How to Get More Margin in Your Life

Margin is the space between your load and your limit.

Your load is all the things you’ve got to deal with on a daily basis - personal stuff, work stuff, family stuff, all of it. It all goes into one big bucket. No matter how good you are at compartmentalizing your life, each facet of your life affects all the others.

Your limit is just that - it’s what you can handle. How equipped you are to deal with whatever life might throw at you. How capable you are of managing things.

The margin in your life, which you can fill however you want, is what exists in between those two things (as long as your limit is bigger than your load). Having margin in your life is what lets you try new things, relax, develop yourself, develop others, and explore new opportunities.

So with two variables (load and limit) to manipulate, it stands to reason that the only two ways to get more margin in your life is to either increase your limit (how capable you are) or decrease your load (how much you’re directly responsible for). So what does that look like?

How to Increase your Limit

The Catch-22 of it all is that in order to raise your personal ceiling, you’ve got to spend some time investing in yourself - your skills, your mindset, your knowledge base, your network. But most of the time, doing those things requires that you have margin in the first place. When there are fires to put out and you’re on a deadline, no one really wants to see you reading a Tony Robbins book or spending the day at a networking event.

But just because you have other things that are urgent, it doesn’t mean that investing in your own growth is less important. In fact, it has to be done in order to be successful on a long-term basis. Gary Vaynerchuk talks about doubling down on your strengths and letting other people do the work you’re not best equipped to do. Figure out where you add the most value and stay in that lane. By doing that, you’re applying the most leverage you possibly can and also lightening your own load (which we’ll talk more about in just a second).

So take the time to make that connection with someone new and build your network. Set aside 15-20 minutes a day for meditation and getting the shit lined up in your head. Block an hour out in the morning to go to the gym. Make those things a non-negotiable because the amount of impact you’ll be able to apply later on in the day when you’ve actually given yourself some traction will more than make up for any time you “lose.”

How to Decrease Your Load

Outsource. Delegate. Hire. You may think you’re the only one who can do that thing you do as well as you do, and today that might be true. Particularly for entrepreneurs who run businesses as lean as they can, there’s a sense that they’ve got to have their fingers on everything the business does. Here’s how to make that go away:

  1. The next time you do whatever you’re going to delegate, write down every step you do as you complete that task. Yep, it’ll take you 3x as long this time, but don’t miss any steps.

  2. Hand it off to someone and stand over their shoulder as they do it. Edit your directions because they probably sucked the first time you wrote them down, and that will become plainly obvious when you watch someone try to follow them.

  3. Using your new directions, give it back to the same person and let them give it a shot on their own. Once they’re done, they need to report to you on the results and any difficulties they encountered.

  4. Iterate again, this time with their help.

  5. Give them a final process (which they now have some ownership in) and check back with them in what probably now seems like a ridiculously long time - let them handle things for a month or two without you even checking on it.

  6. Ask them how they’d change the process now that they’ve got some experience. Let them, as long as you both agree on what the overall objective and deliverable should look like. Keep checking in monthly (I’m going to make a bold prediction here and say that within a few months, they’ll have developed a process that’s better than what you were doing because this process is their baby where it was just part of your list of responsibilities)

  7. Repeat for as many tasks as you don’t want to do anymore.

It’s important to mention that each of these goals fairly quickly reach a point of diminishing returns. There’s only so much you can grow in a certain period of time. Beyond that point, reading another book, taking another course, hacking another process, won’t have much effect on your overall ability to execute your job.

And when you’ve handed off all the non-essential work you’re doing, it’s possible to find yourself with a massive gap between what you’re capable of and what you’re responsible for. In those moments, it’s time to take on a big project. Dream up a new initiative, try something bold, and fill that margin with challenging, meaningful, impactful goals.

Finding Your Perfect Niche

Brain Dump First

Write down a list of all the stuff that you're awesome at. No judgment, no editing, just brain dump. Ask your friends if you need to. You're probably taking some stuff for granted and are undoubtedly more awesome than you think you are.

Do Your Research

Is this profitable? Do people actually buy this thing? Go look on Google. Search your ideas and look at all the paid offerings that show up in the first page results. Who are they, what are they offering, and how much are they charging? Make a list. Do the same with Amazon. What's for sale and how many people are buying? We're just proving that people actually want what you do.

Feel Your Customer's Pain

How painful is this problem? If I break my arm, I don't give a shit how much it costs to get it re-set, put in a cast, and fixed. It's a huge pain point. How much people pay is directly related to how hard they're hurting. When you know who you're serving and how much they're hurting, you also know almost everything you need to about how to speak to them and serve them.

Scope the Competition

Can the people you want to serve actually pay you for what you do? If you have competitors, people who sell essentially the same thing, the answer is undoubtedly yes. You also have an opportunity to shake things up in that world and present a fresh alternative. Look at what your competitors are doing, what people are engaging with, and then think about how you'll do things better, do things differently, and add more value than your competitors are.

Listen and Adjust

If you're just getting started, you'll find your unfair advantage really fast. And when you dive headfirst into that and aren't set in your ways but are set on listening to what your audience wants, you can't help but grow fast. There's room for everyone, so don't let yourself believe that just because someone got there first, you can't make moves.

Test Everything

Finally, it's time to test. Experiment with EVERYTHING in the beginning. You have no audience yet, so you have nothing to lose. Once you start to have people follow and subscribe you, there will be certain expectations on you. Right now there are none. If you're consistent over time and adjust course as people tell you what they want more of, you can't lose. You never know what's going to work until you put things out there.

Test with free content to see what resonates - any feedback is good feedback, even no feedback. If people aren't engaging, it's probably not what they're looking for. Or, it's delivered in a way that doesn't speak to their pains. Test with pre-sales of a product you're building to get capital to reinvest or with a beta group of users who can figure it out along with you. There's no bigger mistake than thinking you know what your customers want without asking them or listening to what your testing tells you.