The Power of Margin

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When I think of margin I think of having room to breathe. Time to smell the roses.

I was first introduced to the concept of margin when reading the book If I’m Diapering a Watermelon the Where’d I Leave the baby? Help for the Highly Distractible Mom by Carol Barnier (Um, yeah, I really do need that book!)

Mrs. Barnier says,

“We tend to live every hour of every day so packed from start to finish that there is no margin for error or change or spontaneity.”

This causes us to feel stressed, behind, guilty, tired, and even depressed. In living this way we miss many opportunities.

This is one reason why I don’t live by a minute-to-minute schedule. I like the idea of a basic schedule, but find it is necessary to include some “unscheduled” time within it.

Packing each day full to the brim is a recipe for disaster. When I try to do that I find myself doing some of the following:

  • Brushing off curious questions from my children
  • Getting lazy with discipline (there is no time to tackle the issue at hand)
  • Feeling cranky because kids are moving slow (or things are going my way!)
  • Overreacting when someone has an accident of some kind.

Doesn’t sound like a delightful home, does it?

When my schedule is full to the brim, I end up living in a way I am not pleased with (can you relate?).

In order to really live the life we want to live and be the people we want to be (and parents we want to be), we need to leave some time on our side.

Planning for questions, mishaps, and interruptions helps us respond in a more clam and reasonable manner. It also gifts us with the ability to seize any precious moments that present themselves: the opportunity to watch a baby bird learn to fly, dance to a silly song, snuggle with a sad child, or celebrate with a happy one.

In his book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives (which I have just begun to read), Richard A. Swenson, M.D describes how living a marginless life brings anxiety and fatigue. He proposes that living with margin is the remedy for many of our ills and is able to bring security, calm, and energy.

To have margin in our lives we must weed out some of the unnecessary busy things. Also some good (but not best) things.

We must allow some minutes to be free. To allow some extra time on either side of our tasks and even schedule in some time that is unspoken for (Amy calls this cushion in her book, Tell Your Time.)

Margin can also apply to other areas of our lives besides time management, like finances, and physical and emotional energy. It's all about having room to live well.

I'm still working on this. How about you?

Do you find it difficult to have margin in your life?

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  1. I moved overseas just over 5 months ago – to a place where most people only dream of living… it is paradise-like in some respects – we are surrounded by such beauty and we want to explore and experience as much of it as possible – and the kids love this! So basically, for the last 5 months, we have been living as if we are on permanent holidays (still obviously have basic every day stuff, but the rest… one big margin:). And it’s made me a much better mum, which I’m thankful for:)
    The book you’re reading sounds good – thanks for sharing,

  2. A friend shared this link with me because we’ve been emailing and blogging about it…about packing your day from 6 am to 11 pm, being cross when my toddler spills the catfood AGAIN and frantic when my older two make messes because MOMMY IS SO BUSY!! I almost cry. It’s crazy, the pace I set for myself, the to-do list I make that I’m bound to fail at…thanks for this post, and I’ll check those books out!

    1. I can relate! I really can. A few years ago, I literally ran around the house preparing for Christmas. I realized it was not fun and not necessary. I have too many ideas for my own good 🙂

      I recently read that it is a good idea to limit your to-do list to 5 or 6 things! This is almost impossible for me, but it makes sense. My lists are often mammoth and cannot be completed in one day.

      We just have to keep trying and continue to remind ourselves that this time while our children are young is a season. One day it will be over and we will have time for more.

      Sometimes we need to ask for help too. Because honestly, even without adding in any extra things, there is a lot that Mommy needs to do in one day!

      Thank you so much for visiting and sharing!