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At the end of each year, I spend a few days alone in a personal retreat. It allows me to reevaluate the past year, repent of my sins, read a lot of Scripture, pray long and rambling prayers and plan for the next year.

One need in my life I’ll be addressing this year will be margin – a constant battle for me. Margin is open space, reserve, free time, money in the bank, enough to spare, space.

The opposite of margin is “out-of… ” “maxed-out,” “on-the-edge,” “can’t do it,” “overload.”

Richard Swenson writes…

Overload is not having time to finish the book you are reading on stress. Margin is having time to read it twice.

Overload is fatigue. Margin is energy.

Overload is red ink. Margin is black ink.

Overload is hurry. Margin is calm.

Overload is anxiety. Margin is security.

Overload is the disease of our time. Margin is the cure.

Margin is the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations.

A friend recently sent me Mark Batterson’s devotional. It points out the need for and the way to margin.

One of the hardest things for me to do right now is to maintain a margin. It’s hard to keep up with email. I can’t meet with everybody I’d like to meet with. It’s tough to juggle pastoring and writing. And my kids need their dad more than ever. But for all of those reasons, maintaining margin is the key to maintaining everything else. Starting with sanity!

When you lose margin, you lose perspective.
When you lose margin, you lose creativity.
When you lose margin, you lose gratitude.
When you lose margin, you lose peace of mind.
When you lose margin, you lose sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.
When you lose margin, you lose emotional reserves.

So how do you maintain margin? I think it comes down to time management. If you don’t control your calendar, your calendar will control you. You’ve got to schedule time with God. And it probably needs to be a consistent time slot. You’ve got to schedule time for yourself. That includes days off, days without meetings, off site meetings, etc. If you need to, schedule reading time! Or just put a book in the bathroom!


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