Creating Margin

Most everyone I know is busy. Our culture encourages it—lauds it even. A while back, I bumped into an acquaintance in the parking lot outside my chiropractor's office. He asked me if I was keeping busy.

"No," I replied simply.

I don't think he knew what to say. I don't blame him, though. What do you say to someone who's not busy? Or who's "lazy" as our culture might define such a one?

Though nothing was said, I'm sure something akin to the following was going through his mind: "What do you mean you're not busy? Is there something wrong with you?"

My answer probably would have been "I don't think so," but he didn't ask me out loud.

Many (and, of course, I'm generalizing here) rarely get done in a day what they set out to get done.

"Why's that?" you might ask.

I think it's because most people have little margin in their hectic lives. Each day has been so endlessly scheduled out that there's little to no room for error or interruption or recreative downtime, or for just being a human being in relationship with other human beings.

Margin (from Webster's): a spare amount, measure, or degree allowed or given for contingencies or special situations.

Everyone needs margin. It's what enables us to stop and be with someone in need (including ourselves) or to just enjoy the simple pleasures of company with a really good friend. It's what allows us also to take time to ourselves without feeling guilty about it. Margin gives us room to breathe and just sit for a while without having to produce or accomplish anything.

Question: When was the last time you just sat for a while and did nothing? (Please note: Vegging in front of the TV doesn't count.)

Provided below are seven short-term and seven long-term strategies for creating more margin in your life. Sometimes, a lack of margin can be a symptom of a larger issue that needs our attention. In this post, I'm going to steer away from opening that particular can of worms—at least directly. Regarding the below, pick one or two strategies from each section, and then go to work on them. If you're feeling especially motivated, pick one strategy from the long-term arena that feels particularly difficult, perhaps even way out of reach. Doing so may actually put you in touch with one of those "larger issues" I alluded to above. God bless you as you work to create less obligation in your life.

Seven Short-term Strategies

  1. Pay yourself first (with your time, that is). All of us have 24 hours in the day. Schedule time for yourself each day. It's actually better to schedule multiple, smaller time slots as opposed to just one big time slot.

  2. At least once a day, say "no" to something vying for your momentary attention. Say it gracefully, and with a genuine smile, but make sure you say it clearly.

  3. Cut your TV viewing time in half.

  4. Eat at least one meal a day with another person.

  5. Floss before you go to bed each night.

  6. Get at least seven hours of sleep a night.

  7. Get up early (before 5 am) each morning. (To get seven hours of sleep [and be up before 5], that means you need to be in bed before 10 each night.)

Seven Long-term Strategies

  1. Spend 30% less than you make (take-home pay).

  2. Position yourself to be able work no more than 20 to 30 hours (paid work) per week.

  3. Cut your wardrobe size by 75%, and wear clothes that don't require dry-cleaning.

  4. Create a daily rhythm of prayer and meditation. (Study the monastics; emulate some of the ways in which the've learned to balance prayer, work, and community life.)

  5. Develop your own mission and vision statements, and then begin (one-by-one) to eliminate any activities that don't contribute to your fulfilling your life's purposes and destiny or pursuing your dreams.

  6. Six days a week, train physically for at least one hour a day. Similar to paying yourself with time, I recommend you set aside multiple times for exercise each day. Perhaps, rather than scheduling an hour time slot, schedule three twenty-minute training sessions.

  7. Set aside one day a week for Sabbath rest. Traditionally, many have set apart either Saturdays or Sundays for this purpose.

I pray you find the above helpful.

God's peace to you…


IKIGAI Weekly Blog Schedule (per The Training Trinity):

Mondays: Meditative Prayer

Wednesdays: Holistic Discipline

Fridays: Martial Arts Practice


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