Recently, while reading “Supernatural Power for Everyday People,” by Jared C. Wilson, I was intrigued by the concept of “margin.”
The definition of margin is “to provide with an edge or border.” So, what does it look like to live a life with margin?
Many of us live margin-less lives, filled to the brim with social commitments, sports practices, bible studies, credit card payments, screen time, family gatherings, rushed conversations, lack of expectations, on-the-go lifestyles and mindsets, and so much more. Sound familiar? Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with many of the things that fill up our margins. I’ll be the first one to admit my tendency to live in a margin-less world. But, when these good, or sometimes bad time-occupiers reduce or delete all the margin in our lives, we’re left feeling overwhelmed, scatter-brained, physically and mentally exhausted, irritable and impatient, stressed, and rushed. I don’t know about you, but that’s not the kind of life I want to live.
Truth is, our society lives in an on-the-go mindset, always moving from one thing to the next. Take a look around and it won’t take long to see: angry drivers halted in traffic, annoyed pouts waiting in long checkout lines, double-booked calendars, drivers simultaneously eating, texting, and putting on mascara, and it doesn’t stop there. So, what would the world look like if we all created a little margin in our lives? The kind of margin that allows us to enjoy a freshly cooked dinners together as a family, dive deep into un-rushed conversations, intentionally meet one another’s needs, seek out new adventures and experiences, value the importance reading and education ourselves.
Despite the lack of margin in our world, there are endless ways to create it in our lives. It might look a little different for everyone, but today I’m sharing just 5 ways I’ve decided to create margin in my own life, in the hopes you’ll join me!
- Learn to say “no.” By saying “no,” you are saying “yes” to margin and, essentially, more wiggle room in your life. For me, sometimes saying “no” equates to much-needed sleep, prioritizing my health, spending quality time with Blake, or wallowing in my Bible reading just little bit longer. When saying “yes” to too much, you aren’t able to give 100% to everything and you certainly can’t give your best. As Lysa Terkheurst explains in her book, “The Best Yes,” sometimes you have to answer with “no” a few times in order to give your best “yes.”
- Limit screen time. In today’s world, it is far too easy to be distracted by screens- television, computers, phones, iPads, etc. Sure, they’re necessary for work, school, and daily tasks. But, did you know that according to The Nielsen Total Audience Report, the average American spends 11 hours interacting with some type of media platform per day? That’s certainly more hours than necessary for work purposes. Actually, that means we’re staring straight into screens more than the eyes of our loved ones! Have you ever been distracted scrolling through Instagram and before you know it an hour has passed by without achieving anything productive, much less interacting with other humans? I certainly have. By choosing to put down the screens more, I’m opting to use my time more efficiently, and as a result, creating more margin in my life.
- Make a plan. Each week, set aside time to create a schedule and to-do list. By making a plan, you’ll get to know a more organized and productive you. When I use Sunday afternoons to wrap my head around the upcoming week and the “clutter” it will bring, I can confidently say my days are less stressful and more accomplishing. (If you need a good planner, I recommend the Peacock Daily Planner.) By creating a plan for the week, as a whole, and each day, individually, you’re setting yourself up for a successful 7 days.
- Set expectations with yourself and others. Be aware of the time and energy you have to give and don’t be afraid to make boundaries. Referring back to tip #1, it’s necessary to learn to say “no” to prevent spreading yourself too thin. If you’re a people-pleaser like me, it’s so easy to plan too much and become overwhelmed, shrinking any possibility of margin. But when expectations are set and shared, you won’t let down yourself or others. Personally, this often means reserving my Monday and Thursday nights because they are my only free nights for a little R&R. When I break this boundary, the introvert in me feels the consequence of an over-stimulated mind and body.
- Set a budget and stick to it to create financial margin. Most of us live beyond our financial means, living paycheck to paycheck. So when it comes to tithing/giving, we hesitantly give the little bit we have left, if any. Or, we might not give at all, claiming to not have the resources. I know I’ve been there. But, biblically, God wants us to give back to Him first. After all, everything we have is His. When setting a monthly or weekly budget, commit to tithing or giving first, before bills, spending, travel, etc. Recently, through the Lord’s work in our hearts, Blake and I have made a conscience effort to tithe before all other expenses (imperfectly, of course). Although it can be quite intimidating and/or unsettling, I’ve definitely seen it grow our trust in the Lord’s provision, financially and otherwise, in our own lives. And, what could be a better blessing?
While these are the 5 ways I’m personally creating margin, I want to encourage you to pray about the margin (or lack of) in your own life. I am confident that the Lord will reveal to you any and every way He wants to see the margin in your life grow.
Here’s to living a life filled with more than just to-do lists and creating space to live the life God created us to!