On Margins

I first heard about this idea of having “margin” in my life while listening to a podcast when I was driving home from the airport, very late one night. I had gotten up super early that morning, driven to San Francisco, hopped on a flight to Phoenix, attended a 2 hour meeting, then jumped on a plane and traveled back home. I was 7 weeks pregnant.  

The following week I miscarried the baby.

I then had a few days of quiet and calm while I processed the pain and loss…and I kept coming back to the idea of margin. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I was at a time in my life when “margin” was not being practiced…at all. I mean, driving 6 hours, catching 2 planes, visiting 2 states in one day? Might be normal for some people. But not me. And I didn’t want it to be normal for me.

I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that my word for this year is “Rest” and I keep coming back to the idea of “margin.” They truly do go hand in hand.

Maybe you haven’t heard of having margin in your life before. I hadn’t. So let me explain a bit.

Margin is the space we need to have between our load and our limits. Some of my favorite books have REALLY WIDE margins. I LOVE THIS because then I get to doodle and make notes with lots of room instead of trying to squeeze it in somewhere. Our lives need to be like these books, we need to make space. We need to have margins.

Margin does not come naturally and no one is going to create margin for you. You have to INTENTIONALLY create margin in your life.

Yet here’s the problem is: we don’t want to be under-achievers (heaven forbid!), so we fill our schedules uncritically. Many people commit to a 120 percent life (me included) and wonder why the burden feels so heavy. It is rare to see a life pre-scheduled to only 80 percent, leaving a margin for responding to the unexpected that God sends our way.

As one of my mentors Michael Hyatt says: Everyone, it seems, wants a piece of you. And no one seems to appreciate the fact that you are a finite resource. (Perhaps you don’t even realize this.)

But how do you create margin? The great Stephen R. Covey, says: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

If we don’t have margin in our lives, bad stuff goes down. For reals. You know what I’m talking about right?


My goal is to have only 80% of my week planned out, so there is room for things that pop up. Do I always succeed at this? No. Do I still work on it every day? Yes, yes I do. Because margins are important to me. I’m a better mother when I have margin in my life. I’m a better wife when I have margin in my life.

Maybe you’re asking “What would a life of margin look like?”

Great question! I’d say a life of margin would mean you have commitments you enjoy, and you have also been able to say “no” to commitments you knew would stress you out, make you tired, or take you away from your friends and family. A life of margin could mean you are able to wake up in the morning and spend some time doing something you love to do before you jump into your day. It could mean you have time in the evening to meaningfully re-connect with your partner and children.

For me? Margin means I get to read each day, it means I get to make dinner for my family without having to rush home from a meeting to do it. It means I get to put my feet up and write a few times a week (daily if I’m lucky). It means I’ve learned how to delegate certain things that really aren’t in my area of strength to others. It means I’ve created a schedule where I only check my email at certain times of day and I only “work” on certain days and times (working from home is a blessing, yet at the same time, I could just work ALL THE TIME if I’m not mindful).

So, that’s a bit about margins. I think it’s a pretty neat idea. And one that would benefit every single person in the entire universe.

I’d love to hear how you feel about having margins in your life, and even how you’re going about making it happen. So, feel free to comment! I love your thoughts!

Have a super fantastic day!

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