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Margin is the gap between what we’re fully capable of doing and what we are doing. When we’re overloaded we’re operating without any margin, which will leave you depleted. We need this open space in our lives. It is where we go to recharge our batteries, put up our feet and re-energize.
Most of us have very little margin. This produces stress, which leaves us haggard. Make it a priority to reclaim some free space or margin in your life.
1 Learn to say NO.
The next time someone asks you to take on an extra job or activity, say NO. If the task is something that excites you, don’t say yes right away. Instead, tell the individual you need to think and pray about it. Ask them to get back in touch with you in a few days. Then talk to your family and God about it. Make sure you have the time and your family is on board with you taking on a something new. Maybe you will need to shuffle your schedule or remove an item from it. Maybe you say NO. Remember it’s okay to say NO.
2 Remove one activity or commitment from your plate.
Think of a commitment you currently have that you dread. You’re doing it, but simply going through the motions.
Do whatever you have to do, but back out of this commitment. Be honest and talk with the person who’ll be impacted. Let them know you’re not engaged and everyone would be better served, if you stepped away from the commitment.
This isn’t an excuse. It’s the truth. Letting someone else step into position will likely be best for everyone.
3 Get up 10 minutes earlier.
Use this extra time to get your day on the right track. Use it for a short time of prayer or meditation. These few moments can be the difference between a bad day and a good day.
4 Eat Breakfast.
Do NOT skip breakfast, instead have a small dish of cereal, egg or have a breakfast bar on your drive to work. This food will give you the fuel your body needs. A fully fueled you will work more efficiently. This will produce margin because you’ll be more effective.
5 Do lunch.
Do not work through lunch. People need a mental break. You will perform better in the afternoon, if you disengage from your work. Combine your lunch break with a healthy activity. Some ideas:
- Eat lunch with a loved one.
- Exercise or go for a walk with a co-worker who you find encouraging
- Do a devotional while you have a small bit to eat.
6 Turn off the TV.
In most families the television is on way too much. If you’re a TV junkie or have a special program or two you really enjoy, limit yourself 30 min – maybe 1 hour an evening, THEN turn it off. Regaining margin requires discipline. Use the time instead to:
- Have a conversation or play a card or board game.
- Do a hobby or activity you love.
- Call a parent, a sibling or a friend on the phone.
A little social media goes a long way. Doing Facebook or emailing family and other people in your circle can be healthy. Limit your time though to 30 minutes or an hour, if you’re a social media butterfly. Do the TV or the PC but not both.
7 Go to bed 30 minutes earlier.
30 minutes is a suggestion. Getting bed sooner shouldn’t be a problem with the TV off. The extra sleep will give you more energy the next morning. It will help you get up 10 minutes earlier so you won’t have excuse doing number 3 on the list.
In my book Modern Parables for Financial Peace there is a story called the ‘The Finely Tuned Machine‘. It’s a story about a businessman who schedules his day with no margins. In the process, he bumps his son off and out of his schedule.
There are other ideas you can do. If this is an area you struggle think about getting the book