed meeting you on saturday at ADAB.  Fantastic fantastic day.   You are adding value.

    Thanks.  Paul Gustavson (John Maxwell Team member)

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Paul. It was nice to meet you too. Thanks for your kind words!

  • TNeal

    In listening to several of your podcasts on Saturday, while implementing the wow factor suggested in Platform (yes, this would be kissing up if it weren’t all true), I heard about batching or bunching  activities. I did 2 specific things after hearing the podcast. I listed my priorities–God, my wife … Then I made out a weekly schedule and bunched similar tasks on the same day. I felt empowered. Now we’ll see if my expectations and my reality are closely aligned.

    By the way, the wow was cleaning up the kitchen and dining room area while my wife visited her mother and sister all day. Ellen didn’t say anything about what I’d done until about a half hour after settling in. When she did notice, she said, “Oh, wow! You cleaned the house?”

  • brentmkelly

    Thanks so much for sharing this Michael.  I have been working so hard of the past few months of making a plan on paper (or computer) and putting it into action.  Many times I just throw my hands up in the air as it seems that other things always get in the way.  I know it won’t be perfect, but I am going to work really hard on prioritizing and scheduling in a way that works best for me so I can help others more efficiently.  

  • tmckeever

    You always provide blogs that are extremely relevant and this one is no different. Thanks for providing another example/method of creating margin through our scheduling which is a topic I work with in my kidmin coaching. 

  • Marlee

    Hi Michael,

    I love this. I’ve got something like this for myself, but here’s my dilemma. I’m always losing my “hard boundaries.” And what I’ve learned is that if I don’t honor my hard boundaries, how can I expect anyone else too? 

    I do well for awhile, but after a few weeks I start to let things bleed together. So my question is…how do you become more committed to honoring your own boundaries so that you can become a better manager of margin? Is it simply practice, or is there more to it?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Personally, I think this will always be an ongoing struggle. You get a little better but then, life throws you a curveball, and you have to re-tool. That’s exactly what happened to me in the last five weeks. So, I pick myself up and begin again. It’s just part of the journey. Thanks.

      • Marlee

        Thanks, Michael. And if the twittersphere is correct…Happy Birthday!

        • Michael Hyatt

          Thanks, Marlee. It is indeed my birthday.

          • Jeff Randleman

            Well then… Happy Birthday!

  • Steven

    What a superb way to organise your week into productive chunks and avoid/minimize the dreaded multi-tasking. 
    How far out do you plan? Monthly, 90 days, 6 months, a year?

    • Michael Hyatt

      I plan annually. (I have a post on that. You can search for “Annual Planning.”) I also plan weekly and daily.

  • Sonya Lee Thompson

    As I went to bed, exhausted last night, my final thoughts were, “my life is so busy that I feel I’ve lost control!”the problem was I had no idea I could regain control. Now even as a homemaker (with six kids at home) I realize I must take control. Your post has given me the tools I desperately needed. Thank you!

  • Steven

    Mike, thanks for your super fast reply. I’m off to read your Annual Planning post now.

  • Justine

    Inspiring article thanks – really enjoyed it. Off now to re-jig my diary to my ideal !

  • Pingback: Finding Time… | Sweetie Berry()

  • Kelly Combs

    Wow, Michael, that is some schedule! Personally, I need some of those black stripes every day on my calendar, not just on the weekend. I like how you schedule quiet time, exercise and nap. Those are things that I think most people “try” to make happen, but fail to schedule them and thus they never get done.

    Once question I have about your schedule, (if I may) is about blogging. Do you write a week’s blog all on Monday, or do you write daily? 

    Thanks for sharing a look behind the curtain of the schedule of Michael Hyatt.  Don’t forget to plan some vacation time as well. :-)

    • Michael Hyatt

      Great question, Kelly. I typically write all my blog posts on Monday. I write other stuff during the week, but the blogs on one day. I also have Tuesday afternoon allotted to finish up. I use Tuesday mornings to record my podcast.
      Gail and I are taking two full weeks of vacation starting next week. I will be completely unplugged. More to come on that! Thanks.

      • Kelly Combs

        Have a great vacation! And a little (twitter) bird told me it’s your birthday, so…

        ♫♪  Happy Birthday to you. ♪♫

        • Michael Hyatt

          Thanks, Kelly!

  • Christy Hadford

    Love it, Mike!  Over the years as an entrepreneur and now working with business owners in three countries, Steve can attest to the common issues of time management.
         There are those who have learned the hard way (burnout, problematic life-imbalance) and have hopefully implemented changed, but more often than not its easy to let overcommitment creep back in.  Maintaining a margin 
    takes practice and discipline! Thanks for the reminder and the real-life, user friendly, easy-to-digest template.  Steve will definitely be sharing it with his clients and friends. Thanks! Christy @

  • Sonya Lee Thompson

    Thank you for your transparency, Mike! This will be an issue I will face in a few weeks. Now I am armed with even more equipment!

  • coachbillhart

    This issue come up frequently in coaching sessions Mike, and one of the best approaches to framing this from the top, down came from Gary Keller, author of “The Millionaire Real Estate Agent.” He told me in an audio interview I did with him several years ago that he has his students (agents) get an annual fold-out calendar and start at an even higher level. (I imagine you do this as well.)

    He said, “Start with vacations, conventions, three day meetings and add them in. Now add in date nights with your spouse, graduations – all of the other days that are otherwise committed. Once this is done, all you have time left for is work.”

    This leads beautifully into the Ideal Week creation and in my mind can best be summarized in a line I often use with coaching clients to help them understand. “You’re successful and have learned that saving money must be done off the top, not at the ned of the month with what’s left over, right? It’s the same with your time.”

    Re-posting now Mike – thanks for sharing, and look for a a review of “Platform:” from me shortly!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Bill. Yes, I am really committed to the Annual Planning process.
      By the way, I used you as an example in my last Platform speech of someone who is doing a great job building a home base using video. Keep up the great work!

      • Bill

        Much appreciated Mike. Stepping up the frequency (and subsequent expected connection) as you suggested.

        Dude. Did I mention that I LOVE “Platform?”

  • Joe Cox

    It has been noted that almost every breakthrough in the cartoon series, the Jetson’s, has been realized accept one. George Jetson lamented that he had to endure those long 30 hr work weeks. I’m sure the writers thought that tech would one day give us greater margins. But they under estimated our need for validation in the work place and/or attraction to have more stuff. Either leading to filling our margins back up with more to do. The margins I created this year are already corroding.

    • Michael Hyatt

      It’s a constant battle, isn’t it? It seems that every time-saving tech device inevitably adds to our workload. Maybe the Amish are onto something. ;-)

  • David

    What a timely post! I sat down this weekend and listed out 4 major projects this weekend. My next step was creating a schedule of when to work on each to make sure I give them the time they deserve. It’s easy for me to give unfair attention to the one I am partial too.

