Did you know that a standard 1” margin on a common letter written on a piece of paper means that over 37% of the page is blank?  My math might not be spot on, but it’s close.  That 1” margin around the page makes it more easily readable.  What if a letter filled the whole page?  Well, check it out.


Looks like something my kids would do!

Turns out, having margin is key to a lot of things.  Another concept of margin has to do with your day.  The way the world often works is that it expects and wants us to do more, be more, have more.  So, we find ourselves stuck in a state of ‘busy’.

Can you join me for coffee tomorrow?

No, sorry, I can’t, I’m busy.

Can you play with me dad?

Maybe later son, I’m busy.

I really could use your help Tuesday with this project.

Ya, about that, I’ve just got so much going on…

So, the hamster wheel continues.  We rush from one place to another.  We suffocate in our work load.  We don’t follow through on our commitments to friends and family.  Yet, like a badge of honor, we wear our busyness proudly on our sleeve.  It’s like some unspoken rule that our busyness is a sign of success or prestige.  But on the inside, what we’re feeling is much less than that.



Burn out

Mental fatigue


Lack of joy

We cram our schedule so full that our emotional, physical and spiritual health suffers.  Busyness becomes the obstacle that prevents us from ever living the life we want.  The calm, peaceful life becomes a dream…and something that likely can’t and won’t be achieved until we retire.

Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way.  Margin is the boundaries we purposefully build into our everyday lives.  It’s the gap between rest and exhaustion.  The space between breathing freely and suffocating.  It is the antidote to overload.

Margin allows us to regroup, get the right mindset, prepare for life. Margin is space.  It’s intentional time that allows the opportunity to create more balance and deeper engagement in everyday living.

Just as a margin on a piece of paper only occupies 37% of the page, I’m not suggesting we become lazy.  We don’t need a ton of it, just enough to break the cycle of busy and live a life of balance, excitement, adventure and success.

As my long time readers know, I often write about things that I’m dealing with.  It helps clarify my thinking and give me a path forward.  So, far be it from me to be the expert on margin, but some ideas I’m trying hard to implement into my own life to create it:

  • Review your upcoming week on Friday. Check the family calendar as well to make sure your bases are covered and you’re not scrambling (or arguing) with your spouse as to who gets which kid to the next practice or game.
  • On your work calendar, intentionally schedule 15-minute gaps between meetings to help your mind transition from one thing to the next. Back to back to back meetings is mentally exhausting to transition between.  Taking a breather between meetings helps lessen the burden.
  • Set a morning routine…and stick to it. In the winter, I’m the king of the snooze button.  I’m more disciplined in the summer when the sun (I think it still exists in Ohio) is out and I head out for a morning run in non-sub zero temps.  But setting a routine, and sticking with it, can help decrease stress and set the tone for the rest of your day.
  • Determine 3 tasks you’d like to accomplish by the end of the day. Going about your task list randomly is a sure-fire way to get nothing done.  Focusing on 3 things decreases the requirement that your brain to transition to 20 things that have to get done that day.  Shoot for 3, and if you accomplish them, reward yourself.  If you don’t, learn to forgive yourself, there’s always tomorrow!
  • Limit social media. Whoops, I said it!  Social media is the greatest time-suck of this generation.  While there are positives that come from these platforms, if you don’t have discipline when opening the app, there’s a large chance you’ll spend more time scrolling than you intended.  Set boundaries around your time on social media.  This will create margin and space for you to get a lot of other, more important, things done instead.

We can’t expect to live our lives at 120% when everyone’s max, like it or not, is 100%.  Creating margin is essential.  But it’s a choice.  We have to choose to create it in our lives.  But it’s the only choice that will allow us to reach our full potential, achieve success and balance in all areas of our lives, and to live a life of peace and joy.

So, how ‘bout it?  How are you going to add more margin into your life?