Margin

Event to event. Hectic. Fast-paced. Schedule conflicts. Pack it all in. Tired. Running on empty.

Resting. Slowing down. Contemplation.

Margin.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to have margin in my life for the last few months. I’m terrible at having margin in my life — mornings, lunch breaks, late nights, whatever. Margins were designed to fit more things into. I viewed margin as something fill up, not as something to celebrate, enjoy, appreciate — and leave alone.

There’s an amusing and sad analogy. In a business, you want your profit margins to be as expansive as an ocean. Yet we’re prone to do the complete opposite in our lives.

I’ve recently taken a break from many duties in life and found so much joy in slowing down to a crawl, reconnecting with friends/family, and spending time outside (and worsening my white boy’s farmer tan). And yet, now with that break over, I’ve found myself jumping right back into the proverbial mud pit. It’s fascinating how we can learn a lesson, and yet the roots don’t go deep.

When we think about margin in life, there’s at least two types: the beginning of the day and creating breaks between events. For example, I may take 1–2 hours in the morning to rest, reflect, and prepare for the day. Secondly, just like a car’s engine needs oil to keep from breaking down, we humans need lubricant between events or else we overheat — and possibly blow up.

Take the Jewish Sabbath rest (where people would not work on Saturdays). The idea is that we worked 6 days and took one day off. It was to teach us to hope God, that we are not independent, that we need to disconnect from work, and it exposes our trust issues (e.g., working on the Sabbath). This is a third way: adding a whole day of margin to my week. It may sound like a lot, but we’re not robots. Several former bosses have helped me work through this topic, and I’m greatly indebted to their continual wisdom, thoughtfulness, and guidance in this area.

But what is the cause of this? Why do we do this to ourselves? There are at least three reasons:

  • Efficiency. We want to edge out our competitors.
  • Opportunity. What if we miss out? What if I don’t pick up the phone?
  • People pleasing. We want everyone to like us. Or we want that fame from being noticed.

What if we looked at efficiency as a tool rather than a virtue?

What if we allowed ourselves to miss a few opportunities for our health, our happiness, and rest?

What if we stopped being so controlled by others and what they think of us? Will winning that award really make all the difference in the world? Will our feeling of that person thinking highly of us really make the difference?

These are just a few.

Margin matters. Without it, we lose reflection. We lose rest. We lose so much of our ability to think. We lose grace. And we begin to lose our humanity. And those are all terrible. Even though I fail at this every single day, I’ve asked friends to help remind me to create margin in my day, to remind me of my commitment, and to help me become more and more human. Remember life is not just about work, achievements, or fame.

Add margin to your life.

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