Maintaining Margin

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When was the last time you made time to take a nap? Go for a walk? Said no to one more thing on your calendar?

One of the easiest things to overlook when developing margin is self-care. Short term neglect may not have a strong impact but long term neglect will cost you. Self-care takes many forms: simply getting more sleep, regular exercise, managing money wisely. clearing your desk. Your health, your emotional well being, your financial security all can be at risk without attention.


One element of self-care that I believe is an essential to my entire well-being is care for my soul.

I had to give myself permission to invest time in soul care instead of getting up and starting my day’s to do list. Getting up to have coffee with Jesus didn’t happen consistently until our youngest was 3 years old. I was definitely hit and miss before that. Now 18 years later, this is such a regular pattern of my days that I can’t imagine a different way of starting the day. Even when traveling, I make time to begin the day in thankfulness, reading a portion of Scripture and allowing it to roll around in my mind.

This practice of spiritual margin has changed me. Sure I lost a few minutes of sleep at first. Yes there were days when littles were sick and my time was interrupted. Even the thought of “my time” has changed; I recognize time as a non-renewable resource that I have the privilege of stewarding each day.

In the book Margin, Dr. Swenson raises the point that establishing margin in four areas of life: physical, emotional, financial and spiritual can relieve stress and maintain your health and well being.

When my husband and I read this book we recognized some areas that we had already established margin and some that needed work. How we had come to grips with the family calendar was an area of success.


Margin in time management meant guarding “white space” on the calendar. The Hubster identified his need for open space on the calendar early in our marriage; not having every waking minute of every day obligated was vital. He also needed one Saturday each month without anything on the calendar. At first I thought these requests were ridiculous and excessive. I’m an extrovert. He’s an introvert. He’s also a P on the Myers-Briggs Temperament Inventory so he needs discretionary time with options galore. I’m a J who likes to have things to look forward to; no plans feels depressing to me. After 25 years of marriage we have arrived at many accommodating behaviors but all of them revolve around leaving margin of time for travel, creating things, rest, and whatever needs doing. White space on the calendar is our way of guarding margin in time.

Time is not “our time” or “my time”. Time is a gift from God. How we use it is our gift back to Him. Click To Tweet

Another area always in need of ongoing attention is financial margin. I don’t know how it’s possible to plan, save, prepare and flow with all that life throws our way financially. Establishing margin and guarding it has been the most difficult challenge in our lives. It’s also a huge source of stress in our culture. We hear that the car we drive or the phone we use or the house we live in or the clothes we wear all need to be replaced annually. Perhaps it’s the house you live in that “needs” updating. Or your children going to the best pre-school to get into the best college! Money is the key to any one of these ideas and the only answer is MORE!!

Or is it?

What if we sit down and evaluate what is fiscally sound? Maybe this is the first step to determining ‘how much is enough’ margin?

We’ve had lots of those conversations over the years and still do. The concept of financial margin has been the most fluid and slippery as our family grew, then grew up, then went to college and are nearly all independent (one is still in college). We have developed a saying in response to me and then the kids saying “I need” this.

Need is a very strong word.

Stopping and evaluating what our are needs and what are our  “wants” has helped us make financial margin a reality where it didn’t exist. These are hard considerations but when I ask myself hard questions I find my needs are few where my wants are many.

Taming the want monster is also an ongoing area of self-care!

Spiritual, Physical, Emotional and Financial Margin. Ideas that were new have now become a regular part of life. Our stress is less and our margins are wider. Whew! It was worth the push back and changes that we had to make.

What about these ideas appeals to you?

What do you want to ignore?