    I actually made this schedule based on your template about a year ago, but didn’t really stick to it. This was perfect timing!

    And I’m about 60% through Platform, so that is being incorporated into most of my projects.

  • Jen McDonough

    Michael – awesome post! A message we all need to hear, especially in a day and age that things are flying at us constantly.

    A few months ago, I wrote out my current schedule and then added what my goal schedule will be after I transition out of my current role. I was actually irritated when I was done! The schedule was completely full with no margins built in and no fun built in. I actually was a bit grumpy about it until I realized “hello McDonough, this is your life (singing in your podcast intro of course), so if you don’t like it, change it.”

    So, that is what I did. Rewrote it with fun time and margins. Seeing your post however reminds me that I need to review my current schedule as I have allowed projects to bleed into my margins a little too much lately.

    Thanks for the post/reminder and for sharing your template.

    Live Beyond Awesome!

    • Michael Hyatt

      You’re welcome, Jen. Thanks for commenting. And, you are right: this is YOUR life. (That’s why I love that song!)

    • Michael Hyatt

      You’re welcome, Jen. Thanks for commenting. And, you are right: this is YOUR life. (That’s why I love that song!)

    • Michael Hyatt

      You’re welcome, Jen. Thanks for commenting. And, you are right: this is YOUR life. (That’s why I love that song!)

  • Dallon Christensen

    I’m certainly glad I read this while on vacation! I’m taking this week to do a little writing, create a real planning process that I can follow, and (of course!) spend a lot of time with my family. Since I was overwhelmed with running my business on the side while working an incredibly demanding job, I never really had the chance to do this. Now that I see a real example from a very busy person like Michael, I can work that into my overall planning. 

    My wife has told me for years that I’m running myself into the ground. While I knew she was right, I never had a clear way to overcome this. Along with using Priority Matrix and Evernote for my project planning, this type of calendar is a godsend for me. Nice timing!

  • Joshua Rivers

    I am definitely in need of margin. At least for making a schedule. I need to be more intentional about how I plan my week. I may have to cut some things back or cut them out. I like how your Ideal Week looks, and I’ll definitely use it to help sketch one out for myself.

  • Terry Hadaway

    Sometimes the most significant events in life happen in the margin. In those times when I’ve been overextended, I’ve discovered my creativity lacking and my optimism diminished. Discovering your why requires margin; living it produces margin!

  • Skip Prichard

    I especially like this:  “Margin is not something that just happens. You have to fight for it.”  Like all things worthwhile, it isn’t going to come naturally or easily.

  • Vicki Moag

    Margin tends to redefine when the summer is here and my 3 children are adjusting to not having a rigorous work load from teachers, homework, and being around classmates all day.  When it comes down to just mommy I hear a lot of “what are we going to do today?” When all I want to do is say, “Stay in mommies margin?…”  That’s almost funny.  Do you remember those days?  Do you have any further recommendations for me and my husband during this season as we model margins and the importance of it?

    • Michael Hyatt

      By do I ever. At one time, we had five daughters under the age of ten. I think an Ideal Week can work. But you have to be realistic and give yourself GRACE. You will do better with a plan than without one, but you will have very, very few weeks when everything works the way you planned it.

  • Brett

    Thanks for sharing the spreadsheet. The idea of margin is so needed (and a theme I keep coming back to in my own writing if only to keep pulling me closer to where I want to be), but it’s helpful to see an example of someone who is busy. 

    I’ve learned that one of my biggest enemies is not being fully engaged in a time slot. Consequently important (and urgent) tasks sometimes take a bit longer… that bleeds into any margin I had created.

    It’s like budgeting. One of the first things to do is review/log what’s going on to see where the leaks are. It can take a few weeks or months to plug leaks and get a workable schedule/calendar down.

  • Cherry Odelberg

    I have always known that a schedule gives freedom-especially coupled with the reminder, “don’t be legalistic.”
    Thank you for the posts that remind us how to shed guilt and embrace a bit of sanity.

  • Bruce W. Martin

    Good stuff. I am entering a very busy season, including a new book launch in August. This is exactly what I needed NOW to make sure my life doesn’t get taken over by my work! Thanks for the time budget spreadsheet too. Very practical!

  • David Jochum

     This article could not have come at a better time for me. The most difficult person I manage is me and knowing this, I have already taken steps to control my calendar and schedule, but I too have found that my margin has disappeared. It’s time to get back on track! Thank you for the article and for sharing your template. 

  • Mary DeMuth

    I did this a few weeks ago, and it’s really, really helped me. I’m the kind of person who can let tasks overwhelm me if they’re not categorized. 

    I’m currently writing a book, which for me means writing 2000 words a day. The thing that I always underestimate is marketing and book launching, so I added those to my workchart flow. 

    I’ve printed off my schedule so I can see it every day. I can attest that this has proven to work very well.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Oh, and I need to say that this exercise is what helped me let go of a big portion of my life (mentoring writers) this past few weeks. Why? Because I realized I couldn’t do it all. 

    • Jeff Randleman

      I’ve been doing this for a while now – several months at least.  It is a huge help!  However, we just moved from MO to FL, so I’m having to go back and make some serious adjustments to my schedule now.

      • Mary DeMuth

        When your schedule gets upended by a move, it can get pretty crazy! Give yourself grace as you readjust.

        • Jeff Randleman

          Absolutely!  Thanks for the reminder!

  • Kirk Dando

    Michael, this is excellent, thank you!  We all hear the concept that Time is Money but it seems to be one of those cliches that no one really lets absorb.  If you exchanged the word “time” with the word “money” (e.g. how much “money” did you spend in that meeting or how much “money” did you spend on that phone call, etc.) it seems we would have a heightened sense of how we spend our time/money?  Time to me is the most valuable asset and the most perishable asset I have.  If I cannot align my priorities with my time and money I always get results that match.  You have provided me with some good tools and provoked some deeper thinking in me.  Thank you.  Also, I really enjoyed listening to you speak this past weekend.  Blessings!

  • Lori Ramsey

    I don’t have margin or a schedule, but really need it.  Thank you for sharing this, I downloaded the spreadsheet too.

  • Mark Heise

    Wow!  I’ll forgive you for not getting back to me with the info on the electronic versions of the book from Blogworld. Still looking forward to that though!

  • Jeff Randleman

    I have done the same thing for my life.  However, we just moved from the Midwest to Florida, beginning a new ministry, and my routines have all shifted somewhat.  I’m in the tweaking stage again, trying to get it all lined out and flowing smoothly.  It doesn’t help that it’s summer camp season right now either…

  • Andrew Mcneal

    Would it be possible to get LinkedIn sharing on the page?  So many of your posts are great and deserve being shared on that platform as well.

    • Michael Hyatt

      It’s actually already there … just scroll to the bottom of the page where it says ”Share and Enjoy.” There’s a LinkedIn share icon. Thanks.

