Why We Need Margin & How To Create It

By: Meredith King

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We – as a culture – have an unhealthy relationship with work. Whether your work day starts in the playroom or the boardroom, the overarching challenges are the same. The demands on our time, our emotional capacity, and our calendars far exceed what we have to offer, yet we just keep trying to cram more in.

Maybe you can identify? I really don’t think I’m alone in this.

In our minds, “adulting” somehow translates to filling up every minute of every day. I’m forever fighting the urge to type out one more email, to slip in one more appointment, decision, or project. There’s always one more household chore needing attention or one more extracurricular activity for the kids to participate in. And so we juggle a thousand things, putting on our biggest smiles and our proverbial superhero capes, approaching our days and to-do lists as something to conquer instead of as a real life to actually live. Even though we end our days exhausted, we somehow manage to hold it all together.

Until we don’t.

Sometime ago, my life ran out of space to the point I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Even though I wholeheartedly loved Jesus, my family, and my job, I felt like I was drowning. Simply put, my life didn’t have any whitespace.

There was no breathing room. No margin for the unexpected or spontaneous. No elbow room to gracefully accommodate the challenges of motherhood, marriage, and a career. There was no room to enjoy friendships or to pursue my dreams.

Friends, without breathing room, the treasures of our lives feel like inconveniences. By doing more, we are actually offering less. We can only live that way so long.

About a year and a half ago, I decided something drastic needed to change because I’d been running on empty way too long. Desperation lead me to understand two vital truths:

1.     Blissful balance is a myth. People ask me all the time, “How do you do it all? As a mom, an executive, and a pastor’s wife?” I think they are really asking, “Is this whole idea of life balance even a thing?” Here’s what I’m learning: maintaining balance is a never-ending process because seasons change, needs change, and what requires our attention most changes. Just as building physical balance and endurance is difficult and uncomfortable (strange yoga pose anyone?), so is building life balance. It stretches us, causes us to grow, and it even feels a bit like work – because it is. The tension will always exist because our lives will never be stagnant.

2.     Margin isn’t an accident. Without purpose, intention, and a plan, margin will be crowded out by a whole host of things – things that are often really good and sometimes even really fun. I used to laugh (on the inside of course) when people advocated for margin and rest. (Don’t they know how busy I am?) It seemed completely impossible to me – for hundreds of reasons you already know, because you feel them too – but I’m here to tell you it’s possible. The most impactful changes aren’t huge and drastic; they are small and mostly consistent.

So, all of this begs the question: where do we start? I don’t have an exact formula or an exhaustive list, but here are three tips that helped me get my life back through creating some simple margin:

·      Create quiet. I like noise. In fact, some of my best work is accomplished from a busy coffee shop. But, God made our souls to need quiet, even if it doesn’t feel natural or comfortable. Life doesn’t usually hand us much quiet, but we can create it. Thirty minutes before the rest of the house wakes up. Fifteen minutes after everyone is asleep. Ten minutes sitting in our cars before work. Twenty minutes in a bubble bath with a locked bathroom door. They key is intentional quiet. Otherwise, we are likely to miss the beauty of it.

Try this: Plan tomorrow’s few minutes of quiet before going to bed tonight, then set a reminder on your phone or calendar so you don’t miss it.

·      Wait before saying, “Yes!” My kneejerk reaction is to say, “Yes!” I don’t want to disappoint the person asking. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) gets the best of me. Or, I just really want to say yes. However, creating margin requires some use of the word “no.” I’ve started asking, “Is this the highest and best use of my time?” After all, just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should.

Try this: Wait 24 hours before you make new commitments for the next 10 days and use the waiting period to really count the opportunity cost.

·      Take a break from technology and social media. The biggest problem isn’t the content (though the negativity can certainly add unnecessary stress). The reflex of checking it every minute we are still robs us of so much opportunity to live, breathe, and experience.

Try this: Choose three days in the coming month to take a total break from social media. Bonus challenge: break from all technology.

Your soul, your dreams, and your life will thank you.

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Meredith King has dedicated her life to helping people get unstuck personally, professionally, and in their faith journeys. She married her high school sweetheart, David, and life is now full and energetic thanks to two precious daughters and a lot of coffee. Meredith and David started True To Life Ministries, a nonprofit organization committed to cultivating hope and introducing people to true life in Christ by providing the skills, resources, and community of support people need to change their lives. True To Life has impacted thousands of lives and has become a resource for organizations on the front lines of fighting poverty across the country.

As a leadership coach, Meredith has mentored hundreds of leaders to grow their own leadership tools and facilitate the creation of high-performing, self-managing teams. She is also a sought-after speaker and Bible teacher. Read more at www.meredithkingblog.com and follow her on Instagram at @meredith_a_king.