Can I find more margin?

“Margin is the space between our load and our limits”

Way back in the day, I went to high school at a small parochial school. I was on the basketball team and the gym we had was really small. One side had some space for bleachers but the other three sides had block walls about two feet from the out of bounds line on the basketball court.

old court

While not actually the court I played on, this seems like a nice exaggeration of how I remember it.


Many a fast break involved the excitement of running full speed down the court, making a graceful layup and then crashing awkwardly into the minimally padded wall while the crowd held their breath until it looked like you were still alive and uninjured.

This court had no margin. You were either inbounds or you were losing skin on the wall. Not a fun way to play. And not a fun way to live.

I thought of this because on two different podcasts I listened to today, they were talking about margin. It struck a chord with me because I know that I tend to live without much margin in my life. Now you could apply this to many things such as money, health, and relationships. In this case I’m talking mainly about time. We fill our days with 24 hours of stuff and wonder why we feel stressed. There is no margin. Now we can’t go overboard and do nothing all day, but I think you get my point.

What can we do about it? Here are a few things I learned.

1. Take responsibility

Realize that I caused this. I failed to say no to things I probably should have. I overcommitted to way too many things.
A big problem I have is that I hate to let anyone down. So what happens is if someone needs something, I feel obligated to jump and take care of it. Sometimes it might not even be as important to them as I think it is. I could have said no, and they would have been just fine.

2. Budget your time

I know that I should budget my money. The more I tell my money what to do, the more I seem to have. And the opposite is true. Like the saying “failure to plan is planning to fail”. I think budgeting your time is, dare I say, more important. We can make more money. We can’t make more time. Once I spend it, it is gone.
So what does this look like? How about using a calendar. Laying out a plan for exactly what you need to get done tomorrow and sticking to it. Working on the important and not the urgent – which is a whole lesson that I learned of its own. Be honest with yourself about how long something is going to take. Making a time budget can cause us some pain, because we realize truths about what we spend our time on. The same way a money budget can open our eyes to overcommitments, a time budget will do the same.

3. Delegate

I have a hard time with this too. Tasks I really shouldn’t be spending my time on I find myself doing because I don’t want to take the time to teach someone else. It’s quicker if I just do it. But if I’m doing it over and over again then it isn’t faster anymore. We should trust those around us either on a team or as employees to be able to do the job just as well. Maybe they do it differently. So what, as long as it is done properly.

Where can you find margin in your life? Can you imagine living with sufficient margin? What would that look like for you? My guess is that it looks pretty good. I’d say it’s worth a try.

I’ll leave you with this. One of the podcast I listened to this was from Michael Hyatt. In it he quoted from a book by Richard Swenson titled Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives.

“Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It’s the amount allowed beyond that which is
needed. It’s something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating. Margin is the
opposite of overload. If we’re overloaded, we have no margin”


  1. Amy Schmiedeskamp says:

    Great content!! I love being challenged and this article does just that.

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