“Margin is not something that just happens. You have to fight for it.” --Michael Hyatt
If you are feeling frazzled, irritable, hurried and empty, you might not be scheduling enough margin in your life. Margin is the block of time between what you must do and your point of exhaustion.
This isn’t a comprehensive list, but in my margin I meet with friends on Friday nights for coffee. I go fishing every Memorial Day weekend with a friend. Every fall, several of my friends and I go on a cab excursion. I read every afternoon. I journal every day. I take walks every day. And I listen to music — not as a backdrop but as a standalone activity.
Oh, and currently I’m participating in Sandra Bullock Saturdays (an activity my mom and I have been enjoying at her house every Saturday afternoon recently since she loves Bullock but hasn't seen quite a few of her movies and I’m always willing to watch them again).
Also, I've learned to say no without feeling the need to explain myself.
When my work schedule becomes too full, something has to give, so I shrink my margin to hit my deadlines, but it comes with a cost. I usually loose a day or two afterward just trying to recover.
Sometimes, a small margin can’t be helped, but if it happens too often, it’s time to take a hard look at your schedule because margin doesn’t randomly appear or increase. We really do have to fight for it. The good news is, you can make more margin right now. Here are five quick ways:
Drop a TV Show
As soon as you read this sub-heading, a television series or program came to mind. Does it help you recharge? Does it challenge you? Does it inform you? If you gave it up, would you even miss it? How could you spend this time better? Of course, some programs are part of your margin — by all means, keep them. If they aren’t, then get rid of them.
Schedule a Monthly Mini-Retreat
It doesn’t have to be far from home, expensive or consume a lot of time. Come up with twelve ideas (one for each month) and schedule them. Actually add them to your schedule. A few mini-retreats I have scheduled this year include visiting a prayer garden near my home, spending an afternoon at a nearby lake and taking a day-trip off the beaten path without an agenda.
Discontinue One Weekly Activity
Again, I’m guessing that as soon as you read that sub-heading, an activity popped into your mind. You don’t want to give it up because you feel obligated, or because it is a tradition or because you don’t want to disappoint somebody, but those aren’t always the best reasons to be involved.
Pull the Plug on a Hobby
I love writing about minor league baseball. I love the stories about players trying to make it to the next level, the silliness in the clubhouse, the ballpark atmosphere, and how close you can get to the action. I wrote about a minor league team for six years for various outlets, but the pay wasn’t great and I was always exhausted. I gave it up after the 2014 season and it increased my margin. If a hobby is draining you, let it die.
Remove Addictive Apps from Your Phone
How much time do you spend playing games on your phone every day? How many times per day do you check Facebook on your phone? Do you really need to access email on your phone or could you answer it later when a computer is available? What non-essential can you eliminate from your phone to limit distractions and increase your margin?
By the way, please don’t hear me saying that margin is about eliminating time with people. At least half of the activities on my list include spending time with others. Instead, margin is about becoming more intentional in everything you do (and allow) so you’ll have the margin your soul craves.
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Lee Warren is a freelance writer and editor who has written twelve non-fiction books, one novella and hundreds of articles for various newspapers and magazines as well as edited more than 50 books that currently appear in print. He's a fan of NASCAR, baseball, tennis, books, movies and coffee shops.