  • Lisa Colón DeLay

    This is incredibly fascinating. I’m going to have to pour over it to absorb it, but it seems rather brilliant as a planned working life. Such a plan seems so beneficial.

    Thank you too for promoting MARGIN!! That’s divine.I wonder if this grid is best utilized with a demanding schedule, but in need of a revision for a period of less busyness or even a reinvented one for a sabbatical period… in other words: it’s workers plan, but a plan for greater refreshment will be needed in a few months. What do you think?Eugene Peterson may be a good resource as a starting point for that grid. (My most recommended… for busy people living out their calling (it helpful for most, not just pastors): The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction by Eugene H. Peterson (Oct 22, 1993))In that vein, I’m planning a day-long guided personal (mainly silent) prayer retreat in Aug. for a few of us. After, I had that sort of experience myself at Lent, I wanted to offer the kind of blessing I had to others. Catholic tradition is much more accommodating for that sort of thing (we will be using a nearby Jesuit Center, in fact where silence isn’t seen as strange). (We) Evangelicals too often see blocking out a full day for quiet retreat as time wasted. In fact, the refreshment of it plugs vitality, creative energy, optimism, and productivity into the days following this practice to the point that God’s supernatural involvement in it all becomes beautifully evident.I’d love for you to revisit your grid after Autumn arrives, and tell us how it’s helped the most and the places where (if any) it has failed you. I’m wonder if you’ll see a need for something new, or create an adjusted grid. Is this something you had in mind?

    • Michael Hyatt

      This is something I revised periodically, because life isn’t static. ;-)
      My wife and I are about to leave for a two-week sabbatical. We plan to totally unplug and just BE.
      Thanks for commenting.

  • Adam Rico

    The interesting thing about margin is that it will become a vacuum if you don’t protect it. When I schedule margin in my life inevitably someone or something wants to use that time. Protecting margin is imperative to not feeling out of control in my experience.

  • Lill

    This is SO what I needed–I’m so glad I took the time to read your post.  Now I just need to carve out time to implement the plan because I have no non work time.

  • Lawrence W. Wilson

    I love this idea, but I might need to plan an ideal month, rather than a week because I have a number of events that recur monthly. Great thoughts.

  • Michael Charles

    Thanks for sharing your methods with us, Michael! This post is truly helpful for me at this stage of my life. My one question is: how can I create my margin with a fultime job, running a foundation, running my own business, being a husband, a father and an associate music director in my home church? I’m determined to take care of the important things and create my margin so I’m not stretched to my breaking point. Do you have any words of wisdom for me?

    Thanks for writing “Platform”. Together with the bonuses, it is a must have resource for anyone with a message to share.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I would start with a Life Plan, Michael. Until you have set your priorities and have a vision for each account in your life, it is hard to know what to keep and what to cut. Thanks.

  • MikeCopelin

    Hey Mike,

    I actually think your “Ideal Week” looks pretty good to me.  I actually expected it to be a little more stressful.  You seem to be the type of person that thrives on getting as many things done as possible in the least amount of time.   I’m very similar and for some weird reason, it relieves stress (as long as it is organized) rather than creates it. I do realize this is what you would like it to be verses what it turns out to be.  I’m sure the last few weeks, if on a similar grid would take another page or two.  I don’t see 2 to 3 hours of TV every day, I’m pretty sure if the average person did this and they were honest, it would have to be included.

    This is a great tool and looking at a week at a time helps me a lot more than a day at a time.  I really enjoy your blogs as well as your podcast because you are such a “to the point” person and that’s what I enjoy.  My attention span can only survive so long and it never strays with your content.

    Keep up the good work!

    Mike Copelin

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Mike. I appreciate your kind words.

    • Jim Martin

      Mike, you just described very well one of the strengths of this blog and the podcast.  It is “to the point.”  Because of this, I find it much easier to read the blog at various points in my day when I have a few minutes.  I know the post will be succinct and helpful.

  • Phyllis Keels

    Thank you! Thank you from the bottom of my heart! I had just cried out to the Lord this morning to show me how to spend my time with and for Him. 

    What I heard when I read your post was this:  “Choose you this day whom you will serve…” This day and this day and this day.Again, thank you for using your gifts to honor Him.Phyllis K

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  • Sophie Novak

    Happy birthday and thanks for the interesting and helpful post! Hope you reserved today for private enjoyment. Your readers will forgive you! :)

  • Peter Gowesky

    WHAT A GREAT POST!  As a Pastor, I find myself struggling to keep margin in my life.  Thanks for sharing what you do.  I love it.  I am going to re-read this post again to really try and nail down a few disciplines that I can build into my life.  Best post yet!  

  • Laurapolk

    It’s like you read my mind! I’ve been struggling with this for weeks and have been starting to feel so overwhelmed. I was trying to come up with a plan to fix this, when I read this blog. Thanks so much for sharing your weekly plan. I’ve already spent the morning formulating one of my own.

  • Joe Passkiewicz

    Thanks for the reminders here!  I love how you characterize the pursuit for margin as a fight!  Everyone pulling on you.  I often feel this way.  The current norms are to celebrate being super busy- you have to fight it!  How do you determine what needs to be cut to create margin or is it just simply balance and priorities?  Do you find that you have a “go to” area?

    • Michael Hyatt

      I always cut with my priorities and goals in mind. It really goes back to my life plan.

  • Erica McNeal

    I love this Mike. I was going to ask this weekend at the conference how you get everything done without cloning yourself! Will definitely use this template and work through my week. Trying to keep my priorities in order: wife, stay at home mom, then author/speaker. Thanks for this post, I really like the way you broke down your priorities in this template.

    • Michele Cushatt

      Erica, I think the hardest part of using the template is the mom part. We’re very scheduled in our house, but kids don’t always fit the schedule. It works one day, bombs the next. Do you have any great ideas for making the schedule and mom responsibilities work together?

      • Erica McNeal

        Great ideas? Probably not. In fact, I have been homeschooling our 6 year old  this year because of all our military transitions (moves). I think scheduling life as stay at home mom and work has been the most difficult schedules for me to figure out.

        A few months ago, I had two days a week with no kids for about 5 hours. This was HUGE and gave me the chance to work and concentrate with focus. At that point, my son was still napping, and my daughter was able to stay relatively quiet for about 2 hours during his nap time on the other days. This also gave me time to work. Now… it’s all over the place, with little down time. Without someone to keep the kids, I work very distractedly, and it takes at least 3 times as long to get anything done. “Quiet” times are very rare in this house! =)

        I would not change the decision to homeschool, because it has enabled us a lot more family time, especially with my husband’s unpredictable schedule. But, creating that down time is crucial both as a mom and to work.

        • Michele Cushatt

          That’s makes me feel better. :) I’ve had to get a babysitter at least one day a week just so I can get some concentrated work done.

          • Erica McNeal

            And, I’ve had to learn, there is nothing wrong with that. Even mama’s need a break every once in awhile! =)

          • Michele Cushatt

            Amen, sista.

