How are Your Margins?
By Lisa Harper
I’ve been thinking a fair amount lately about margins. For example, as I type our notes for our Ladies Sunday School classes, I find myself mozying up to that “layout” button at the top of my Word doc and minimizing the margins as much as the computer program will let me. Why? I want to cram it in and NOT use extra paper. Now that would be a waste, right?
For today’s purposes, I’m not referring to the blank spaces on the four sides of a sheet of paper, but the margins related to our time and our treasures.
In this season of my life, I drive a few hours at a stretch, a few times a week. I may be driving to meet with family members in Detroit, Lansing or Chicago -- or perhaps even making a trek to a well-respected physical therapist in Suttons Bay. While my GPS might say that the trip should take 2 hours and 7 minutes, I have a choice to make. I can leave my home with 2:07 to spare until I am supposed to arrive at my destination, or I can leave with 2:30 (2 hours and thirty minutes) to go. The difference of twenty some minutes is really not huge, but allowing for the unexpected detours in my daily schedule can significantly minimize the power of scheduling surprises outside of my control.
Do you allow for margin in your days? It’s often said that the best way to change something is to begin with the end in mind. Can you picture yourself maintaining a sense of peace in the midst of daily circumstances sometimes beyond your control? May the good Lord help us to lean into Him more. May He give us the wisdom to order our days, and the grace to adjust when some things are just beyond our control.
In Michael Hyatt’s article, “How to Create More Margin in Your Life,” he describes margin this way:
Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.
Hyatt goes on to enlighten us with these tidbits of “margin” truth:
• Margin is the opposite of overload. If we are overloaded we have no margin. Most people are not quite sure when they pass from margin to overload. Threshold points are not easily measurable and are also different for different people in different circumstances.
• Margin is not something that just happens. You have to fight for it.
Indeed, the topic of creating more margin can press a lot of our personal buttons with if we are honest.
So how can we improve in this area? Here is some timely advice from Sean Johnson, from his carefully penned article, “Why You Need More Margin in Your Life (and How to Get It).”
• Be aware of your energy and your seasons. Pay attention to your energy levels in the day, season and year. Becoming aware of when you have a lot of energy and when you don't will allow you to make smarter decisions about how to structure your day. Some people do their most creative, high value work early in the morning while others are at their best late at night.
• Get More Sleep
Around 1-3% of the population truly can get by on less sleep. It's probably not you. Sleep helps you make smarter decisions and makes it more likely you'll accomplish your goals.
• Listen to Pareto
The 80/20 rule is your best friend. The majority of your results and effectiveness come from only 20% of your activities. If a commitment is not moving you towards your goals, and you have a choice as to whether you spend your time that way or not, it might be better to spend your extra and precious time with family, friends and even your CHURCH! (Emphasis is mine.)
• Take an extra 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes can make a difference. It’s enough time to stretch, pray, make a cup of coffee or tea, decide on your most important tasks, and remain more peaceful and focused.
• Limit Social Media
I’m 54 years old. That’s on the tail end of the Baby Boomer Generation. Some of us like to stay in touch with friends and family on Facebook. Honestly, Facebook is also a way to see what’s happening with some of our church people, including their joys and sorrows. I like to know what’s going on. I’m guessing I am not alone. Some of you Millenials, Generation Z peeps and more might prefer your Instagram or Snapchat. Whatever your method, watch out and monitor yourself. On a personal note, some teenage girls and I are fasting from Social Media on Sundays for a while. Feel free to join us.