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How to Create Margin in Your Life-Especially as a Leader

John Gilman May 21, 2016

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Busyness seems to be the way we live, as leaders in particular. I don’t love admitting my faults, but I’ll be quick to own up to the fact that I’m an “over-scheduler.” I’m known to regularly try to fit THIS much activity into this much time.

When my calendar is filled to the brim  it begins to quickly take a T.O.L.L.on me physically and emotionally.

– Tasks over people. I start to care more about accomplishing the tasks on my list and following the schedule on my calendar, instead of caring about the people in my life. Unfortunately, I slip into taskmaster mode with my family and even my co-workers. Nobody likes a taskmaster.

– Overextend myself. I find myself staying at work late, burning the midnight oil and not getting the sleep and rest I need. Projects start being turned in late or just at the deadline and my work becomes less than excellent, because I can’t keep up with all the commitments I have made.

Lose my joy or passion. Instead of enjoying the work I am doing or even the events on my calendar, I start to dread each thing. The things that used to bring me joy and motivate me, now become just one more thing on my list that is wearing me out.

– Live in a state of frustration. It is a horrible cycle when I am over-scheduled so I walk around frustrated with each person or thing that slows me down and truly most frustrated with myself for allowing this craziness to happen.

So what to do with this common dilemma? I realized after living this way far too long that I was leaving no margin in my schedule. The definition of margin is an amount allowed or available beyond what is actually necessary. It is the same concept as the margin on a page.. If the page is completely filled and there are no spaces or borders, it creates chaos on the page and makes it more difficult to view the important information.  

When I calendared my day/week/month I filled my time to the maximum capacity.  Unfortunately, when I left no available space in my calendar for down time or doing “nothing”, I actually lost the space for “living.”

The empty spaces in our day create order for the scheduled events. These spaces allow breathing room for thinking, creating, resting and just being.

This goes hand in hand with the concept of Sabbath. Christ understood the sacred importance of Sabbath. He made time to get away for prayer and rest with His Father. It is so important that it is one of The Ten Commandments.

For those who need a little help finding their resting time, here’s an easy way to remember how to make a P.L.A.N.

Pray. Sit down and pray.  Before setting my calendar for the week, I try to sit down and pray because it helps me manage my priorities. This way I can plan for my meetings, to-do lists and events for the week coming up.

List my priorities. I decide on my non-negotiables. There are always certain meetings and events that I have to attend. There are usually a couple of things that aren’t absolutely necessary. If my kiddo has an extra ball game this week, then I may choose to skip book club this month; because I’m managing my schedule, not allowing it to manage me. My goal is to create margin and order, not allow for the rush and chaos of overcommitment. It takes saying NO to some things in order to say YES to what is most important.

Allow for rest. I deliberately schedule in rest and time for things that fill me up. I cannot constantly pour out without being filled up. I need adequate time for sleep, but also for things in my schedule that help me function well. If exercise is essential for you, then schedule that in a few times each week. If you need face-to-face time with your spouse, put it on the schedule. If you need at least an hour each day to just enjoy being with your children and not feeling rushed then schedule that in. I used to internally feel that my schedule was out of control, but I finally realized that I create my schedule, so I had no one to blame, but myself.

Never fill your entire schedule. Once I understood the concept of margin, it became almost sacred to me. It takes practice, but I’m learning to allow room in my scheduling for living. Allow buffer room between events for opportunities to be spontaneous and for life to happen!

Creating margin helps you focus on what’s important in your life and be there for the precious moments with those you love.
Where in your calendar do you need to create some margin today?

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