Margin in Life

With St. Patrick’s Day this month, I think it is appropriate to quote an old Irish Proverb. “When God created time, He made plenty of it.”

At this point you may be wondering how many green beers I have had. But really, I have been reflecting recently on just how much of my life has been lived “wall to wall,” with little or no margin. Now that I am willing to admit that I am chronically busy and over-scheduled — you might say a “marginless-aholic” — why do I do it and what is the cure?

In Dr. Richard Swenson’s book A Minute of Margin he writes, “Such busyness comes from a societal value system that idolizes productivity. I am not saying that productivity is wrong. I am only saying that it must not be idolized.” So then why do I idolize productivity? Maybe it is because I truly think that if I don’t get it done, no one will. Or could it be that I want the approval of others? Or maybe I am just doing whatever the rest of the Boomers are doing.

So what is the cure for being too busy and for the lack of margin in my life? First of all, the cure begins by recognizing that God has a plan for my life, and that plan is far better than any plan I might have. Secondly, if I do the work He has given me to do, in the way He would like, there is plenty of time available to do that work. There are other things that help create margin, but I have found that if I get the first and second things right, all else seems to follow.

Here are some practical ways I discern God’s plan and do my God-given work, acting intentionality to create margin where I can:

  • Begin every day with some quiet time in solitude. I use it to read Scripture and great authors, and pray about a variety of things.
  • During the day, if my schedule has an open spot, I no longer make an effort to fill it in. It is amazing how it gets filled with something far more interesting than I could have imagined.
  • Every year I review and edit my “Intentional Life.” It lists the most important people in my life, by their date of birth. It is a reminder to find intentional time to spend with the people whom God has purposely put into our lives.

The last few years I have had a couple of health incidents that, as a close friend of mine says, “make you look at your own mortality.” Surprisingly, I have found those health incidents to be more of a blessing than a curse. I am more willing to address the “logs in my own eye” before judging others, and make needed changes in my life more quickly. We all have only so much time on this earth. I will never come close to getting it all done, but like you, I desire to persist to the end and finish strong. The Prize on the other side is worth it.