The Importance Of Margin

By: Mae Lewis

Life comes at us fast and hard. Between kids, school schedules, groceries, meals, household chores, work, family responsibilities, and bills, it can often feel that the days slip by like grains of sand. Our days so quickly fill up with the unimportant that sometimes we must be reminded to live our lives with purpose and intention. One of the best ways to do this is to create margin in your life – time to pause, reflect, live, and move forward. It is the difference between being overwhelmed with “life” and truly enjoying life.

If your budget is 90% of what you earn, then your financial margin is 10%. It’s the amount of “wiggle room” that you have to succeed or fail. If you succeed, then you have 10% extra income to invest. If you fail, then you have a 10% margin to fail by, and still come out ahead. This is not just true of money but of time and energy and emotion. Budgeting only 90% of your time will give you the mental and emotional margin needed to live life with purpose.

Margin is the difference between your load and your limit. It is the difference between what you are currently carrying and what you CAN carry. Living life with intentional margin will make your life fuller, richer, and easier.

Planning margin into your life is wise, and the rewards are great. If you do not have margin, you will eventually crash, either financially, spiritually, or physically. If you always use 100% of your your resources, you will have nothing left when you really need it. Crisis WILL come upon all of us. As one wise man said, “Trouble is a communist, everyone gets an equal share.”

You can only deal with crisis out of the margin that you create for yourself.

In order to create margin, you first need to know what your focus is. What are you chasing? If you are a housewife, your focus might be to make sure that your family is provided for and that their needs are met. If you are a business owner, your focus might be to be the number one provider of services in your area. If you are having trouble determining your focus, take a tip from Simon Sinek and ask, “Why?” Then ask why again. Then ask why again. Then ask why again.

Once you have your focus, you can manage every other thing in your life by aligning your calendar. Do your actions and calendar match your focus? Whatever is taking you away from your focus is where you can create margin.

And here is where it gets tricky. In that difference between your limit and your load, there will come temptations that are disguised as opportunities. Don’t be misled by opportunities, unless they are taking you directly to your focus. Ask yourself, is this taking me toward my mission and life priorities?

Author Benjamin Hardy says, “We are kept from our goals not by obstacles, but by a clear path to a lesser goal.” In other words, we often settle for something that is easily within our grasp, rather than taking the more difficult path toward what we really want.

Creating margin in our everyday lives allows us to handle the “difficult” path. Difficult requires more energy. Margin allows you to pursue the difficult, without jeopardizing the rest of your life.

Most things that we spend our time on are not as important as they seem. It is easy to get distracted by the seemingly urgent. There is a little fireman in us that wants to put out fires, to check off a list, or to feel needed. Sometimes we need to take a step back and take a longer look at what is really happening. The story of humanity is thousands of years old, and there is nothing new under the sun. Each of us plays a tiny part in shaping the story of humanity, but sometimes we need to be reminded that we are not as important as we think we are.

Spending time on what is important (and not urgent) will lead to a more productive life. The key is to be proactive about how you live life. You CAN build the life you want to live. It takes time, but remember that glaciers always outperform avalanches. A glacier moving steadily over time can change landscapes! An avalanche only impacts a small area. Life is a marathon, not a sprint, and if you are sprinting, you are going to burn out, quickly.

Take the time to set a pace for yourself. Build space into your life for rest, reflection and doing nothing. Margin will enable you to enjoy the beauty and wonder of life, grow through challenges, handle the unexpected crisis with ease, and move you towards the things you really want in life.

By: Mae Lewis