I remember a few years ago, I was feeling maxed out. I was living in Chicago at the time, trying to keep up with my research, planning a wedding, and then we had to figure out how to pack up all of my fiancé’s stuff and move it down to Dallas. There was a lot going on, and every day I felt like my to-do list was a mile long.
Losing My Creativity
I also noticed something else—my creativity tanked. I wasn’t writing or blogging as much, but it was deeper than that. I felt like I wasn’t reading as much, or even thinking as much. I wasn’t coming up with any new ideas. I felt like I was going through the motions.
After we got married and moved to Dallas, things started to improve for me. As I checked things off my list, I had more margin. I had more space in my schedule, but also in my head. I was better able to think, and my creativity and energy returned. I started writing more, and coming up with new ideas.
The Need for Margin
What I learned was that for me to be creative, I need space and margin in my life. Part of the creative process involves sitting with ideas, reading, and thinking about the connections between things. You can’t do this if you’re operating at 100% capacity. It seems counter-intuitive in our maximizing society, but for me to do my best work, I need to be running at about 80% capacity or less.
I think a similar principle applies to physical training. I remember a few years ago, I felt like I was working really hard at CrossFit, but I wasn’t improving much. My coach didn’t recommend that I work out more—he actually recommended that I work out less, and focus more on rest, sleep, and nutrition. When our body is maxed out, it struggles to improve.
If you feel like you’re struggling with an area of your life, take stock in yourself. How much space and margin do you have in your life? What would it look like to operate at 80% capacity or less?