  • Pates

    I often find myself out of margin… After reading this post it excited me to think of this as a possibility, but i struggle to think that it could be a reality when my boss controls much of my work load and my type of work changes from week to week… any ideas, suggestions, encouragements you have for this would be greatly appreciated

  • Missional Mama

    Thanks for sharing how you balance your life.  I especially like the idea of having daily themes. Also, Margin by Swenson is an excellent resource!

    • Jim Martin

      I like that idea of having day themes as well.  I have never tried this but plan to do so.

  • Latrina P.

    I am not living in the margin, but I’m getting better at it. Truthfully, your blogs and your book have had a tremendous impact on how I live my life and spend my time. I’m so glad you gave us a glimpse of your calendar, it’s extremely helpful and inspiring. As John R. said, I don’t know how you do it! Thanks for your transparency and all you do to help us live our best life!! 

  • Dan Erickson

    I don’t know how you do it.  I’m busy, but nothing compared to your schedule.  Sometimes, I think life is better  living in the margins.  My goal is to create enough income from my book to have an adequate residual income when I retire.  It’s getting there that’s the harder part.    

  • Joyfilledpilgrim

    Thank you so much for the ideas on margin and planning the schedule.  I needed this reminder and ideas today….  I was falling behind my own planning.
    God Bless!

  • Brandon Gilliland

    The past few weeks have been crazy for me. I haven’t even had time to blog. Until today, I had not posted in about a week.

    Thanks for sharing this today.

  • Kathleen Jaeger

    I have a couple of questions. Does your wife have an ideal week? Does she plan in a similar way? I’m curious about the interaction of meshing your plans together. You seem to have a great marriage and would love to know how you work this out, especially because it seems that she might go about this differently.  Also, when you did have children at home, did you do this same type of ideal week planning? If so or if you could, what would that look like? 

    • Michael Hyatt

      No, she doesn’t. We are wired very differently. I did have an Ideal Week when the kids were at home, but it did look very different. I had specific times blocked for the children, for example.
      An Ideal Week is something you need to revise every year or so.

  • Carolyn Mance

    Thank you for pouring out all that you have learned to others through your book Platform and this blog.  I love them both. Today’s post alone took a great deal of time and effort and I want to let you know how much it is appreciated. This post is so rich, it gives me the bones I need to be a good steward of all that I learned Saturday at ADAB with John Maxwell. My simple list gets buried today.

    My day with you, John and Charlie provided the mentoring and direction I need. I plan to use everything that was shared, along with your book Platform to continue forward with my writing. Your book, is my owner’s manual for this endeavor and I am so grateful for it.  

    It was a pleasure meeting you and a privilege to sit at the feet of you three.  Thanks for being a tribal leader. Well worth the 20 hour round-trip.  Now home, I will be adding a little margin once my next beta launches.

    Carolyn Mance


    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your kind words, Carolyn, and for coming to the conference. I really enjoyed being with everyone.

  • Gini Woodward

    I really like this post. Although written for someone in the busy bee years, it is equally important for those of us in healthy retirement where we frequently find our time frittered away or over committed unintentionally. Realistic goals with measurable results, scheduled into life will get the house painted, the lawn mowed, etc, etc and leave a margin of time to play with the grandkids. Retirement simply means accounting for time to oneself.

  • Dana Pittman

    Timely post. I spent Saturday considering my schedule. I had to write a few letters of resignation from some extra activities. To arrive at my intended destination I have to lean things out a bit. Thanks for including the spreadsheet.

  • Josh Hunt

    Sometimes you have to harvest the wheat when the wheat is ready. 

    • Jason Stambaugh

      Great point. That was the thought lingering in the back of my mind too. There are seasons in life that demand a different sort of schedule. I thought back to the book “See You in 100 Years”. It’s a book about a guy who left his NYC lifestyle and spent a year living off the grid on a farm in VA. The work schedule was grueling for 2 seasons, moderate for 1, and slow during the winter. 

      I have an ideal calendar, but given the season of business I am in right now, it is not a reality. Maybe I need to create an ideal calendar for this season?

  • Jeremy Walsh

    As always Michael, this is on point.  I bought Margin a year ago after checking out your recommended reading list and it is a great principle to live by.  One other thought that resonated with me when I read this post is a concept from the book “The On-Purpose Person” by Kevin McCarthy.  In his book he suggests that when you build an Ideal Day that you stop “spending” your time on stuff and start “investing” your time on things that really matter.  Good stuff!!

  • Pastorjmark

    Happy Birthday, Michael.  I scanned the first half of the comments, I didn’t see anyone ask about the “nap”!  Seriously, I love that. I would love to pull that off, even 30 minutes. I’ve not thought it acceptable in our culture, but you’ve confirmed there’s a way.  

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  • Jim Woods

    I believe life is seasonal; so some seasons are going to be busier and crazier than others. I do feel a bit out of margin right now. The question becomes what am I going to do to get back in line in the near future. For me, that means saying no to some good things. (Which is hard to do if you are a people pleaser.) 

    • Jim Martin

      Jim, good point about life being seasonal.  You are right.  For example, my oldest daughter is a stay at home mom with a two year old.  A factor that would certainly make a difference in the way she schedules her time.

  • Rick Yuzzi

    Some great ideas. We’re going through a video series from Andy Stanley right now on how to create more margin in your life.

    • Jim Martin

      Rick, I saw Andy Stanley’s video series.  Very good material!

  • Jer Monson

    Great post Michael! A timely reminder for me as I strain under the pressure of preparing for the California Bar Exam. If it fits into your editorial calendar, I’d love a follow up post in a few months time. It would be interesting to know how this works out and what other adjustments you end up making, especially with your amazingly diverse schedule!

  • Pam

    Wow – Mike.  This was the right thing at the right time…I am going to map out my perfect week and take back my life!  I will be sharing this on our blog as well…this is something everyone needs to grab hold of in this crazy-busy world we live in.  Thanks for your wisdom!  

  • HomemakersDaily

    Awesome article.  I loved this line:  “Everyone, it seems, wants a piece of you. And no one seems to appreciate the fact that you are a finite resource. (Perhaps you don’t even realize this.)”  That’s exactly how I feel these days.  I also loved what you said about beginning with the end in mind. 

    Thanks for the reminder that you can only do so much.

  • Donald McAllister

    Wow, you are busy! If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. With four children, including a newborn at 3months old, writing, and working, I can definitely use this! Thanks. 

  • Seth Millican

    This is great advice and very timely for where I am in life right now.  My wife and I have been discussing this alot the last several weeks.  What resource from Don Miller did you refer to in speaking of moving all appointments to one day?

