Justin Ricklefs


8 Ways to Create Space

College students are the best. They are full of life, whimsy, and energy.

These two aren't in college yet, but we live close to a college.  Does that count?
These two aren’t in college yet, but we live close to a college. Does that count?

But one conversation I have had with college students frustrates me immensely. It goes like this:

College student: “I’d love to (get together, help out, make that meeting, do that thing), but I’m so busy.”

Me: “Really?”

Forgive me if it sounds short, but I don’t have a ton of patience for “busy” college students. I get that they may feel busy, but they control more time than they ever will again.

Whatever season of life you are in right now, until retirement, is likely to be the least busy you will ever be.

Let that sink in.

As the years pile on, so do the responsibilities and the recurring appointments on your calendar. Career, family, civic engagement, boards, fundraisers, kids’ activities, church, committees, business ventures.

This isn’t a call to boredom and despair, rather it’s an invitation to fight for the things that are meaningful to you.

Perhaps you want to get married, start a new job, have a baby (or five like we did – who does that), adopt a baby, join a board, start a nonprofit, write a book, grow a garden, lose some weight.


The specific life stage or event isn’t the point. The point is that life will fill up with commitments, with or without your consent.

So if you are only going to get more busy, how do you make space for the things that matter?

Here are eight ways:

1. Get Up Earlier. I used to hate getting up before 7:00. I was grumpy and unmotivated. The snooze button was my codependent friend. So much can be accomplished before the rest of the world (or in this case – my house) wakes up. My morning now starts the night before by getting to bed earlier. I sleep at least seven hours a night, so typically that’s 11:00 – 6:00 during the week. 6:00 – 7:00 is plenty of time for a light but consistent workout, some reading and/or some writing.

2. Quit Making Excuses. I’m too busy. Life is too crazy. I don’t have the money. I don’t have the experience. I need permission. Someone else will take care of it. You get the point. If it’s meaningful to you, find the time to do it.

3. Conduct an Audit of Your Time. Start a simple audit of what you spend time doing each week. If your week is like mine, you’ll find pockets of time that you can begin to reclaim. Commute time can be turned into podcast or phone call time. Time on Facebook can be replaced with time cooking a healthy meal at home. Time in your DVR can be replaced with time in a book. Simply being aware of the areas of your clock that you allow to fly by without a second thought is critical to change.

4. Limit How Much You Consume. We live in an era of unending choices. Social media, a flood of channels on TV, books at our fingertips. We are drowning in information, but we are starving for wisdom. Be mindful of how much time you spend consuming. Being a taker is easy, the world needs you to give.

5. Withdraw. How much silence exists in your daily rhythm? If you’re like me, very little. There is noise, literal and figurative, all around us all day long. To create, to make space, we need a place of withdrawal. Retreat. Silence. Not to escape reality but to find it. It’s in the silence where the deep desires are given space to rise above the frenzy of everyday life.

6. Eat Clean. We are fooling ourselves if we don’t think the food we put in our bodies has a direct impact on our energy and impact. You don’t have to follow any one particular plan, but you need to have a plan. Mine is pretty straight forward: Sunday through Friday, I stay away from sugar, dairy, wheat and alcohol. Our family eats clean during the week including juicing. Then on Saturday, we cheat by eating and drinking whatever we want. Donuts, pizza, beer (adults only of course). You can do almost anything for six days.  And then once you do it a few weeks straight, it becomes an entire lifestyle change.

7. Take One Step. Making space for important things feels like a huge, hairy challenge. But really the massive staircase is waiting on you to simply take one step up. Then another. Take one small step today. And then do it again tomorrow. You’ll look back months later and be amazed at how far you’ve climbed.

8. Identify What Makes You Come Alive. When we were kids we laughed, ran, played, and didn’t have a care in the world. As we grew up, we grew cynical, anxious and fearful. Part of the journey to finding more space to pursue what matters is to start to pay attention to the things that make you come alive. It may be triggered by a certain song, a specific time of year, a childhood memory or a favorite book. But when your sails are full, watch out world.

We all have terrific intentions but we struggle with execution. It’s not easy to create space, but it’s worth it.

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