Building margin can help you to avoid burn out and keep your priorities in order. Usually we don't realize we are low on margin until we're exhausted. Here's a few tips on how to create margin in your life.

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“Don’t write in the margins!”

I can still hear my teacher’s voice as I got dangerously close to going over that faded red line. It seemed like such an insignificant correction at the time.

Who cares if I went past the margins?

One letter over the line surely wouldn’t make a difference.

It was probably best to avoid it though.

If I chose to keep crossing the line I could be assured of the following speech: “If you go outside the margins, people won’t be able to read your writing. It becomes hard to focus on your words because there is no defined start and stop.”

I’d heard it a million times. Blah. Blah. Blah.

It wasn’t until recently that I completely understood these concerns about margins.

Exhaustion was setting in.

It was a rough week and the weekend would be even busier.

Between chauffeuring the kids to sports, coaching sessions, household duties, blogging and refereeing parenting, I could feel myself slipping into a funk. My sleep was restless and my mind was distracted.

I was lacking margin in my life.

The wise words of my elementary teacher began to fill my thoughts. My hectic schedule had begun to eat up the margin in my life. It always started with adding one more thing, but eventually that one more thing became several more things and before I knew it, my calendar was busting at the seams.

The margins were there to protect me from burn out, but I had completely ignored them.

They were not just there for my benefit, but for the benefit of those around me.

[bctt tweet=”When my margin begins to shrink, my attitude begins to stink.” username=”Alisa_Nicaud”]

This wasn’t the first time I’d overcommitted.

I’ve boarded that train many times, only to find myself overwhelmed, frustrated and worn out.

My excuse?

It’s hard to say no to things that seem to be amazing opportunities.

But I’m quickly learning, saying yes to one thing- means saying no to something else….. like time with my children, dates with my hubby, and quiet time for myself.

I had to re-prioritize to begin building back the margin I had lost.

You must create more margin so you have more room for what’s important, not merely urgent. Michael Hyatt, Living Forward

Building margin can help you to avoid burn out and keep your priorities in order. Usually we don't realize we are low on margin until we're exhausted. Here's a few tips on how to create margin in your life.

How do you create margin in your life?

Spend time in the Word

Reading the Word fills us up.

In the midst of a busy season, I find myself drifting away from this simple habit. I wrestle with time constraints and reason that I don’t have time to read.

Other times I completely forget, because I’m so focused on what has to get done.

Yet in the middle of a chaotic time, what I really need is time with God. Letting Him refresh my spirit, change my perspective and quiet my soul is crucial to my well being and adding margin in my life.

Hang out with friends

We rarely realize how much we need time out with friends until we actually do it.

We put it off and think it’s just another thing to add to our busy schedules. Yet when we take the time to relax and have fun, we understand how much it was really needed!

Recently I was talking to a close friend about this very subject. She suggested that we plan it–put it on our calendar each month.

I love this idea!

Putting it on the calendar places the event in the forefront of our minds, reminding us that we need a break. It also provides accountability. I don’t know about your friends, but mine won’t let me off the hook with a cheap excuse not to show!

Readjust your schedule

When our schedules get out of control, it’s time to re-evaluate.

Realistically there are times when we will go hard for a season, but we can’t sustain that long term.

If we know we are going to have a busy week or month, planning some quiet time before or after will help to avoid exhaustion. I have incorporated this habit into my life, mainly because I don’t like the feeling of depletion.

If you find yourself in a constant state of craziness, maybe it’s time to relook at your priorities. Are there some things that can go? Are there things on your calendar that are taking up space?

Sometimes we have to assess our priorities to see what’s adding value and what is pushing into our margins.

Have some “Me” time

This is a biggie!! Honestly, I’m speaking to myself here.

As mom, wife, and COO of the house, I can forget about what I need. I can get so wrapped up in caring for others, that I forget about myself.

Recently I sat down and asked myself, What do I like doing? What brings me rest and replenishes me? 

It is not the same for everyone.

