Are you constantly on the run? Feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and don’t have time to do the things that truly matter to you? Do you find yourself spending less and less time with friends and family and more time at the job or doing other activities? Breaking commitments and feeling bad afterwords? If so, you’re not alone. A recent experience with a long-time high school friend demonstrated the need for a solution to this dilemma.

Some weeks can be particularly stressful and this had been one of them. I was so looking forward to getting together with a girlfriend. We had made plans about a month ago to get together to hear one of our favorite country bands at a nearby shopping mall. The week before I had an idea.

“Hey, girlfriend. Would you like to get together for dinner on Friday before the concert?”

“Hmmmm. Not sure if I will be able to make dinner. I’m driving some friends to Pennsylvania that day and it could be a long day. Ok if I let you know by 2 or 2:30 when I see how things are going?”

“Sure,” I said, knowing full well there was no way she was going to make dinner if she was going on an all day trip to PA. I felt a twinge of disappointment as we both enjoy this pizza place and we hadn’t been for quite a while, but I brushed it off and decided to look forward to the concert.

Long story short, my friend never made it to the concert. She was, understandably so, too exhausted from the day’s trip.

Now please understand, I am writing from experience. I, too, have tried to do too much in the past until I learned about this one concept that fixed the problem once and for all. It’s called Margin.

If you invest in the stock market or remember writing essays back in school, you know what I’m talking about, but in case you don’t here’s a basic explanation. Margin means ‘leaving space’. It’s a simple concept but it has huge implications.

Just as it is important to leave space on the written page, and space for the price of a stock to fall before you decide to buy it, it is even more important to leave space in our schedules between activities.  Things always take more time and more energy than we usually anticipate, especially since none of us is getting any younger. But how exactly does one build margin into one’s life?

Two keys I’ve learned: 

1) practice saying that two-letter word “NO”
2) prioritize your activities, friendships, and commitments

We cannot say “Yes” to everything and everybody. Time is a gift to be treasured, not squandered. Scripture exhorts us to “let your yes be yes and your no be no”, (Matthew 5:37). When we are clear on what we want to say “yes” to, it will be easier to say “no” to things that matter less. Stephen Covey has a whole series on this topic entitled “First Things First” if you want to read more about it.

Until next time, practice building margin into your days. Then write and share with me how it has helped you feel more relaxed, more at peace, and more fulfilled than ever before and remember – keep looking up!

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