10 Easy Tips To Enjoying More Margin
Have you noticed that in spite of more time spent at home and fewer places to go during the pandemic, people don’t seem to have any more margin – extra space in their life? As humans, we have a crazy capacity for filling our lives up and stretching ourselves thin.
Filling our schedules to the brim was already in motion long before the pandemic hit. And even though technological advances are meant to lighten our load, they haven’t. Instead, it’s considered normal to add more and more and max out a day.
The days of sipping coffee or tea and shooting the breeze while rocking away on the porch is a thing of the past – or is it?
No matter how demanding life gets, you still get to choose how you use your time. Tasks may come your way that you can’t avoid, and some seasons are more demanding than others, but ultimately, you decide how maxed out your schedule is.
I promise you, the more you cram into your life, the less effective you are. And the first activities to get squeezed out are the very activities that energize you and allow you to operate at your very best! When you overload your schedule, you cheat yourself from thriving personally and professionally.
Why All the Overloading?
Now there are a variety of reasons you schedule back-to-back engagements and agree to more responsibilities than you should. Somehow, you’ve convinced yourself that the more frantic life is, the more important you are.
Another reason you keep doing more and more is that you don’t know what to do with down time. For some, it can be an incredible challenge to relax and just be. I know, I’ve been there!
For others, the frantic activity is an attempt to keep from facing what they would rather avoid.
Perhaps you have lofty goals that require constant attention. I wonder, is the striving really worth it?
While you probably don’t want to admit it, fear is also a factor. Fear of failing, fear of succeeding, fear of looking foolish, and a million other fears have the power to tempt us into overdrive.
And don’t forget, your Fear Monster may be playing a role in making sure you have zero or very little margin!
In addition to running several businesses, keeping up with my five very active grands, and engaging in the activities I love, life is full! There are opportunities that I just can’t do right now – they don’t fit within the 24 hours I have been given.
Some activities are non-negotiable for me. They must fit in my day in some way like…
- My time alone with God – it feeds my soul
- Planning my day – it keeps me on track
- Exercising – it gives me the energy I will need to navigate my day
These aren’t activities that I “have to” do. These are activities that I “want to” do because they will make my day flow in a better way. And it’s my goal to complete them all before breakfast if possible.
Margin won’t just happen! It’s something I must intentionally incorporate into my day. It’s absolutely necessary because there is always the unexpected! And nine times out of ten, the unexpected are people – people I treasure!
When my life is maxed out, everyone around me suffers, including me.
When my children lived at home, they rarely made appointments with me to share what was on their minds. Sometimes they shared at meal times when it was convenient. Most of the time they would seek me out just before bedtime and our conversations would go into the wee hours. Because I normally get plenty of sleep, giving up a few hours of sleep here or there did not do me in.
In the same way, having time for the people we lead is essential. Always giving off the vibe that you’re too busy or in a hurry creates a barrier between you and those you serve. That disconnect in your working relationships will eventually cost you significantly. Making space for people will convey just how much you value them and demonstrate that you are eager and available to help.
On the flip side, you don’t have to available 24/7. It’s vital to have uninterrupted time to think and work. Just be sure you communicate those times clearly so others know what to expect.
In Old Testament times, it was against Hebrew law to harvest all the grain in your field. The edges, or “a margin” of a field, were left so that the less fortunate could harvest what was left. This was known as gleaning. You may remember that Ruth was able to provide for Naomi by gleaning in Boaz’s field. (Ruth 2)
By not harvesting all the way to the edge of the crops, enough was left over for those in need.
Every season will have people, tasks, etc. that pull at you. It is up to you to make the best use of your capacity. God is not expecting you to wear yourself out. In fact, He longs for you to rely on Him and let Him do the heavy lifting in your life!
I need that reminder! This past week was especially full for me. Rather than stress myself out and try to make it all happen, I had to take a hard look at what was on my plate and prioritize. That meant rescheduling some activities I had been looking forward to. Those are difficult decisions to make, but fighting for margin is worth it!
How can you create more “margin” in your life so that you are less stressed and more able to deal with the unexpected?
1. Plan Well
Starting with a plan is always better! A plan is not in stone – it can be adjusted. It does help you to see what you’re attempting to force into a day.
Know your limits! Be sure to leave space between activities and obligations. Over-scheduling is exhausting.
2. Say No
It’s important to know your capacity as well as having a criterion for what you are willing to take on. It’s pointless to take on more than you can handle. It will ultimately frazzle you and disappoint others more than if you just said “no” up front.
3. Refuse to Hurry
Take things slow and do them well. It saves time in the long run. And you’ll enjoy the process more too!
4. Learn to Delegate
While it may take a little extra work up front, the more you delegate the more you can focus on what only you can do – the most important stuff!
5. Work Smarter, Not harder
The only way to work smarter is to periodically evaluate what’s working and what’s not working. You want to put your efforts where you are getting the greatest return.
6. Limit Time Suckers
What is it that’s stealing your time? Is it perpetually getting notifications on your phone, or web surfing, binge watching TV, Facebook, or texting? Whatever it is, you have the power to eliminate or minimize these distractions, including the people interruptions.
7. Connect to Your Values & Priorities
Aligning your life with your values and establishing your priorities helps to guide your use of time.
8. Put First Things First
If you tackle what’s really most important to you, you will soon discover what you don’t have room for in your life.
9. Know Who God Created You to Be
In order to live out who God created you to be, you will need His help. And you must be able to “be” that for yourself before you will be able to be that for others.
If He created you to be loving, you must first be loving to yourself. Or if He created you to be authentic, you must be authentic with yourself. He didn’t create you to be someone who is maxed out!
10. Make Time to Rest
Taking time to rest is rejuvenating and enables you to get more done later. We weren’t meant to always be in motion! That’s why God modeled a day of rest after six days of creating! (Genesis 2:3)
Be honest, how would your life and work be different if you had more margin in your days?
How does your lack of margin affect those around you?
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