Monday, September 3, 2007


By: Rachel Olsen

Are you overly busy, tired, moody, stressed, and/or in debt? Is your health, happiness or relationships suffering because of it?

What you are a suffering from is overload, and what you need is more MARGIN.

Medical doctor Richard Swenson, author of Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, defines margin as "the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits." It's the cushion of extra time, energy, cash and capacity that allows us to deal easily with the unanticipated situations that arise in everyday life: a broken down car, a lost item, a sick child, a friend in crisis. Swenson maintains that to be fully healthy we need margin in at least four areas of our life: emotional energy, physical energy, time and finances. Below are some ways to increase margin in each of these areas.

Physical Energy
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Drinks lots of water.
  • Exercise frequently.
  • Get enough rest.
  • Be realistic about your limits.


  • Schedule in personal time, free time.
  • Schedule in family time.
  • Turn off the television.
  • Do "first things first."
  • Create weekly fun or nurturing rituals.
  • Realize many things take longer than expected.
  • Be willing to abandon your agenda for God's divine appointments.


  • Decrease spending.
  • Give.
  • Increase savings.
  • Make a budget.
  • Take credit cards out of your wallet.
  • Share and borrow with friends.
  • Go on periodic spending fasts.

This past Lent season, I sensed God calling me to a spending fast. I gave up shopping, eating out at restaurants, or buying anything but groceries and gas. It was hard at first, but ultimately a freeing experience.

When my girlfriends invited me out shopping I went, but focused myself entirely on them. I became their personal shopper, and had so much fun doing it. I also used up foods from the back of my pantry and freezer that I had nearly forgotten I had. They made for delicious, inexpensive meals. I gave away more money than usual, donating to non-profit organizations like my local crisis pregnancy center. When it came time for a baby shower for a new Christian in our church, I dug out my barely-been-used, top-of-the-line baby monitor I'd been meaning to take to the consignment shop and wrapped it up: "From my home to yours with blessings for the baby." I also found I spent more time with my family - playing games with the kids and working in the yard with my husband. I began to glimpse what life could be like with more margin - and the view was enticing.

Dr. Swenson writes, "Progress has had many overpriced ideas, but trading us burnout for margin was one of its most uncharitable." Pick a few ways from the lists above and bless yourself and by beginning to restore margin to your life today.