The Blog.

Margin: the antidote to overwhelm, frenzy and stress

26 Feb 2010 | Business Life, Personal Productivity

I have come to realise that I am a filler by nature. Give me time and I will fit something in, give me space and I see boundless opportunities. I like to be productive. Get lots done. Lead a rich and varied life. Work and Play. Have my cake and eat it. If you’re like me, you’ll know that amazing feeling when it all comes together and works a dream, and the nightmare when it falls apart. And let’s face it, when we stack the bricks up high, it doesn’t take much to topple the tower – a snow day, a sick day, a bad night, an unexpected phone call, a family emergency, a burst pipe, broadband outage, car trouble or an explosive nappy.

And sometimes it’s entirely down to me, fitting in that phone call or errand when I’m running ten minutes early, forgetting that nothing ever takes five minutes, and ending up twenty minutes late.

In the pursuit of balance, peace and sanity, I’m learning the value of space, like air in a pillow: in itself it’s immaterial but it plays a vital role in between the fibres to allow for movement and comfort, and to absorb impact. I’ve been playing with the idea and trying to find a name – breathing space, overspill room, buffer – and then twice in one week it came to me – Margin.

Margin: the space between our load and our limits.

That’s according to Tony Horsfall quoting Dr Richard Swenson in Working from a place of rest, a perceptive look at Jesus and his example of working an action packed three years of high capacity, high impact, wide reaching, massive scaled, literally miracle-filled ministry – all from a place of rest.

Scheduling Margin: having time beyond what is necessary

Now there’s a turnaround from never having enough time. That was the theme of a talk by, which had some great nuggets I wanted to share with you:

  • Scheduling wisely: Saying no to many good things so that we can say yes to the best things.
  • Just because you could do something does not mean you should do it.
  • If being overwhelmed, frenzied and stressed is normal, then let’s do things differently and find great comfort in being weird!
  • So many people are being robbed from a life of meaning, not because they are not committed but because they are over-committed.
  • You have time for whatever you choose to have time for.
  • Bring someone else in to do what someone else can do, to free you up to do what only you can do.

Not only does Margin give us time to deal with the work that overspills, the unexpected glitches and the emergency fire-fighting, it gives us space to change our minds, choice to stop, time to think, grow, laugh and play.

It means that when that lightning bolt of creative genius hits, we can go with it wholeheartedly and discover what we could never have planned for.

It gives us the freedom to be distracted or pleasantly interrupted, by a cuddle, a smile, an unexpected call or the jingle of an ice-cream van.

And it gives us the capacity to be responsive to a cry for help, to receive an unexpected blessing, to be captivated by a perfect sunset or a child’s first step, and be spontaneous when we wake up to snow.

What about you? Where do you need Margin in your life? What might that bring for you?


Image if author Grace Marshall

About Grace

I coach, train, write and speak on productivity. I help people adopt new ways of working and thinking about their work to replace stress, overwhelm and frustration with success, sanity and satisfaction.

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