  • Adam Faughn

    I am a preacher, so I have to modify the plan, although I do follow an “ideal week” idea. I have certain times (Tuesday and Thursday afternoons) where I schedule “other tasks,” but then I prioritize those tasks. Some weeks (most weeks, really) it is visitation. Other weeks, though, it might need to be preparing for a speaking engagement, writing, or even time off. If I don’t prioritize those “open times,” though, they become very easily wasted.

  • Brandon Jones

    This is a great  post! It is so easy to get busy with everything that is going on and all the demands on your time.  If you don’t take control by choosing what is and is not worth your time, you will get caught up doing good things but not the most important things.  It is very important identify the difference between the good things and the best things.  The more you choose the best choices, the more you will be working towards your overall goals.

    • Jim Martin

      Brandon, you make a good point.  It is very important to identify the difference between what is good and what is best.  Somehow, I want to make sure that the best is being addressed.

  • kimanzi constable

    I thought I was busy, you just made my schedule look silly! I will be trying out this system Michael because things are starting to get busy and I still have my day job! Great post and a great example of being intentional with your time!

  • MM

    I just started a new job with a commute 45 mins each day as well as a new dating relationship and my friends and family still expect me to be available to them as I was before.. I’m definitely in need of margin! Any tips on how to maximize that commute? This post was REALLY helpful. Thanks!!!

  • DS

    I love – yes love – hearing about a real life experience with this.  I’ve seen your ideal week template before as well as through

    Even the best and brightest have to stick to their guns on this.  We all have scheduling challenges and priorities – thanks for being candid about your own schedule. 

  • Jared Latigo

    Good ideas here for sure. I struggle with the fact that I keep my son in the mornings since my wife still works. It’s hard to get things accomplished when you’re having to work a few hours on and few off. I only have a 2 real days a week I’m uninterrupted…maybe setting up something like this will help me to figure out my plan before the day actually starts. Thanks for the tips. 

    • Jim Martin

      Jared, I’m glad you mentioned this about keeping your son in the mornings while your wife works.  This illustrates so well the reality that so many, many people experience in life as they (we) see margin.  We have these life issues that we must deal with (keeping children, nursing babies, caring for a aged parent, etc.)  These realities seem to make it even more critical that we pursue some sense of margin in our lives, as difficult and challenging as that may be.  Thanks.

  • Katie Axelson

    I had a template that looked quite similar to this one during undergrad but I’ve let it drop since graduation. Thanks for the push to get back on one.


  • Sarah

    Thanks so much for a great article! I have been searching for a word to describe what has happened to my own schedule and “margin” is definitely it.  I love that you shared your improved schedule as well.  It gave me an excellent starting point on how to organize mine.  Best Regards!

  • Diana Williams Bandlow

    Michael, This is a timely post because I recently realized I need more margin in my life. On March 30 I resigned from my career as an Environmental Scientist to pursue a full-time writing career. I am an organized and detail-oriented person, however I find fitting the business side of writing, actually writing, caring for my home, taking time for myself, and connecting with God a bit challenging even with a calendar. You find out just how disciplined you are when you do not have a boss for accountability.

    My life–professional and personal–looks nothing like it did on March 30 because in addition to the job change I have been going through a personal challenge as well. It’s like someone tossed my life in the air and I am trying to make sense of the various pieces as they come down. Seeking God’s guidance on how to schedule things, so I am DOING the things that mean the most to me on a daily basis, is core for me and ongoing.

    As you said we have to work at staying focused on what is most important, somethings are enticing but do not take us in the direction of our ideal life. I appreciate your candor because you make your success look so effortless.

    • Jim Martin

      So glad you found this post helpful, Diana.  It sounds as if you are going through a challenging period as you transition to a full-time writing career.  That must be challenging enough but you have this personal challenge as well.  I wish you the very best as you navigate these waters with God’s guidance.  

  • Julie Sunne

    I heard Dr. Swenson speak on this topic once: very dynamic and inspiring.  Thanks for  sharing your template. With four children, all still at home, my schedule will look far different, but worth a try. I do need to gain some margin.

  • Kay

    This schedule is so helpful, not only for creating margin, but for helping one map out a path to success as well. Thanks for this tool!

  • Daniel Decker

    Helpful indeed. It’s like having a NO framework. : ) Saying NO is my margin life preserver right now. NO to things that are outside of the prime scope so that I can say YES to things that are better aligned with my goals (personal and professional). It’s hard, especially when people are involved. I hate turning down people who request meetings, etc. but if I said yes to every request then I’d never have time live proactively towards the things I feel called to do.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I so relate to your comment. I hate saying no too. I am going to talk about the necessity of being less accessible tomorrow on my blog. Stay tuned …

  • Studioconway

    I found this very interesting. After many years of hectic travel and self employment with three strands to my legal career I now have a job ten minutes from home and which is nine to four at most. I have staff who do my diary and I just turn up and do the apointments. I was almost lost without the need to organise my schedule, travel and plan forward for the business. The good thing however is that I now have tons of time to devote to my emerging art career. But I find that I tend now to focus on that in my out of work time and so many other ings like blogging and reading and especially fitness fall by the way.These are things I like to do but dont do. this post has galavise me to look at putting back the other things that are important to me. I don’t think I have ever really got the new lifestyle organised to best advantage and this system is both practical and right up my street in terms of enjoying life planning activities! thank you

  • Michele Cushatt

    Swenson’s book is excellent. Revolutionary, in fact! After reading it almost two years ago, I finally starting putting boundaries on my time and resources, and gave myself permission to say “no.” A huge relief. It’s still a struggle, and I usually have to reevaluate a few times a years. But I have a framework from which to work, and that made the difference.

  • sandra delemare

    Thanks for this, Mike. I’ll give it a go. Since retiring, any sort of timetable has gone out of the window & it seems like I’m getting less done at home than when I was working full-time. Apart from setting up my blog – but I need to set times for that. I like the idea of themes for certain days.

  • Charlie Lyons

    I started using your Ideal Week spreadsheet more than a year ago and it has been terrific as a reminder for what’s important. I learned early on in its use, however, that it is a living document and have made a couple of adjustments along the way (new child, etc.). Thanks so much for your help in this and so many other areas. Blessings!

  • Connie Foster

    Thanks for sharing your Ideal Week calendar. It’s just what I need, especially with my husband’s hospitalization while I conduct training out of town (yes our train went off the tracks). Thankfully he is home now, but I’m still on the road. I look forward to returning home and using your tool to help restore some margin in our lives.

    • John Tiller

      Connie, I hope your husband feels better quickly!  You bring up a great point that this is one of the best activities we can do to adjust to our “new normal” when the train of life “goes off the tracks”.

  • Carol Dublin

    What a great reminder. It’s past time to update my Life Plan (thank you for your ebook), and in the process, I need to develop my Ideal Calendar. I’m trying to be more intentional, but my calendar seems to get away from me. Love the idea of blocking out the important things and creating hard boundaries to personal time. I am losing 9 vacation days this fiscal year because I didn’t plan time to take off. That is not acceptable. Awesome blog, and Happy Birthday!

