How to Get More Margin

by | Jun 13, 2013 | 0 comments

Over the last year I have done 53 speaking events, TV interviews, or radio interviews. This does not count the regular courses and workshops I teach, nor does it count my weekly podcasts. There were many weeks when I was teaching or speaking daily. Much of this was thanks to the people around me who have kept me busy.

[featured-image single_newwindow=”false”]Courtesy iStockPhoto[/featured-image]

While this seems overwhelming looking back on it, it has been mostly a blast. But, still I have the sense of needing to get back control. Trying to balance this pace with family and other responsibilities has become tough.

Finding Margin

As I was researching how to get more margin, I came back to Michael Hyatt’s post How to Create More Margin in Your Life. His idea of creating a schedule for your ideal week is intriguing, and something similar to what I have done in the past year. I tend to use the mornings to get real work done, and push most meetings and people interactions till after lunch.

But today I can tell you that is only partially worked for me. Many meetings and events do not seem to obey my ideal week. So instead, I started taking some other actions to get margin.


How I get More Margin

Here are some of the specifics I have tried, and many work well. Always a work in progress.

Scheduling My Priorities

I actually discovered this one working on my PhD. If I do not make appointments with myself to get work done, it never gets done. Now as I look at my schedule, most things are about me getting things done instead of arbitrary meetings.



Create Process and Systems for Repeated Activities

When I find myself doing the same exact thing over and over, I try to find a source to delegate that activity. I am simply not good at doing the same thing over and over. Several people on my team(s) have managed to add great value by doing things they do better than me.

Blog and Podcast

My blog and podcasts have turned into a time savings. Sure, they take time to create, but I schedule that time. The benefit is that I get to answer a ton of common questions on these forums. I am not the only one who does this. Yesterday I spoke at the Alabama Educational Technology Conference. I heard teachers in the K-12 market telling stories to other teachers about how they did things in class. I overheard several saying  “you can find that on my blog at …”

Cut Meetings Short

Where I can, I try to cut down meetings to a reasonable amount of time or get to no meeting at all. I have noticed these meeting truths.

  • One hour rule – All meetings are assumed to last one hour, no matter the reason.
  • Call me – Phone meetings tend to take half the time of face-to-face meetings.
  • Agenda? – Asking for an agenda before a meeting tends to cut the time of the meeting to 3/4 what it would normally take. Often I find asking for an agenda, purpose, or desired outcome for a meeting before the meeting stops some meetings before they start.
  • Do we still need to meet? – Committee meetings can be killed permanently if someone will just bring it up. Recently I was on a few committees, and when I asked why we kept meeting, other people chimed in with the same question. Until someone questions it, you continue to meet.
  • Lunch time rule – Meetings scheduled right before lunch or 5PM tend to be shorter. People want to be done.
  • Bureaucracy meetings – All government or large company meetings tend to last till lunch or 5PM, no matter when they start.
  • Do not take a seat – Meetings without chairs last 1/4th the time of meetings with chairs.
I am not meeting averse . Meetings are needed and some meetings need to be held without a hard agenda. There are times when you are planning and dealing with strategy that leaders need to allow others to speak and be heard. These meetings tend to go on for some time, even days. But, they are still valuable. You end up with unity of purpose. However, once this is done, get to work and set meetings to get results.
Set a Timer

I use my iPhone timer app. When I start a task, I tend to give it 25 minutes only. Once the 25 minutes are up, I re-evaluate. If you are a procrastinator, this works wonders. You might need to set it for 15 minutes, or even 10, but you will be amazed at how much more important stuff you get done.

Do Not Answer the Phone or Email

When I am in a zone (or the timer is running), I do not answer my phone unless it is family or a key team member. And during these times, I  do not answer email at all.

Stop Texting

I am not a huge fan of texting except to say you will be late or send a quick piece of information. Recently I have had people try to do business over text. I just ignore them. One thing I have done here also is to get a Google Voice number and have it forwarded to my cell phone. This way I do not have to share my cell number, which cuts down on the texting quite a bit. And, when someone does text, Google Voice handles it nicely.

Email Periodically 

I only check email a few times a day, sometimes a few times per week.

All of these things have helped me get some margin and get back control. But I continually work at it and adjust.


[reminder]What are you doing that allows you to create more margin in your life? [/reminder]

About the Author

Dale Callahan

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