5 Ways to Create Margin
For whatever reason I have had a mental block with writing lately. Just opening up a Word document and seeing a white page almost gives me anxiety. A blank piece of paper reminding me I have much to say yet lacking the mental focus to form more than a few paragraphs of clarity. What gives me the authority to write about anything anyway? Bear with me.
My mind thinks in “blogs” for lack of a better term. When something happens I immediately formulate how I could convey that message in black and white. Lately, getting to the black and white has been a challenge. I have contemplated quitting all together. But here we are. Join me on a rabbit trail for just a moment.
It seems over the past several years there has been an increase in literature, podcasts, sermons and interviews centered on the idea of margin. “Margin” in the context of life may be a new idea for you. In a nutshell, margin means the extra room in your life-your breathing room. Many people operate by trying to cram 36 or 48 or even 100 hours into a 24 hour day. Breathing room? There is not even enough space to utter the phrase.
I have worked diligently to create margin in my life. As I shared this idea with my sister she couldn’t help but laugh as she reminded me that I have a baby and one on the way. Point taken. There are some seasons that we are under the mercy of a being who while having the inability to speak, dictates almost every moment of 7:00am-7:00pm. Such a sweet, exhausting, blessed season.
However, more times than not we do have control over which activities fill our 24 hours. Even with a baby, I did choose to have children and with that, every minute of my day accounted for by one who communicates with crying, pointing, groaning and laughing. Seasons of busy that are out of our control? Yep, they happen. Illnesses happen. Moves happen. Deadlines at work happen. But somewhere along the way this morphed into playing the victim for our insanely crazy, busy, and sometimes sickening (literally) lives. And somewhere along the way, busy became glamorized. When did we begin to believe that busy made us important? Or elevated our status? Or whatever else our actions prove that we believe about a crammed-full schedule.
Why are we talking about this? The answer is two-fold.
First, if you already strive to create margin, if you do lead a peace-filled life, keep on keepin’ on! Don’t second guess it. Don’t waste time reading books that describe how to do something you already do. Enjoy being weird. And enjoy sipping that second cup of coffee you have time to drink from a real mug.
Secondly, if you do operate at the mercy of your commitments, I challenge you to ask yourself why? Why are you over committed? Why do you eat most meals in the car? Why are you constantly sick? Why have you deemed busy to be an accomplishment? And most importantly, why do you act as if you don’t have a choice?
My intention is not to sound harsh; I am passionate about setting boundaries in life. Somewhere along the way I realized that our lives are defined by a series of tiny, seemingly insignificant choices that actually add up to something monumental. Life ebbs and flows, yes, but I do believe that practicing a few principles will help create margin both mentally and physically.
- Do it. If a task can be done in 2 minutes or less, do it now. Starting a load of laundry, hanging up a shirt, scheduling an appointment, returning a phone call and making the bed are just a few examples of tasks that can usually be done quickly. These may seem irrelevant but remember that margin is not just physical-it is mental as well. How many times have you walked by the sink, being reminded to put the dishes in the dishwasher, thinking you will do it later, being distracted from the task at hand? (If you have no idea what I’m talking about here just fill in your own example.) Do it now so you are less distracted and can mentally move on to more important tasks.
- Write it. For all the items that do not fall under the 2 minute rule, write them down. I constantly have a to-do list running through my mind. But when I transcribe that list and schedule the chore or event, I can mentally brain dump. This frees up mental space to allow me to be present.
- Question it. When you are asked to attend an event, be part of a committee or add something else to your schedule, question it. We often evaluate if the opportunity is important. The problem with this approach is that the opportunity may be very important but just not in our current season of life. Andy Stanley has an excellent sermon series where he posed a better question: “In light of my past experience, current circumstance, and future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?” There is no doubt this question will help create margin in your life.
- Prioritize it. Priorities become clear when we practice number 3. Too often we succumb to the seemingly urgent when in fact, some “urgent” tasks may need to be put off or skipped all together. Know what is truly important and keep those people and events in your schedule.
- Own it. You are ultimately responsible for what fills your time. We have already established that there are seasons when survival mode is the only option, but as a general rule these periods should not be the norm. Find confidence in your decisions to say yes to some requests and no to others. Take ownership of your pace of life, the events that fill your time and your schedule because your decisions are just that: yours.
Start today by implementing just one of these steps. Complete transformation doesn’t happen overnight but one change can. Do it now. And breathe deeply as you begin to experience the freedom found in a life with margin.