Over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday my wife and I sat down with our calendars and started plugging in commitments for the year.
After about fifteen minutes into the process I realized I was starting to feel anxious and the tone in my voice started to change. Karen asked me if I were all right and I said, “I’m fine. It’s just that putting a whole year on a calendar in one sitting makes me feel a little overloaded!”
So we started making sure we were adding some margin in our schedules. “Margin” is the opposite of overload. Overload is when you have spent more than you have to spend. Whether it is time, money, or emotional energy, if you put out more than you have to give you will be in the hole when it comes to margin.
“Margin” is the space you have left over when you have reached your limit. In other words, when all the words are printed on the page, margin is what is left around the sides of the page. When you’ve spent the money you planned to spend, whatever is left over is your margin. And when everything is scheduled on your calendar for a year, the time left over is margin.
It’s much better to live life with margin than on overload. Just think about it:
- When your schedule is maxed out you won’t have time to do things spontaneously or be available for serendipitous moments that present themselves.
- When you spend more money than you make you find yourself in debt. You can’t give generously to people or charities that you’d like to give to. Your stress level likely increases and you become a miser with your money.
- When you spend all your time with people who drain you and never fill up with those that give you energy, or simply have some down time, you’ll get tense and irritable with the people you most love.
Wouldn’t you rather have time margin so that you can relax and renew? Or have some financial margin so that you can be ready for unexpected expenses or to give to someone in need? And what about having some emotional margin so that you can really be present to the people you are with?
Margin sounds like the better choice, doesn’t it? Here’s how you can create margin. That’s right, you have to create it. It won’t just happen.
- Karen and I realized this, so the first thing we did was put the important dates that we knew of on our calendar. Guess what one of the categories was? Date Night! That’s right. We realized that we often give too much of our time to others—which we are wired to do—but needed to make sure we kept some margin for our relationship. So put the important dates on your calendar first.
- Next, put any work commitments you know you already have. Obviously, you have your weekly schedule. Put on your calendar each week what you need to do that week. Plan in steps to completing projects, etc. and then stay on point with those things.
- Then as you look over a section of time—whether it is a full year or maybe a quarterly run of life—see where margin is needed and schedule a day off, a Saturday with no calls or other commitments…whatever you need to slow down and recharge.
Your car doesn’t run very well without gas in the tank and neither will you. Margin is the high octane fuel you need in your time schedule, your financial plans, and your relationships to keep you running.
You’ll find yourself getting the important things done that need to be done but enjoying life more.
Question: Where, like me, have you felt like you needed more margin?