The Magic of Margin

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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The Illusion of Overwhelm & What To Do About It

“I’ve just got too much to do and I’m exhausted.” Have you heard yourself say this lately? Do you feel like you are never caught up? Always on the go and never have time to relax, exercise, or do something nice for yourself? If so, then this post is for you and you are not alone. We all struggle with overwhelm at times, so I am writing this post to remind us all that overwhelm is really an illusion

The feeling of being overwhelmed is a problem many struggle with, especially women who are usually taking care of the family, the house, the meals, the spouse or boyfriend, all the while holding down a full-time career AND trying to stay thin, fit, and beautiful. Just thinking about all this is exhausting.

I know because I’ve been in this position myself. As a single mom raising two sons, working at a demanding high-pressure job and going to night school, it was quite a juggling act to keep everything together. But I survived, and you will too and today I am sharing some tips on how to deal with overwhelm and not turn into the wicked witch of the west.

1. Take time to breath. When we start feeling anxious, rushed, or stressed, that means it’s time to take a break, sit down, and take a few deep calming breaths. Repeat a phrase that will calm you down such as “I can do this”, “I am calm”, or any prayer or meditation that you choose.

2. Prioritize. Reevaluate what is really important in your life. Most women have a hard time relaxing. We need to remind ourselves to just “Chill out” and make that higher up on the priority list. Most men do not seem to have this problem, I have observed. We could learn from them.

3. Use the word “NO’ more often. I used to carry a yellow laminated card in my purse with the word ‘NO’ written in big red letters. I would whip it out when someone asked me to do something I was really not crazy about doing. Picture the referee at a soccer game giving a yellow card to one of the players. You get the idea.

4. Stay in the present moment. Focus on the task at hand. Don’t spend precious energy thinking about what all you have to do that day. Take one thing at a time. Then rest. Then do the next thing. When we spend time complaining or ruminating about everything we have to do, we waste time and energy.

5. Be thankful. Look for the positive side of whatever situation. Instead of complaining about cleaning the house, say “I am thankful I have the energy and the health to clean my house.”  Rather than bemoan your job, your boss, your coworkers, say “I am thankful I have a job and an income.”

These are a few tips to help us all stay calm, cool, and collected despite the many demands and responsibilities of life. There will always be stuff to do. We cannot change that. But we can change our attitude on how we think about the stuff we have to do.

Until next time, remember to take time to rest and as always, keep looking up!
Ariel

What to Do When You Have Too Much to Do

Everyone is busy busy busy these days, yes? I hear from all my friends about how overwhelmed they are and how there’s never enough time in the day ya da ya da. Well guess what? Overwhelm is just a feeling. Yep, think about it. It’s how we perceive things. Really we have total control over what we choose to do with our time, don’t we? Can anyone MAKE us do something we don’t want to do? Not really.

I am a big list maker. I write down all the things that are on my mind and then I feel better somehow because I got them out of my mind and onto a piece of paper. Then I can prioritize them and get to scratch them off. For some odd reason, scratching things off my list gives me a sense of pleasure. The thing is, the lists never end. There will ALWAYS be something to do, correct?

So, back to the overwhelm. It is all how we perceive our lives and our sense of control. If we think we are totally in control, we are deluding ourselves and that is a topic for another time. Things always come up unexpectedly. But we do have control over how we spend our time for the most part, yes?

It all boils down to our values. What is most important? When we are clear on what we really want in life then our decisions about how to spend our time become clear. It’s that simple, but also that complicated.

The rub is it takes time to get clear on what is important and what our values are. So there you have it. When we have too much to do, it may be time to take a step back, take a deep breath, and reevaluate our priorities. Eliminate the clutter and the unnecessary things and then relax and enjoy what is really important.

Love to hear your thoughts on this. Send me a note and I promise to write you back. Until next time, keep the faith and keep looking up!

What to Do When You Have Too Much to Do

Everyone is busy busy busy these days, yes? I hear from all my friends about how overwhelmed they are and how there’s never enough time in the day ya da ya da. Well guess what? Overwhelm is just a feeling. Yep, think about it. It’s how we perceive things. Really we have total control over what we choose to do with our time, don’t we? Can anyone MAKE us do something we don’t want to do? Not really.

I am a big list maker. I write down all the things that are on my mind and then I feel better somehow because I got them out of my mind and onto a piece of paper. Then I can prioritize them and get to scratch them off. For some odd reason, scratching things off my list gives me a sense of pleasure. The thing is, the lists never end. There will ALWAYS be something to do, correct?

So, back to the overwhelm. It is all how we perceive our lives and our sense of control. If we think we are totally in control, we are deluding ourselves and that is a topic for another time. Things always come up unexpectedly. But we do have control over how we spend our time for the most part, yes?

It all boils down to our values. What is most important? When we are clear on what we really want in life then our decisions about how to spend our time become clear. It’s that simple, but also that complicated.

The rub is it takes time to get clear on what is important and what our values are. So there you have it. When we have too much to do, it may be time to take a step back, take a deep breath, and reevaluate our priorities. Eliminate the clutter and the unnecessary things and then relax and enjoy what is really important.

Love to hear your thoughts on this. Send me a note and I promise to write you back. Until next time, keep the faith and keep looking up!