Reading a good book, writing and watching a good movie is relaxing for me. For someone else it may be playing golf, running or taking a walk.

Whatever replenishes you is important to your well being. Incorporate it into your schedule. Maybe not daily, but as often as possible.

Do you have margin in your life?

Is your schedule overwhelmed with duties and obligations? Keeping margin in our lives, allows us to avoid exhaustion and maintain balance. When we pursue balance, we will not only see growth in ourselves, but in our most important relationships. How do you build margin in your life? I’d love to hear from you!

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54 Comments

  1. Alisa, I love everything about this. When you started with “Don’t Write in the Margins,” I knew where you were going and I so desperately wanted to go with you. I want my life to look like one of those books with the wide margins, because I truly believe it is how God intends for us to live. Thanks for the reminder this morning.

    1. Oh, me too Sarah!! I want to have a wide enough margin that I can go when God says go, and have enough wits about me to stop when He says no. When I’m lacking margin, I can tend to jump into all kinds of commitments without considering the consequences. Thanks for stopping by!

    2. Sarah, funny that your is the first comment I see because your post this week, goes along PERFECTLY with this. I’m going to mention it below in hope that Alisa’s readers see it.

  2. This post is ever close to my heart. I just got really excited as I was reading your words, because it is awesome when you find someone who is going through a sort of same season and is wanting to grow through it. Margin has been a more recent journey for me that I am so thankful for. God is so good!! I love your blog – it is so gorgeous and inviting. Be blessed this week, friend!
    Your neighbor @ #CoffeeForYourHeart ~

    1. Thanks, Meghan! It definitely is awesome to know you’re not alone in your circumstances! Thank you for your kind, encouraging words. Have a wonderful weekend!

  3. This is a perfect metaphor! I’m learning how to know what my priorities are and have recently taken the time to actually write them down! Extra “things” creep in so easily. Visiting from Women with Intention

    1. So true, Angela! I’m constantly having to re-evaluate priorities, because they change in every season. Thanks for visiting and have a wonderful weekend!

  4. What you wrote is true wisdom! Something I know, yet need to be reminded of often. I love your analogy with the margins on a piece of paper. Our lives are truly more beautiful when we have the right size margins. I love your suggestion of scheduling time to spend with friends. I have to be intentional about making tome to connect with friends, because, as an introvert, I have a tendency to just stay isolated. But when I do spend time with friends, I come away refreshed and encouraged. Blessings to you!

    1. Me too, Jo! I’m somewhat of an introvert, so I tend to like my “alone” time. I sometimes forget I need to gather with others. It’s lovely to have friends that will drag you out when you need some girl time! Have a great weekend!

  5. Love this – and it’s something that I’m trying to be very intentional about these days. Mostly because I’ve learned the hard way and yes – overcommitted makes me super grumpy! I’m adopting Jen Hatmaker’s principal – if it isn’t a “heck yes” – its a no! And boy rightly diving my time makes all the difference. Thank you for continued encouragement to stay the course – and savor the freedom!

    1. I learned the hard way too, Tiffany! Once my schedule is crammed and I’m cranky, I start considering the margin! I’m trying to be proactive now that I’ve seen the cycle. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Alisa, yes! Something I learned through some hard lessons. But a reminder I regularly need because like you say in the beginning- what does one letter past the margin hurt? What does one small activity depleting needed boundaries, rest, and refreshment hurt? It does. Thank you for this great image and reminder!

    1. Bethany, you are so right! We always start with the mindset that one more thing won’t hurt, but it usually does! Rarely do I add just one thing. There are so many good things I commit to, that prevent me from saying yes to great things! I’m definitely learning to hold off on the commitments, until I know they are the right things! Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Hanging out with God, with friends, and me (time) all helps to give us a better perspective. I find it’s important to hang out with my kids, too – and my husband.

