Margin is the blank space on a sheet of paper. It’s the difference between your cost and selling point. It’s the amount beyond what is truly needed.
And it’s important. In at least a couple of areas.
1. Margin in Time
When my schedule is too jammed, I don’t have time to think or rest. The result is decreased productivity and increased stress. If your schedule runs your life, you won’t have time to think, and without thinking and evaluating, you’ll struggle to get ahead. Sometimes, the wise thing to do is to say no. Every open time slot doesn’t have to be filled.
2. Margin in Money
For too long, I spent everything I made and had nothing in reserve. That’s a stressful place to live. It’s easy to spiritualize the lack of margin by talking about faith but building margin isn’t the same thing as trusting in money.
Why Building Margin Matters
One of the healthiest things we can do in life and leadership is create margin. If you don’t build margin in your life, you’re going to find several things to be much harder.
1. It’s harder to take risks without margin.
If you have financial margin, and a great opportunity comes along, you’re in a better position. You can evaluate the idea based on it’s merits, not solely on your financial position.
2. It’s harder to relax without margin. If your schedule is too full, you won’t be able to fully relax. Moving from one thing to another, without space in between, takes a toll on your body and spirit.
Vacations are the perfect collision of these two areas for many people. They struggle to find the time to take off, and when they do, they search for “budget travel” or “cheap vacations” because they don’t have the financial margin to do something nice. Again, I”m not advocating wasteful spending, frivolous expenses, or a lack of discipline.
3. It’s harder to live on mission without margin. Ultimately, the reason for building margin in your finances and in your schedule is to create space to respond to God. When you have money in the bank, when God presents with you with an opportunity to help, you’re ready to respond. When God says “go,” you’re available to listen. Building margin isn’t about trusting in yourself – it’s about positioning yourself to respond to God’s agenda and not your own.
Three Ideas for Creating Margin
1. Let someone else speak into your opportunities.
I’m an entrepreneur and a visionary so my default answer to most things will be yes. It’s hard for me to turn down an opportunity, which is exactly why I need someone else. My wife is the best person to do this, because she understands what saying yes to something really means. In many ways, she protects my time better than me.
2. Work harder for a season in order to build margin.
Let’s say you set a short term goal to save $5,000 in a margin account. For at short period, you could intentionally break your time margins in order to get ahead in this area. Recognize busy seasons and make sure you follow them with more restful times.
3. Use buckets.
If you want to write a book, you could quit your job and move to a cabin in the woods. Or you could block out two hours every Saturday morning before everyone in your house wakes up. If you’re trying to start a business while working your day job, you could lengthen the runway by working late one night a week. Set the schedule and bucket out your time.