Do you have margins in your life? Richard Swenson defines margins as “the space between our load and our limits.” We all need a buffer, a place where we can recharge our batteries, and a space where we can focus on what matters most.


I like the analogy of a cup. If the cup is full, it will overflow if you add anything to it. We should never live without room in our cups. I can always tell when my cup is too full. I tend to be short with people. My thinking is not as clear. Moreover, I have a dreadful feeling of being overwhelmed.

A while back, Charles Stone posted ten indicators that you and I have no margins. Look over this list and ask yourself if you need more margins in your life.

1. I’m always mentally and physically exhausted.

2. Small things more easily get under my skin. I can’t turn my anxious thoughts off.

3. I don’t seem to have the joy for ministry I once did.

4. I count down the days until my day off. Yet even on my day off, I’m still anxiously thinking about ministry stuff.

5. Those who love me most tell me to slow down, yet I always have a comeback excuse.

6. I often worry about what others think of my performance.

7. I too easily take things personally.

8. I find that I can’t focus as well as I once did.

9. I get easily distracted and try to multi-task more often.

10. My devotional times with God are mostly dry.

Stone goes on to say, “If a few of these are consistently true of you, you need more margin in your life.”

If that’s so, what should you do?

1. Add “nothing planned” to your planning calendar. You need to have space blocked off when you are not committed to something. That way, If something takes longer than expected or an emergency comes up, you will have time for it.

2. Take time off. Recently I’ve been rethinking my Sabbath. I let work leak into that day too often. I need to disengage and rest totally. Somewhere I got this advice and tried to heed it (still do!):

  • Divert daily (take those mini-breaks);
  • Withdraw weekly (have a consistent day off); and
  • Abandon annually (use all your vacation time).

3. Stay healthy. That means regular exercise, adequate sleep, and watching what we eat. Stone reminds us that “if you can’t take care of you, you can’t take care of others.”


What are some ways you are building margins in your life? I’d love to hear from you!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. William Harold Vermillion says:

    Thanks Randy. Your dad was the first person to mention margins to me many years ago now. I appreciated his comment then and have tried to establish margins especially by engaging Diana in discussing my time involvements. Good accountability!


  2. Pam Wright says:

    Thank you Randy. I need a reminder to pace myself and not get overloaded.

    Finding that Sabbath rest often is so important. This looks like small bits of time and days off.


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