The new brand identity

I stum­bled upon the con­cept of mar­gin while read­ing a post by Michael Hyatt, which led me to design my ide­al week. Richard Swen­son, M.D. (who wrote the book: Mar­gin: Restor­ing Emo­tion­al, Phys­i­cal, Finan­cial, and Time Reserves to Over­loaded Lives) 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.

Last year I wrote about why book­ing too far in advance can be dan­ger­ous for your busi­ness, and this con­cept of mar­gin so elo­quent­ly cap­tures what I had rec­og­nized had been my prob­lem: I was so booked up with clients that I wasn’t leav­ing any mar­gin for error, growth, plan­ning, or reflec­tion. I wasn’t real­ly grow­ing my busi­ness in a sus­tain­able way; I was just book­ing one client after the next. At the time this seemed like a good thing: doesn’t grow­ing my busi­ness mean get­ting more clients?

A long redesign.

What if instead of book­ing up to 100% capac­i­ty (which more often than not ends up being clos­er to 120%), we only booked up to an 80% capac­i­ty?
What if we left more room for growth (per­son­al or pro­fes­sion­al) and stopped being one with “busy-ness”?
I spent near­ly a year turn­ing down every new project (and even get­ting rid of old ones) so that I could reduce my work­load, build in more mar­gin, and cre­ate what is now Dig­i­tal Strat­e­gy School. It takes time to build mar­gin into your schedule.Write a book. Cre­ate a pro­gram. Update your con­tracts and pro­pos­als (which has been on your to-do list for how long..?) Spend more time with your fam­i­ly. Go above and beyond for a client. Learn some­thing new. Actu­al­ly fol­low through on the things that have been nag­ging at you for a long time.

When you design your ide­al week, you start to see that the time you think you have is often not in align­ment with how much time you actu­al­ly have.

After design­ing my ide­al week, I had a much clear­er idea of how to cre­ate a frame­work for my week that would empow­er me to feel more focused by them­ing days of the week, and even parts of the day. SO sim­ple, I know. Some of you have been doing this for ages and you’re already a pro, and some of you who saw my sched­ule said “woah, that’s so rigid, I need more flex­i­bil­i­ty!”

Structure enables flexibility.

If you’re not sure how much time you are actu­al­ly spend­ing on var­i­ous tasks, use a tool like Res­cue Time (their free ver­sion is excel­lent!) which runs in the back­ground and tracks where your time is being spent. It can even send you week­ly reports so you know exact­ly how much time you wast­ed on Face­book, or spent in your email inbox! You can assign dif­fer­ent web­sites or programs/applications on a scale of very dis­tract­ing to very pro­duc­tive, so you can see at a glance things like: which days of the week you’re most pro­duc­tive, which times of the day you’re most pro­duc­tive, and the sites on which you’re spend­ing the most dis­tract­ing time. Turns out I’m con­sis­tent­ly “in the zone” around 3pm in the after­noon; so instead of try­ing to tack­le high­ly cre­ative work first thing in the morn­ing (when my brain is bare­ly func­tion­ing), I han­dle it in the after­noon, when I know I’m at my peak!

Cre­at­ing more mar­gin has been game-chang­ing for my busi­ness.
What would be pos­si­ble for yours?