    1. I agree, Rachel. Love hanging with the fam! They always lighten my mood =) Have a great weekend!

  8. What a good word, Alisa! Practical and encouraging!
    I have to be reminded to take “me” time – as I guess so many moms do.
    Thank you for your affirmation today.
    I found your post on Grace and Truth~
    Blessings,
    Melanie

    1. I’m right there with you, Melanie! I’m constantly having to be reminded to set time aside for myself, which is not easy with 5 kids! =) Thanks for visiting!

  9. Such a fine word picture! I know ‘margins’ on the paper. I know ‘margins’ where I have put too much. I will surely recall this exceptional post for the ways I want to adjust my days. Thanks, ~ linda

    1. Thanks, Linda! I think we can all relate to full margins. =) Have a wonderful weekend!

  10. Oh Alisa, like Sarah above, I knew just where you were going with this post, and I wanted to go with you. I’m really needing this after the busy week I had. It goes right along with what I was thinking. I need to sit down and create some margin in my week. Organize time for writing, AND for resting and relaxing. 🙂

    Did you see Sarah’s post? It goes along perfectly with yours because she’s talking about God’s power resting on our weakness and how we can live wisely, respecting our own energy levels: https://www.sarahkoontz.com/gods-power-perfect-limitations/

    1. Me too, Betsy!! I feel like the busier I am the more margin I need and if I don’t schedule it, it’s not happening! I did read Sarah’s post and I thought the same thing! It really did go together so well. I’ve been enjoying visiting her blog a lot lately! I’m so glad God is connecting me with wonderful women like you gals to encourage me along the way. Have a great weekend!

  11. Love this > “When my margin begins to shrink, my attitude begins to stink.” Excellent word pictures here! I know I could sure use a little margin! Blessings to you!

    1. Thanks, Liz! Margins can easily become overcrowded. I think we all have to be reminded of this one! =) Thanks for visiting!

  12. We just heard a message on ‘rest’ yesterday and so i felt all the more justified in slowly making plum jam yesterday, reading a mystery novel, and watching mission impossible III with my man-in-plaid – now why do I need to feel justified? (: funny how that is. blessings on you and yours. busyness can steal the margin before we know it. amen.

    1. That’s awesome, Sue!! I need to have a few of those “do nothing” days as well. They are so good for the soul, aren’t they! Good for you!

  13. Alisa, I sooo needed this post right now!!

    I am so very depleted and becoming resentful!

    Your insights on how to replenish were so practical and so perfect!!

    I am definitely someone that gets recharged spending time with friends, but all of us have gotten so busy, we rarely if ever see each other. The idea of putting a monthly date on the calendar is awesome!

    I also liked your idea of “me time”, and for ME that is very hard. I feel guilty so easily if there are emails I haven’t responded too, or blog comments, or helping out my daughter with my granddaughter or, or, or, that the only time I seem to have time to read anymore is on vacation. Making a conscious effort to give myself permission to have me-time, even if just for 15 minutes each day, will reap dividends in the long run.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Karen, it’s true we can get so bogged down with serving others that we forget to serve ourselves! We usually think of ourselves last, but it’s really hard to help others when we are depleted. I’m so glad you stopped by. Have a great week!

  14. Oh this: “When my margin begins to shrink, my attitude begins to stink.” Yes! Thank you for reminding us how to set those necessary boundaries to truly love the Lord our God with all our heart. Practical, useful tips here.

    1. Thanks, Anna! Boundaries are so important to maintaining margin. So glad you stopped by!

  15. That “margin” thing ~ I’m with you, Alisa. Your wise to notice it. And thank God for those “margin” teachers, eh?! Blessings, my friend.

    1. For sure, Kristi! =) Just when you think you didn’t learn anything in school…. Have a great week!

  16. Love this … and its so true. I’ve only just started to build my margin back after overloading myself and we’sre all the better for it. Thanks for sharing on #TwinklyTuesday

    xx

    1. Sarah Jane, I’m so glad you’re beginning to build it back up! Margin is so important in our lives. I think we all forget to add it in until we’re depleted. Thanks for stopping by! Have a great week!

