Building Margin

Around the dinner table last night, we started talking about things that quit working if we don’t pay attention. Clearly, the most obvious example is the smartphone. What do you do when you’re out and about and your phone dies, and there isn’t a charger in sight? We’ve all been there. Another obvious example is the gas tank. Twice, in recent years, I ran out of gas. It was horrible and humiliating. It was also the result of a gas tank monitor deficiency and covered by a warranty, so I was grateful for that. What about when we haven’t gotten to the laundry and we run out of underwear? We’ve all been there too, and I have to confess that it’s sometimes easier to just order more underwear. I once had a friend in Alaska who went out to run errands in the middle of winter and while she was out, her battery died. She was also dangerously low on gas and her phone was out of juice. It was a cold day and her child had left the winter boots at home. Through the kindness of strangers, she and her child made it home safely, but she could have used a little more margin that day.

We all have so much going on in our day to day. We are working and helping and studying and caring. It’s very easy to let little things go. But little things turn in to big things if we aren’t careful. There is a resurgence of people realizing the need for self care. Isn’t it interesting how we now need to be reminded for that necessity?

I once read a blogger who said, what can you do today that your future self will thank you for? I truly believe that building margins in your life is the best way to give a gift to your future self. Like our cars and our phones, there’s only so much energy can expend before we need more food/fuel and rest. As my oldest starts to prepare for college, I keep coming up with things I remember I haven’t taught her yet. In some ways, building margin is part of that. Here are some things I’d like to remind her of before she goes off to school”

  • Fill your gas tank when it gets to 1/4 full
  • Keep a stash of emergency items in the car
  • Leave a little cash in your wallet, just in case
  • Charge the phone every night and keep a charger on you
  • Do your laundry on the same day every week so you can stay on top of it
  • It’s okay to buy extra underwear
  • Depending on your stage of life, don’t let yourself run out of laundry detergent/toilet paper/diapers/stamps/printer toner/coffee/Ibuprofin/feminine necessities or chocolate
  • Return your library books a little ahead of time
  • Keeping your house (or dorm room) reasonably clean creates all kinds of margin
  • When you’re stressed, go for a walk or get a little exercise to blow off steam
  • Having a good group of friends around gives you margin in all kinds of ways, you need truth-tellers, empaths, helpers and those who make you laugh
  • Take time to relax, to laugh, to enjoy a good sit-down meal with friends
  • Sleep is a great margin builder, get more than you think you need
  • Prayer, worship and Bible study are great ways to build margin in a hectic world
  • Keep a Sabbath
  • Give yourself 10 extra minutes to get where you’re going
  • When you need to be reminded of ways to build margin, call your mom

This is not a complete list by any means. What are some ways you build margin in your life?