Four Levers to Create Space in Your Life

creating space Aug 07, 2022
creating space

A majority of female workers (53%) say their stress levels are higher than they were a year ago, and almost half feel burned out, according to a new report from Deloitte (source). 

Women overwhelmingly carry the burden of caregiving, and the mental load of managing their families and households. The logistics of keeping a life organized can be overwhelming: work schedules, school schedules, activities, sports, camps, meal planning, buying groceries, cooking, cleaning, organizing, remembering registrations, doctors and dentist appointments, vet visits, planning vacations and birthday parties, social and family visits. 

It feels like our workload chronically exceeds our capacity and we are constantly falling behind. For most of us, our environment is wired to keep us overloaded and distracted. However, with intention and focus, we can create space in our life for the things that matter most. 


Foundational work: Understand where your time is going today

It’s easy to gripe that we don’t have any time and we’re always busy, because it certainly feels that way. An essential part of cultivating more spaciousness in your day is to build your self-awareness and understanding of where your time is actually going today.

For this, we love doing a Time Inventory - which is where you track how you spend your time (in 15 or 30 minute increments) over a representative period (usually a week).  We’ve shared this template in a prior blog post. A completed time inventory will give you a realistic view of where your time is going (it might be different than you think!). 

Research has shown that there tends to be some pretty significant differences between our perception and what’s really occurring, and a time inventory allows us to ground our efforts in facts, rather than our sometimes distorted beliefs. 

Download the Time Inventory Template by clicking the link above!


Introducing a four levers to creating space

The four main levers that can create more space in our day are: 

  1. Eliminate things that you’re currently doing - outsource or delegate them (hiring or asking someone else to do it), cancel/unsubscribe/remove them
  2. Get things to take less space on your plate - automate them, make them more efficient, reduce their frequency 
  3. Get more out of the things you are doing - enhance your presence, pair things together
  4. Build a strong defensive game to keep new stuff from getting on your plate - establishing boundaries and not defaulting to yes 

Let’s talk about each of these in a bit more detail. 



Lever 1: Get things off your plate

When you complete a time inventory analysis, we suspect you’ll have a few surprises. Are there some time-suck surprises in there? You have 24 hours in a day, is how you’re spending them aligned with what matters most to you? 

When you look back at the past week, are there things that you could have just not done at all? Are there things someone else could have taken on for you? 

Here are a few examples of activities that you might want to eliminate from your plate to get the creative juices flowing:

  • You spent an hour in a meeting that didn’t have a clear agenda, to which you didn’t contribute, and for which you don’t have follow up actions. How can you avoid/eliminate this in the future? 
  • You spent 2 hours at the grocery store. You found it stressful, and were frustrated to be stuck in traffic. Could you have ordered groceries to be delivered to your house instead? 
  • When you added it all up, you spent 8 hours scrolling on your phone during the week. That’s more than an hour a day! It didn’t feel like that much, 15 minutes here and there. You don’t even remember where the time went, clickbait? Memes? Word games? Who knows. Where could that time have gone instead?
  • You spent 3 hours accompanying your kid to their gymnastics class. They complained the whole time. They don’t even like it. Why are you doing this again? 
  • You spent 5 hours pulling together a report, and distributing it to stakeholders. You sent it off. No one responded. Does anyone even read it? Why are you doing this again?

These are just examples. But as you’re looking over the past week, ask yourself if the things taking up your time should be there, and whether they need to be done by you. 


Lever 2: Shrink things

How can you get things you don’t enjoy and that don’t benefit you to take up less time? You could:

  • Do them less often. For example, can you move meetings to bi-weekly instead of weekly? Can you stack all of your errands on the same day to cut driving time? Can you shift your work hours to reduce your time spent in traffic? 
  • Have them take less effort. Are there opportunities to automate certain activities or plan them differently? For example, if you’re spending a lot of time preparing meals, could you try meal kits, introduce occasional take out, or plan meals ahead? If you spend lots of time on bills and mail, can you sign up for automatic bill pay and paperless billing?


Lever 3: Get more out of what you’re doing

So you have to spend some time each week folding laundry, sweeping floors, commuting, whatever else it might be. How can you get more out of that time? 

  • Could you use that time for personal growth or entertainment? You might try listening to audiobooks or podcasts. 
  • Could you use that time for social connection? You might try calling friends or family. 
  • Could you use that time to practice presence and mindfulness? What would it be like to practice being fully in whatever activity you are experiencing? Even doing the dishes can be mindful, when you experience it with all your senses. 


Lever 4: Keep new things from getting on your plate

Growing up in a culture that expects and rewards us for saying yes and being helpful can wire a lifelong struggle with saying no. The result: our days get cluttered with everyone else’s priorities, because we wanted to be a team player. 

We discussed this in one of our favorite blog posts: Boost your resilience: Four strategies to manage your workload at home and at work.

If having the space for what matters is important to you, then building discipline around what you say yes to is essential. We have to fight the habit of defaulting to yes when we’re asked to take on something new, no matter how small that thing might seem. When you’re asked to take on something new, here are a few of the “holding statements” we included in the blog post linked above

  • “Thanks for checking in, I’ll need to review my calendar and get back to you”
  • “I’ll need to make sure I have the capacity to take that on, I’ll follow up with you by [day]”
  • “I am working towards deadline, so I may not be able to help on this right now, I’ll let you know”
  • “I appreciate you thinking of me, let me consult with my team on who the best person to partner with you on this might be” 
  • “Hey I’m fully committed at the moment, let me think about how to get you the support you need”

Giving yourself a moment to reflect, rather than defaulting to yes, allows you to then think about whether or not the request aligns with your priorities, and what (and whose) problem it would solve for you to take it on. 

Check out that blog post for some more insight on thinking about these new requests, and some sample language for how to say no. (for example:  “I unfortunately won’t be available to support/participate/attend at this time” or  “I won’t be able to get to this until [time]”)



Like anything worth doing, creating time and space in your day takes focus and energy. So much is wired to keep you busy, distracted, and overworked. We encourage you to reflect on each of the areas above, and journal on what changes you might experiment with. Let us know what you tried and found helpful!

This blog post is a summary of the concepts that are the basis for an interactive workshop that’s part of our Digital Detox & Renewal Retreat. Our next one is coming up September 16-19th, 2022, in Santa Fe, New Mexico! 

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