Margin is the blank spaces on a document that defines its borders and makes it readable and functional. We need margin in our lives. It is the spaces, the blanks, that make everything else work. REST, health, well-being, effectiveness and many other things are elusive if we don’t mind the blank spaces. In this episode of the Calibrate Life Podcast we talk about putting the margin back in.

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I’ve made a re-commitment to learn to REST on new levels in 2020. In last week’s podcast we talked about 2020 being the year of REST, and the acrostic we gave was:

  • R for REFRESH renew emotional
  • E for ENERGIZE renew the physical
  • S for SABBATH (as a verb) renew the spiritual
  • T for THINK renew the intellectual

Today we are going to hit the topic of MARGIN. and for our Africa House leaders this is a self-leadership and a personal health capacity. 

Margin is the blank spaces on a document that defines its borders and makes it readable and functional. We need margin in our lives. It is the spaces, the blanks, that make everything else work. REST, health, well-being, effectiveness and many other things are elusive if we don’t mind the blank spaces. This is a little counter intuitive. We spend so much time considering the content and the actions that we fail to consider the critical importance of the blank spaces on our calendar, the unassigned spaces in our emotions, the space available to learn and grow. 

We should be productive. We must be productive. Taking ACTION is a cornerstone of our lives, not just talking about something, but actually DOING something is the meaningful output of our lives. Productivity, while essential, becomes an idol when we define our worth by our productivity, when we sacrifice the things that lead to true worth and productivity in the long-term for the sake of short-term advances. Margin is the head room necessary for well being and REST.We may talk about this in each of the four pillars over successive podcasts. 

Are we having fun?

In last week’s podcast we got short on time and I dropped the last point from the episode. We were talking about REST and the final point was about the emotional recharging that comes when we are actually having fun doing what we are doing. 

David and Donna want the Calibrate Life Podcast to be fun, for us. We want it to be fun to do. Sometimes it isn’t and we’ve talked about not doing it if it can’t be fun. This led to a lot of interesting discussions. Are we having fun? Not just with the podcast, but with all of the other elements of our lives? Sometimes we flat out ain’t havin’ fun! Why?

We’ve identified the lack of margin as the single greatest deterrent to us enjoying the journey when we aren’t. When doing the podcast is a drag it is because we don’t really have time to do it. 
Itineration (traveling to churches and meetings to share our heart for missions to enlist partners) is not fun when we have meetings and travel crammed into a space too small for it. 

We are going to Africa for 10 days (A GOOD TIME FOR AN AFRICA UPDATE) to launch the next phase of a critically important training and development initiative. We get back on a Saturday mid-morning from a 20-hour travel jaunt. We will stop by the house and then drive to the western suburbs of Chicago for a Sunday morning service. 
This is so typical of David Delp. A mixture of genius and stupidity. One thing goes wrong and the schedule is toast. Think of all the things that can go wrong, African airports, airlines, weather, ground transportation, customs, etc. Not to mention a little think known as jet-lag, which is really a thing. 

Every element of this scenario has the potential for joy and even fun. The thing that squeezes the joy, the thing that challenges having any fun when the potential exists is MARGIN. If this thing were spread out over a couple of weeks instead of compressed into a space where it barely fits, it would undoubtedly be a boat load of fun. 

You gotta give yourself enough space, margin, to experience joy, enjoyment, and yes, even some fun. 

Margin in the four spheres of life?

The spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical all need margin. Margin makes REST possible. I have a lot to say about margin in your calendar, and we will hit that topic in another episode. Over time we will discuss margin and rest in all for facets. 

For the time remaining we are going to expand a little on adding margin in the physical sphere.

Adding Physical Margin

Appropriate Scheduling

Do you include preparation time? When I add an obligation on the calendar it is not enough to consider whether or not I can physically be there, I need to also add preparation time into my calendar. If I cannot do that, then I don’t have enough margin. Do you leave spaces where you can move things? If you are a pastor, what if someone in your flock dies? What if a water pipe breaks? What if a flight is delayed? Where will you move present obligations so you can add in a non-negotiable emergency? We cannot make a contingency plan for everything, but you can’t load up your life to the point that you cannot fit one more thing in side-ways. If that’s the case, you don’t have margin.  – Did you include preparation time? – Did you include travel time? – Did you include recovery time?
Having margin is living life at a pace where if something does not go according to plan, it is not a crisis, you have space to move things around. 

Our REST rituals and routines

We’ve talked so much about this, suffice it to say, it is a sad reality, but you have to schedule REST. It is reality that you will have to sometimes move things into your REST slots because a pipe did break, someone is in crisis, you did miss a flight, etc. but IF YOU ALWAYS MOVE STUFF INTO YOUR REST SLOTS… YOU AREN’T GOING TO HAVE MUCH ENJOYMENT AND FUN IN LIFE. 

Finally, a lot of your challenges come from simply not having margin.

So many of our right-now challenges are related to our pace, and the biggest problem with our pace is margin. 
We have been very good at living our lives at the right pace, staying calibrated, and staying healthy, but we recognize some course adjustments that we need to make for 2020 (as we talked about last week) to go back to the basics keep minding the margins, because… we really do want to enjoy this great adventure. 

For more study, a resource that helped me almost 16 years ago on the topic of margin is the book Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson

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