Iwas recently cornered by a colleague a few weeks ago and their demand was simple. It was very simple yet very complex because I had to be truthful and demonstrate with evidence that I was living a wholesome life.
By Cynthia C Hakutangwi
That was a very tough conversation and there was no way of backing out of it until I had proved beyond reasonable doubt that I was aware I had a case to answer and willing to have my life scrutinised against the very principles I teach and coach.
After much debate and intense exchange, I did plead guilty as charged and dropped my excuses for failing to observe one of the most important rules of wholesome living. I committed to making significant changes so that I can re-align my message with my lifestyle. This was a serious confrontation with the truth, which could not be ignored.
The tragedy of modern day living
Have you ever tried reading something without margins? I have, it’s not fun. This describes the majority of us perfectly. We keep trying to squeeze more into our schedules. Without any edges, we struggle and lose our place in life. Frustration sets in and our lives are unenjoyable at best, hardly a picture of fulfilment.
We’re a piled-on, stretched-to-the limit society; chronically rushed, chronically late, chronically exhausted. Overload comes when we have too much activity in our lives, too much change, too many choices, too much work, too much debt, too much media exposure.
Richard Swenson, best-selling author of the book Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, rightfully stated in his book that “The conditions of modern day living devour margin.” You need margin in your life. When you’re not hurrying and worrying all the time, you have time to think. Time to relax. Time to enjoy life. Time to be still and reflect on your spirituality.
Are you wisely managing your energy?
One of the most common problems with driven people is a lack of margin. They cram their schedules so full of activities and busyness that their emotional, physical, and spiritual health suffers.
These folks are constantly around other people but find it difficult to cultivate deep relationships. They rarely spend time alone to reflect or meditate or pray. They get so used to their frenetic pace they don’t know what to do with themselves on the rare occasion they have time to themselves. The pace of their lives is unnatural and ignores the toll it takes on their bodies and minds. They convince themselves their unrelenting schedule is a badge of honour to be proud of.
They think wise management of energy doesn’t apply to them. Every year you read profiles of successful people claiming the secret to success is their willingness to always be on top of their game. They only need four hours of sleep, they work 130 hours a week, they spend rare 10-minute break between meetings responding to emails and voice mails. The truth is that you can be wildly successful and still be delusional.
It’s not hard to find people who lived this life a while but eventually burn out. They rapidly move up the ladder but decide the path they’ve been killing themselves for isn’t for them. They face midlife crisis, and after all that work decide to throw it away and start over.
On their way out, they convince themselves it was the nature of the job or industry that’s the problem, not their lack of margin. This can be all avoided. By being more deliberate and making simple changes, the risk of burnout drastically goes down, and a greater feeling of balance and engagement is possible.
Become aware of your energy and your seasons
The first step in creating margin is to pay attention to your energy levels. Our energy waxes and wanes throughout the day. Even if you can stay up and push through your periods of low energy, it’s likely you aren’t doing your most productive work.
Becoming aware of when you have a lot of energy and when you don’t will allow you to make smarter decisions about how to structure your day.
Some people do their most creative, high value work early in the morning while others are at their best late at night. Similar to your energy during the day, your energy rises and falls during the week and during the year. Many industries have similar cycles of activity. Understanding and planning for them can help you sustain your energy over the long term.
Get more sleep
Around 1-3% of the population truly can get by on less sleep. It’s probably not you. Sleep helps you make smarter decisions and makes it more likely you’ll accomplish your goals.
Exactly how much sleep is necessary depends on the person, but for most people the range is between six and half to eight hours. Make this non-negotiable in your life.
Are you effective?
The 80/20 rule is your best friend. The majority of your results and effectiveness come from only 20% of your activities. There will always be more meetings to have, more people to hang out with, more opportunities to pursue than you can realistically take on. Before taking on another commitment, ask yourself whether it is likely to be high impact.
If it’s not moving you forward in your goals, remove it. You’re better off spending time with your family or doing something that recharges you than attending another low-value networking event.
Be watchful of social media
Many people fill up whatever precious “down time” they have checking their Facebook and Twitter profiles obsessively. While the ability to connect with friends and colleagues is certainly a wonderful thing, too many of us are literally addicted. Limiting social media is one of the biggest ways to add margin to your life. Ideally, evenings should be your time to enjoy your family and friends, to reflect on the day and monitor the state of your heart.
Margin must be created
Unless you get laid off, you’re not simply going to find yourself with margin. Being successful at work is usually rewarded with more work and responsibility. And the constant tendency of driven people will be to fill up every available moment.
Even if you stay at home, it’s very easy to find yourself overcommitted. The responsibilities of children, the pressure to make sure they’re getting all the benefits of having a parent at home, the self-imposed stress of keeping a home spotless and organised can quickly create more stress than a typical desk job.
Margin has to be cultivated. Spend time every three months looking at your schedule and how you spend your time. Is there anything that can be removed? Are you using your down time to truly recharge? Are you struggling to say no to requests? By being honest with yourself and ruthless about your priorities, you can increase the likelihood that you stay happy and engaged at work and at home.
l Cynthia Hakutangwi is a communications and personal development consultant, life coach, author and strategist. Looking at improving balance, energy, organisation, health fitness, relationships, focus, faith and happiness? Wholeness Incorporated Coaching offers you strategies and simple steps you can implement today to become a better, more balanced, happier version of yourself.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Facebook: Wholeness Incorporated.