  • Paul Caris


    Thank you for this. I’m excited to put it into practice in my life, I need more margin!



  • Craig Morton

    Such an important topic Michael.   Success doesn’t happen by accident and neither does down time.  Thanks for taking time to address this. 

  • Thad Puckett

    I love the concept of margin so much more than being rigid in a schedule. Margin pictures flexibility. Fits better in the real world of life and living.

  • Barbara McDowell Whitt

    Two things in your post stood out for me:

    The author Richard Swenson, MD’s comment, “It is rare to see a life prescheduled to only 80 percent, leaving a margin for responding to the unexpected that God sends our way.”


    “Currently, we don’t have any children living at home. Consequently, Gail and I eat dinner together almost every night, taking time to connect and catch up.”

    My responses:

    Frequently, God seems to be unacknowledged in people’s lives. I trust him completely.


    I am thankful that my husband and I have the same privilege that you and your wife have – to eat our evening meal together.



  • racheal1998

    This is *fantastic*!  I was literally putting some thing together like this last night for myself, because I might have *too* much margin. Lol.   I’m doing a self-aduit this week to see exactly where all my time is going, and where I need to reallocate it.
    Thanks for much sharing your schedule and Ideal Week!  It’s so helpful.

  • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

    I love the tool you shared for the week.  I read Todd’s book several years ago and it was excellent.  Thematic scheduling is what I really like – which I took from Daniel Harkavy’s book “Becoming a Coaching Leader” …..but even when I have planned and planned – and did my best with priority management – there are times when it all seems overwhelming – too many projects left undone at the end of the day! 

    I have to remind myself often that at the end of the day, Jesus rested.  There were still people to heal and to teach – but he is the ultimate example of balance.  

  • George Gregory

    What a neat concept! I find that if we don’t plan, things do indeed find a way to creeping in – urgent rather than important gets done first. As a visual person, I find the grid idea quite useful. 

  • @petebillingham

    Michael – very interesting blog post and eye opening on the amount of productivity you fit into a working week, thanks for the insight in to your organisational life. My thought is, what about spontaneity? I recently read Psalm 90:12 and was challenged by the words to “number my days” so I did just that! I had been alive for 18,948 days and if I lived to 77 (which a handy calculator on the web told me I had a 75% chance to reach) I had 9,148 days left… it didn’t seem too many! I try to be organised (though not as well as you) but am challenged because when I look at the events in Jesus’ life it seems quite often he was “interrupted” on his way from one place to another and thats when the most amazing ministry took place. How do you deal with spontaneity? “Gail, it’s a beautiful day, I now work from home, lets go for a picnic” kind of special moments?  Or a friend calls and says, “Michael I am struggling today with some issues, can we get coffee?” I know that you can’t do that everyday, but do you ever allow margin for those moments that create memories?   

    • Michael Hyatt

      I totally allow for spontaneity. See point #7. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I want more margin in my life.

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  • andersgerdmar

    I really like your transparency and this inspired me to be more transparent to people I lead. I fully agree with the basic concept. The difficulty I see is of course what to do when one is less free to steward one’s time?

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  • Jeff Little

    That “work will expand” concept is absolutely true.  I find that constantly, which means I need to become more diligent in creating the margin necessary to complete all important tasks, take time to build my relationship with God and my family and serve my home church.  Thank you so much for providing this .xls file for our use.  I downloaded it and will plug my days in as well.  God bless you.  And thanks for all the other great info too.  PLATFORM RULES!

  • tmabie

    Hi Michael,  No margin?  Absolutely.  In fact, I’ve been meaning to comment on a number of your blogs and podcasts, but haven’t had the time.  Talk about no margin!!  I really appreciated you blog and specifically “my ideal week”.  I know that this comes from Building Champions, which I’m familiar with.  I really liked the themes and focus.  I’ve shared it with several friends vis the Forward to a friend from the email as well as printing it and sharing it.  BTY, I wrote before with a question about a “printer friendly version” of your blogs, etc.  

  • tmabie

    Michael, sorry, I just saw your response to my earlier post re: printer friendly version.

  • Anthony G. Nderitu

    Hey, thanks for the tips. These will definitely aid me in developing a more targeted, and therefore more productive life.

  • Sdmadd2

    Great post.  This style of electronic calendar would be great for me to use.  If I can effectively implement it now it will keep me from wasting so much time now, and help me set boundaries later when my schedule is more busy.  Thanks for sharing.

  • Anthony G. Nderitu

    Hey, thanks for the tips. They will be helpful in developing a more targeted, and therefore more productive life.

  • Susie

    I love this!!  Thank you so much for sharing it.  I felt like email was taking over my life.  I now have blocked out times when I’ll do e-mail and created theme days.  So helpful – thank you so much!

  • Reader

    Dear Mr. Hyatt,

    Thanks for these insights.  It is very kind of you to share what is working for you.   If we lose our physical and/or emotional health, how can we be effective to others or in ministry?  Your website is a valuable resource to many people, myself included.


  • Travis Dommert

    The post about your ideal week has to be one of those that hit me hardest…because I knew I needed to do it and yet kept putting it off.  Client demands just seemed to vary so much that I wondered when it would finally work to impose my will on them…as a result, I wasn’t planning my ideal week and the whole thing was like to-do spaghetti.

    I recently took a major step forward…I blocked time on my calendar throughout the week for my most important recurring actions…the stuff I track on irunurun.  I figured if it was important enough to make my iu dashboard, it deserved a spot on the calendar.

    Then, to maintain flexibility, I made that same time (as well as any open slots) available to clients.  The result, if clients want that time, they can have it…but the activity must go somewhere else on the calendar.  When there is no where else to put it, clients can no longer have it.

    Now the only challenge…work the plan!!  (smile)

    • Michael Hyatt

      Good for you, Travis!

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  • Jon Wilburn

    Michael – I have recently discovered that I need to start saying no to unneeded things.  I think Steve Jobs said something like, ” Focus isn’t about saying yes, its about saying no to 1000 good things”  

    Isn’t that true with our schedules too?  I appreciated your post today. Thanks. 

  • Jonelle

    Great article!  I have used time blocks for years and teach my clients to do the same.  However, I lover the concept of the Ideal Week with themes.   Thank you for sharing!

  • JaysonFeltner

    This post really inspired me, so I just posted an extension to this article! I titled it “How to Preserve Margin Time in Your Life.” I think the readers will enjoy it.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Very good, Jayson. Thanks.

      • JaysonFeltner

        You’re welcome. Thank you for the feedback. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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  • Lois Turley

    Michael, your blog is one of my favorites.  This post came just as I was working toward getting a more efficient schedule set up.  Thank you.

    One thing I’m wondering: Where does social media fit into the schedule you’ve shown us here?

