Create space to transform (before life does it for you).

I’ve talked to a handful of clients and friends recently about how life forced them to create space.

One friend had been talking about leaving her lackluster and high-stress job for over 10 years. It seemed she always had one more project to see through, though—until her position was eliminated.

“That was the best gift I’ve ever received,” she told me. She’s happier, she said, and her marriage is thriving like never before.

A client who also disliked her job told me she’s always had an age in mind for when she’ll quit. But a recent health scare is making her reconsider putting it off.

Stories like these make me wonder: Why are we waiting for the other shoe to drop before we take action?

It’s frighteningly easy to fill your time with work and obligations that bring you minimal or no joy. But if you’re after meaningful transformation, you have to make space for it to happen.

That means taking steps to ensure you have time and energy to put toward whatever it is you want. Here are three space-making strategies.

Rewrite the rules. What is one thing you wish you could do (or stop doing) that you think is impossible? Write it down—then flip the script. What looks different when you challenge the notion that it can’t happen? If you’d like to quit your job, perhaps you realize it is possible if you’re willing to shift your budget for a few months. Play out an alternative storyline and see how you feel.

Take predictable time off. I love this idea drawn from this Harvard Business Review study. It suggests identifying a block of time each week to unplug from work entirely—as in, leaving the office and committing to not checking email or voicemail. The study clearly states the benefits of predictable time off (participants felt refreshed and their work showed it, among other things). Sometimes if we want space, we have to schedule it for ourselves.

Chip away at the unessential. I often recommend trying Greg McKeown’s 90 percent rule. Think about your various obligations and commitments. Which of these would you rank below 90 percent on your scale of personal fulfillment? Get rid of what you can. Outsource, delegate, or decline. The more you do it, the more space you’ll have for the remaining 10 percent that lights you up.

Bonus tip: Read through this article I wrote for HBR about taking on new work (or how to know when you shouldn’t). I just learned it’s going to be printed in an upcoming issue featuring their best work/life balance tips!

Don’t wait for life to create the space you already know you need. Make it yourself.

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