    1. Krystal, I think we all struggle with this!! =) I know I always need a reminder. Have a great week!

  17. What a great interpretation of those margin lines. We really do need to ensure there is a “start and stop” place when we’re writing our stories, not just those on paper, but also in our lives. Even if it’s not for someone else, *we* need it for ourselves, our children, and our families! 🙂

    1. So true, Kendall! We need it for ourselves in order to help others. Thanks for reading. Have a great week!

  18. Great suggestions, Alisa, and all very practical and necessary. I’m in a super swamped season right now but when I get through it I’m already planning friends to spend time with and a little R&R! And we get in that mind set that we don’t have time for God when in fact, we can’t afford not to take time out with Him!

    Thanks for sharing again on Tuesday Talk, Alisa. Lovely post.

    1. That’s great, Ruthie! Planning ahead of time for down time is so important. Good for you for thinking of it in advance. I usually forget until I’m already depleted. But I’m definitely learning to recognize busy seasons and plan accordingly. Have a great week!

  19. Living in D.C. I feel like I lost all my margins years ago! great points on creating and staying within them to give us some much needed space and rest.

    1. I bet, Sara Jean! D.C. is so fast paced! We have visited a few times and I often wondered how people kept it all together there! Glad your learning to navigate through. Have a great week!

  20. This was wonderful and so encouraging.

    I often feel those margins disappearing and I need to refill – your suggestions are awesome. Time with the Lord refreshes me the most… it’s Psalm 23 in action!

    Thanks for sharing (and linking up to the #SHINEbloghop).

    Wishing you a lovely evening.
    xoxo

    1. Me too, Jennifer! Nothing refills me like good time spent in the Word! Have a great week!

  21. Great post, Alisa! Me time is soooooo important for me. I’m an introverted extrovert, so when I can’t have alone time, I feel completely drained!

    1. I’m wired the same way, Lauren! I definitely need “me” time! I can always tell when I’m feeling depleted in that area. I get cranky and mean! =)

  22. This is so very timely! I know when I need rest, it is really that I have overextended myself or tried to fit too much into my days. Making time for friends…I know I need to, but this is the one thing that seems to suffer, so thanks for this reminder and for the clarity on margins. I don’t think I really understood it so well either:) Crystal~

    1. That’s a big one for me too, Crystal. I’m on the introverted side, so I tend to not think about time with friends. But I know I need it! Thanks for visiting!

  23. I read Bonnie Gray’s book about Spiritual Whitespace just recently and I think your post about building margin, pairs perfectly! ♥ Margin in our lives help us appreciate what’s contained within- just like wide-matted artwork in a beautiful frame… I know God is making each one of us into his beautiful masterpiece and I’m thankful for your thought provoking words today Alisa ♥ Thank you for making me laugh–
    “when my margin shrinks, my attitude stinks!” and for making me think!

    1. I haven’t read that book. I’ll have to check it out! I’m glad you got my humor. It can be dry sometimes. =)) Have a great weekend!

  24. Alisa,
    I think God is using you to hit me upside the head with the proverbial 2×4! Each of your posts lately have spoke to my heart about the need for rest and feeling depleted. I am there and cannot seem to be diligent or follow through with keeping a margin in my life or resting. Even after being sick, I push it too far every day and feel worse. Going from the energizer bunny to a me with fibromyalgia has not been a smooth transition. Thanks for the encouragement each week! And thank you so much for being such a beautiful part of #MomentsofHope!
    Blessings and smiles,
    Lori

  25. Timely word! I have been struggling with burn out lately, because I say yes to everything! God has been showing me that it’s due to my desire to feel wanted and needed. He has been working on my heart, healing insecurities and creating more margins for Him to move!

  26. Love this perspective, Alisa! And I would add that if God put margin in His week–leading by example of course, since He did not NEED to rest–we should certainly do the same, who definitely need rest and refreshment. I also really appreciate your encouragement to be refreshed by God’s word. When that’s in place every thing else falls into place and when it doesn’t, we can handle it because we’re anchored in the Lord. Amazing word, my friend and I have pinned and tweeted!

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