  • Pedro Alexandrino

    Hi Michael. Great post. I do this with my calendar as well. Now the question I’ve always had is this: What do you do when the most important things for you don’t get enough time and you just don’t have anything to trade in. For example: I’m reading Stephen Covey’s ” First things first ” now and adapting some concepts, but on my personal pile, I’ve always had the perfect world as: God, Family, work, everything else.

    Having said that, Because I’m naturally driven to the scholar side of theology, I need a lot of Time (Chronos) as well as quality time (Kairos) to really experience depth when reading the bible and spending time with God. But work takes so much of my day… Maybe I should read the book ” Quitter” by john Acuff which is already on my list anyway…

    Let me know your thoughts. Love your work

  • Chuck Anderson

    Interesting to see your revised calendar now that you’re not at Thomas Nelson any longer. My question is about the start of your day. I have trouble when I start out with blogs, news, email, and such. It sucks me in and it’s close to lunch before I know it. How do you avoid that with those items starting your day?

    • Michael Hyatt

      It’s a good question. Sometimes it sucks me in too. Mostly, it is about being clear with my to-do list and knowing what I have to accomplish for the day.

      • Chuck Anderson

        Thanks Michael! I guess it’s kind of like the Apostle Paul who sometimes “kept doing the things he knew he shouldn’t do.”

  • sarahfarish

    Thanks so much for this post.  I end each week frustrated, feeling I have wasted the week.  But, I have never put anything in writing; it’s all in my head and dreams.  This how-to is exactly what I needed.  Thanks again.

  • Diana Elaine Fadal

    Wow. I am so thankful for this post. I am an intern at Castle Media Group and recently listened to the audio version of your book, which was so good and clear, and helpful. 

    I love that you seek God first and schedule your calendar to be life-giving and beneficial to yourself holistically and not just in order to “get as much done as possible” in the week, which can often leave us dry. I want to start scheduling like this. 

    Big fan!

  • Mitacari

    I liked Step 7 because I was wondering how often the ideal schedule is accomplished.   I’ve made schedules for myself, but life seems to happen and my ideal plan is thwarted.  I feel like I am always behind, sometimes because I really am behind and sometimes because I didn’t meet my own expectations.  Can you address this?

    • Michael Hyatt

      The Ideal Week is just that: an “ideal.” You will rarely achieve it, but at least you know what you are shooting for. If you have this in mind you have a better chance of hitting it. You might only get 80%, but that is better than 40-50%. Thanks.

  • G Aliceson

    Margin was a new concept for me and one I have not mastered.  This was was greatly helpful to me as I transition into my retirement from full-time teacher to full time writer.  I think a schedule such as this will also help with the people in my life who think I now have “nothing” to do during the day.

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  • jbledsoejr

    Awesome! I remember seeing your idea week when I was first exposed to your blog.  It must have been your ideal week when you were still CEO of Thomas Nelson.  I love how you have adjusted it…especially the nap!  I noticed this week that at around 12:30 everyday I get extremely sleepy.

    I hope as I continue to eat better and be more consistent working out, and getting better sleep at night that I won’t feel that way.  But that “nap” on your Ideal Week looks very good!  :)  Thanks for sharing!

  • JoshMann

    Couldn’t help but smile when I saw showering, dressing, and eating on the schedule. I’ve made a color-coded “ideal week,” too (didn’t have a name for it at the time), and included such things. Reminds me of Dave Ramsey’s categorization of ‘nerd’ for the spouse who insists on full-color detailed, complex spreadsheets for the budget. That would make me a nerd, I guess. Helpful post.

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  • Adam Duguay

    Hi Michael,

    What would you suggest for leaders in the middle of an organization who aren’t in complete control of their calendar? How can you create margin with others have the authority to dictate your calendar to you?
    I’m sure you’ve been in this situation in the past, how did you deal with it?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Here’s the truth: you will NEVER be in a place where you have 100% control of your calendar (unless you become a hermit).

      When I was the President and COO of Thomas Nelson, I reported to the CEO. I naively thought, I can’t wait until I become the CEO, then I will have total control.


      When I was made CEO, I went from one boss to seven! Plus, a ton of other people wanted a piece of me.

      The trick is to be faithful with what you do have control over. Do you have two hours of discretionary time a day? How about an hour? You can accomplish an incredible amount in even an hour if you are focused and disciplined.

      Hope that helps. Great questions!

  • Jenny Steinbach

    Hi Michael, I am learning alot from you blog, and here is my question.  What about Gail?  I am a wife, mother and leader.  Does Gail have a life plan? Or a career?  I am sure that she helps you, but i don’t have a wife.  I come home to a husband and 4 teens.  I want to use my gifts and grow but i need to be careful not to set my expectations too high.  If it really takes another person to make your ideal week work, than i would appreciate knowing that.  Is there a woman leader you would recommend that i learn from too?

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  • MacBoy

    This spreadsheet is simply magnificent. 

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  • Medithi

    Wow, I like it. I only disagree with one thing in your schedule: You say lunch and eating aren’t  part of what really move you toward your goals? In my experience, eating is first priority, because to reach my goals I need to be healthy, and because one of my goals is to enjoy life, and good food is part of it. I’d like to dedicate more time and money to cooking and eating delicious meals, nutritious, fresh, that give me the energy and mood, and joy in life I need for everything else. 

  • Michael Lyde

    Thank you for sharing these ideas Michael. Your material helped me to simply my work life and impose time limits. Most importantly, I “discovered” time to simply think and write again. I’ve been working on blog entries, writing scripts for a few podcasts and videos, and outlined three eBooks. My latest blog posting is available at:   
    I hope to post those other materials soon. Thanks again.

    • John Tiller

      Wow, Michael!  That’s finding margin!  Congratulations!

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  • Jacob A. Hughes

    Thank you for sharing about your “Ideal Week.”  I read about it a few weeks ago, and this past weekend worked on adapted it for myself.  I started it yesterday and have been very pleased with the results.  It has helped me create that margin as well as focus on the things I need to get done.  I prefer to sit down and do everything at once, so working on things day by day is difficult for me.  Using your “Ideal Week” has helped me to set up a pattern to give me a larger block of time for some things and work on them consistently, even if it isn’t every single day.  Thanks again!

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  • Donya M Dunlap

    I’ve really been struggling with prioritizing my time. Some days I have so much to do that I’m overwhelmed and end up wasting my time avoiding what needs to be done. Ridiculous, but true. I just read this again and decided to give it a try. It feels good to have a plan.

  • GradStudent

    The question is does this apply for someone in graduate school? I have found the graduate school process overwhelming at times with days full of class and activity and then followed by late nights of studying and completing assignments. What do you do to balance these important things with only a finite amount of time and the pressure to perform. 

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I think it does. Honestly, it won’t get easier after you graduate. You have to figure it out now.

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  • Joanie Simon

    Thanks so much for this post.  I completed a first draft of my ideal week this weekend and am going to be walking my sales team and management team through it tomorrow along with a fun goal setting energizer.  Thanks for all you do!

