7 Ways to Create Margin in Life

Sharing My Word of the Year–finally!

I am slow in sharing my Word of the Year for 2020.  I wanted to do something punny like “vision” or spiritual like “awaken.”  A good friend shared with me that her word for the year is “placemaker.”  I was unsure about that one and had to look it up.  Her take on it is that she is making a place for God—that is her focus for the year. 

My word is not really tied into the new decade or very spiritual sounding.  In fact, my word may bring to mind accounting jargon.  The first time I shared it with a friend, she replied, “What?” 

I repeated, “Margin.”

She said, “What exactly is that?”

I hesitated.  I figured she was thinking about how the word “margin” never appears in the Bible, and is therefore, probably not a valid choice for Word of the Year.  That was my fear, to be honest, but I tried to explain, “it means space—breathing room. 

Why margin?

My focus this year is creating more margin.  I really want to have time and space to be available to God, to be creative, to be spontaneous.” 

The value I put on being available to God, or to help someone, or to do something on a whim or follow my intuition is huge.  Most of the amazing things that have happened in life, were not things I scripted or planned, but things that happened in the margin, in that white space that is not accounted for.  That is where I am likely to hear God, get a good idea, and feel most peaceful and relaxed.  It is the right word for me.

Margin means I can be available for service, creativity, and spontaneity.

However, even as I chose the word margin, I questioned my ability to live up to it.  I took a quick inventory of everything I was already committed to, going into January 2020, and it was a lot.  Once everything started up and was in full swing, would I be able to maintain any margin in my life, let alone create more? 

I am exploring that very question. 

Here are some of the best suggestions I have come up with so far for creating more margin in life.

7 Ways to Create More Margin in Life

  1. First, consider if you could go grocery shopping every two weeks instead of every week.  This seemed impossible to me at first.  Then, I considered a little longer.  I think with a little bit of meal planning, and maybe a quick trip to the store near my work for just a handful of items (bread, milk, bananas, lettuce), I can manage only doing the big grocery trip every other week.  Time saved with my commute and putting things away:  approximately 2 hours.
  2. Next, decide that you are only going to do laundry during the week.  That is one less weekend chore you have to deal with. 
  3. Another suggestion is to block out one evening a week (more if you can) for margin.  Don’t schedule anything.  Don’t make plans.  Time available:  3-4 hours.
  4. An idea to try at work:  On Fridays, block yourself off as busy.  Now, no one will try to have a meeting with you, and you will have a day to catch up on projects before the weekend. 
  5. Here is a second idea for work:  take the full lunch hour and take that hour somewhere other than your desk!  Then, use the hour to do something that is important to you or that you enjoy.  If you sit at your desk, you will be distracted, and you will end up working and you will not get the full hour.  Lunch away from your desk redeems 5 hours per week.
  6. This one is a doozy, but offers an amazing pay off if you can manage it: Block off a four-hour commitment (half a day) either Saturday or Sunday.  Do your chores, errands, and whatever else you have to do around that time block.  That gives you four gloriously free hours each weekend.
  7. Last but not least: Practice being early.  Aim to be fifteen minutes early everywhere you go.  Fifteen minutes early to work, to church, to appointments, etc.  This creates a lovely, stress-reducing kind of margin.  If traffic is bad or something unexpected happens, you have a cushion.  If traffic is fine and nothing unexpected happens, then you have fifteen minutes to visit with a friend, make a couple of calls, enjoy a cup of coffee or read an article on your phone.

Want to learn more about margin? Check out my follow up post on what to do with the extra time, once you have created margin. Want to read even more about margin and how it’s changing my approach in 2020? Go here for part III.

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