What is margin? It's the "white
space" in your appointment book.
Dr. Richard Swenson, author of Margin: Restoring
Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to
Overloaded Lives, defines margin as "the space that
exists between ourselves 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
So, how do you create margin? Swenson tells us that we
create margin by building these four things into our lives:
|"It is my
observation that too many of us are spending money
we haven't earned to buy things we don't need to
impress people we don't like."
Seeking simplicity requires
that we reduce the clutter in our lives--including
possessions, activities, and people. To simplify your
life, become crystal clear about your goals, and then do the
||Identify what you are willing to
take on in order to reach your goals.
||Identify what you are willing to
let go of.
||Identify activities that are
all-consuming but not necessarily important to you.
This is a case of "less is more" -- doing less
of what is not important enables you to do more
of what matters most.
||Let go of relationships that do not
enhance your life. That's right - people can
be clutter, too!
||Let go of possessions that do not
enhance your life on a regular basis - things that
take up space, require maintenance, and make
decision-making more complicated.
||Let go of important tasks that
someone else can do - delegate!
||Let go of petty annoyances.
Make a list of 10 things in your life that bother
you. Then give yourself a month to fix it, clean it,
toss it, etc… or let go of it!
||Let go of the past. Imagine where
you want to be in the future and move toward it.
are two ways to get enough. One is to continue
to accumulate more and more. The other is to
is something we learn. It is a relative state. Comparing is
the enemy of contentment. "Having it all"
may not be in your best interest! Consider these
questions when making decisions about activities, purchases,
||Will this activity enhance
||Will this purchase add
meaning and fulfillment to my life one month from
now? How about one year from now?
If I don't purchase this, will I regret it later?
If I decide to purchase this later, will it still be
||Will this relationship move
me toward or away from what I want to be and do in
of our pain in life comes from the sense that we're
succeeding in one role at the expense of other,
possibly even more important, roles. Success
in one role can't justify failure in another.
Business success can't justify failure in a
marriage; success in the community can't justify
failure as a parent. Success or failure in any
role contributes to the quality of every other role
and life as a whole."
--Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly
Your calendar reflects your
values. The way you use your time reflects the way you
live your life. Life is like a buffet line -- our
plates fill up sooner than we realize. We need to say
NO. NO is a complete sentence.
Finding balance is not a state we can get to or arrive at
because it is always in motion. Balance is dynamic.
It only exists in the midst of action. We are moving
toward balance or away from it. Balance requires
consistent, conscious, and controlled motion. Try
balancing on one foot. Notice the fine
adjustments you need to make in the foot and body in order
to maintain equilibrium.
Being out of balance is the condition of being driven by
circumstances without a sense of any choice. Language
often spoken in these situations include I can't…, I
have to…, or I gotta… When choice is
gone, balance is gone-and with it goes the possibility of
To create balance in your life, consider the following:
||Do you feel at choice in
your life, or do you choose to live by I
can't…, I gotta.., I have to…, and I
||Schedule a weekly time by yourself
to plan the coming week based on what you choose.
||Identify the key relationships
(roles) in your life. What activities do you
choose for the coming week to nurture each of these
||Begin your weekly planning by
considering the activities you choose to care for
your physical, spiritual, mental, and social
well-being. Caring first for yourself helps
you to be more available to serve in each of your
chosen roles without anger and resentment.
||Remember that every time you say
"yes" to someone or something, you are
saying "no" to someone or something else.
you're burning the candle at both ends, you're not
as bright as you think you are."
Can you imagine what music
would be like with no rests? Try humming a familiar tune
without honoring the rests, and you'll soon recognize their
Wayne Muller, author of Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred
Rhythm of Rest, has the following to say about rest:
"In the relentless busyness of modern life, we have
lost the rhythm between action and rest. The busier we
are, the more important we seem to ourselves and, we
imagine, to others. To be unavailable to our friends
and family, to be unable to find time for the sunset (or
even to know the sun has set), to whiz through our
obligations without time for a single mindful breath-this
has become the model of a successful life. Because we
do not rest, we lose our way. We miss the compass
points that show us where to go, the nourishment that gives
us succor, the quiet that gives us wisdom."
Cheryl Richardson, author of Take Time for Your Life,
has identified the enemy of rest--adrenaline: "The
increased speed by which we live has contributed to a
society suffering from adrenaline overload more than
information overload. When we use adrenaline as our
main source of fuel, our body's adrenal system--the fight or
flight response that is supposed to alert us to and prepare
us for danger--never has a chance to rest. This
hyper-vigilant state of fight or flight eventually makes it
physiologically difficult to slow down."
If you are one who has difficulty relaxing when you have
free time, your body is probably so accustomed to running on
adrenaline that it does not know how to derive its fuel from
healthier sources. It's time to start practicing new
behaviors that reduce your reliance on adrenaline.
Restore rest in your life by trying some of these ideas:
Identify one day a week
on which you choose not to conduct any business - no
professional meetings or calls, correspondence, checking
for messages or e-mail, etc. Many people choose
Sunday for their "day of rest."
Plan something to
rejuvenate yourself - perhaps a massage, bubble bath,
listening to relaxing music, or losing yourself in a
Determine the number of
hours of sleep you need for optimal functioning.
Create a plan to help you get the rest you need.
Breathe deeply. When
running on adrenaline, we have a tendency towards
shallow breathing. When we deprive our bodies of
oxygen, we experience such things as cold hands, high
blood pressure, and feeling anxious.
A brisk walk is one of
the best things you can do to reduce stress and restore
health to your adrenal system.
Review all of the ideas in this
article. Then answer these questions:
is one action that would add to my professional
success if I did it on a daily basis?
is one action that would add to my personal
success if I did it on a daily basis?
Create personal and professional Success Habits for
yourself. It may be taking time for weekly
planning, giving yourself 15 minutes at the end of
each day to clear the piles of paper on your desk,
getting to bed by a certain time each night, or
Whatever Success Habits you choose to create, build
in some support for yourself:
||Track your Success Habit on
a daily basis
someone to be your partner in holding you
accountable. Tell your partner that
you will let them know at the end of each
week how many times you followed through
with your Success Habit. Use the power
of partnership and public declaration about
your intent to help you be accountable.