  • Mary Lu Saylor

    Michael, Thank you again for offering a great tool for all of us to use.  You have no idea how much I need this!  I work full time, I go to college full time, I am involved with a mission organization helping with marketing, I also am working on a special project to help people find their purpose, and by the way I’m a wife and mother. Thank you so much for all you do!  Keep it coming we are listening!
    Mary Lu Saylor, Boiling Springs, SC

  • Brian Jaggers

    Thanks Michael, 

    This is perfect timing for me to read this post! Business is booming for me right now which is playing havoc on my margin.  I was just telling my wife that I really need to make some major changes to my “Ideal Week”.  I took a 5 minute break to catch up on social media and what do I see??? This post!  What a great reminder that my “Ideal Week” needs to be reviewed more than once a year! HUGE THANKS for the reminder!!!

  • Judi

    I loved reading this. I do feel I’m out of margin sometimes … even though I feel like I am pretty darn organized and have a pretty detailed (and color coded) Outlook calendar which keeps my world in order.  However, I know all too well how easy it is to fall off track.  And to “over” committ. 

    My work life balance totally blends all over as I have a busy career, new website / blog, I’m VP of Membership in an industry association, I do Improv one night a week (part of my research as my writing / blog is inspired by this) and then there is of course my social life and friends / family.  It’s hard to balance and do it all … on top of it,  so much of my work bleeds into my personal life as my industry friends have become my social life and visa versa.  I feel pretty blessed for it all b/c I truly love what I do.  Just need to make sure I honor myself in the meantime. 

    This post was great and tomorrow I’m going to sit down with my calendar and try out the “theme” idea. Thanks!!

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  • Kimosphere

    Boy do I need this! I was just talking with my business coach yesterday about how I needed a “time budget.” This template is perfect for where I’m at! Thank you so much.

    My biggest challenge is that my work involves both people ministry AND writing/social media. So I’m constantly feeling pulled in teo different directions. I think I’ll assign a different color to each in My Ideal Week, so I can learn to find a balance. Thanks again!

  • Shajal Mahamud

    WOW – not at all what I was expecting to hear back, am so relieved to be so wrong! I do wonder
    though…how many women are these organizations able to meet with one on one? The ones that
    do have such wonderful learning opportunities (from your description) but it must be difficult
    to reach every women in need, no? Were you able to get info, by the numbers?
    Thanks so much for your thoughtful posts, and your photos are beautiful!really are very nice
    and best of the one in the great institute.
    are very sensitive and knowladgefull.

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  • Lisa Barton

    This was great information because I just started school, working full-time as an senior executive assistant and my company’s event planner and more, a licensed minister and new grandmother. I am definitely going to sit down and put it on paper. I won’t be effective if I keep trying to catch-up.

  • Guy Walker

    What is a mentoring lunch? Are you mentoring or getting mentored? sorry if someone has already asked this.

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  • Roopak Desai

    Thanks a lot.very timely since I was thinking of it..and planning to do same to help manage learning, bloging, creative projects, work and reading blog articles..

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  • Michelle Lee

    Michael, your blog and podcasts have been such a blessing to me! I am currently working in a non-profit agency and trying to make a difference, but I feel I am spreading myself too thin at times. My biggest concern right now is my local travel, as I live in a fairly large county and need to travel at least an hour to a few appointments. What bothers me is having to travel at least an hour for personal activities, such as visiting parents, going to church, participating in orchestra, spending time with friends, and other career activities such as supervision, each requiring an hour for travel. At the end of the day, or even the beginning, there is little energy for my studies, and I am studying for two major exams that I will take in the next 3-4 months. During particularly busy weeks, these are the things that go on the chopping block. Any suggestions on how to create some balance and margin into a schedule such as this?

    • Michael Hyatt

      The only thing I know to do, Michelle, is to triage your calendar.

  • Alessio Bresciani

    Great post Michael with excellent advice for us all. I’m a big fan of scheduling two times a day for email, so that email does not consume me. I will be sure to reflect more on your 7 steps as I tune my method.

  • Craig Garcia

    This was on point Sir. I plan on using this calendar system to help me stay focused on the important tasks. Also, I appreciate your blogs. Thanks for all you do.

  • Dr. Deana Murphy

    Michael I have been a silent admirer of your blog for sometime. I enjoy your wisdom and insight and use what I can to enhance my private and professional life I also use some of your concepts and templates to help my clients. You are such a blessing and inspiration.

    Showers of Blessings!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thank you, Deana. I’m so glad I can be helpful to you!

  • justmerach


    As I was redoing this exercise, I’m confused as to why you have any “red” categories? Either they are serving your goals in some way, or you would stop doing them, surely, especially in an ideal week. Is it a level of granularity to represent busywork – e.g. most email is spent filtering out the ~%5 that actually does feed into your goals?

    I’ve ended up with an ideal week with no red. Am I being overly optimistic about my activities, e.g. considering “cleaning” as part of my goal of offering hospitality? Or is it simply a question of granularity – lesser ‘support’ activites for bigger goals?

    Thankyou again, your material certainly helps me plan my life with more deliberate choices.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I just don’t think you can eliminate all red time, even in an ideal week. Sure you could reframe it, but that is not helpful to me. For example, some emails do move me toward my goals. But in other situations, I am responding to help someone else move toward their goals. In the end, I don’t think it really matters as much as just batching the activities so you can focus on the stuff that is indisputably green time. Thanks.

      • justmerach

        Thanks Michael, I appreciate your redirection of my focus from the colour to the batching.

  • Alessio Bresciani

    I love the concept of an ideal week. What a premise to aspire to, where we could fill the week with all the activities connected with our purpose. Thanks for the post Michael. Very much enjoyed it.

  • Russell Ward

    Wow, finally a blog with substance and actually worth reading. I was at a Christian gathering and the speaker said “you need to create space and margin in your life.” I said “what’s that?” Mr. Hyatt’s blog pinpoints the definition of a concept that is important in a Christian’s life.

  • Gayle with a Y

    Mike, I just found you, and I am so happy that I did! I am a Dr. of Pharmacy, I commute 1 hour to work and 1 hour home, I’m a single mom of two teenagers, I have to manage the household, keep them in line I have a home-based business, so I market it which takes time, my son had major ankle surgery over the summer at UAB so I have to take him to physical therapy, I just closed on a house, TGIF! I want to go home and sleep all weekend. but, I won’t miss church, I aprreciate all the advice, as I am trying to find balance, mind, body, spirit….so I am going to try to get te book you recommended in this blog. And create my own ideal week. God Bless!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Welcome, Gayle. I’m glad you found me! I also appreciate that you took time to comment.

  • Tamara

    This is an awesome post! I am going to type up my ideal schedule too to keep focused. I was talking with friends this morning bout my need for more discipline with time management during our Bible Study. We completed week 2 of Priscilla Shrier’ s Breathe-Making Room for Sabbath Margin! :)