The Power of Margin – How Less Produces More of What Matters

Written by: Kelly McSparran
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It’s a little embarrassing how much I try to cram into each day. Each Sunday, I look at my week with unbridled optimism—imagining how much I’ll work out, the books I’ll read, the work I’ll accomplish, and the meals I’ll cook. But as I sit typing this on a Tuesday night, I am surrounded by laundry to be put away, my to-do list staring me in the face, and my kids sipping on their Chick-fil-A lemonade. Sound familiar?

How often do you find yourself thinking, “I just need a few more hours in the day”?

Something that God has been teaching me recently is the power of margin. Including margin in my schedule doesn’t come naturally to me, but as I’ve started to flex this spiritual muscle, I can feel myself exhaling and experiencing the gift of more of what really matters in life.

My prayer is that you, too, can start to build margin into your life so that you can experience more fulfillment. More joy. More peace. And more intimacy with God.

Enjoy more rest

We are created to live with rhythms of rest. This isn’t a punishment because of our weakness but a gift to be enjoyed.

Jesus regularly got away to rest and pray. It was inconvenient for those waiting to be healed and for his disciples, who sometimes had to go looking for him (Mark 1:35–37). He didn’t leave an out-of-office auto-reply. But Jesus knew that to serve others best, he needed to spend time with his Father—usually in silence and solitude.

If God incarnate needed to step away, how much more do we need to prioritize rest?

I am learning to find rest by scheduling time for soul care, prioritizing time with God each morning, and learning the power of saying “no” to meetings, work opportunities, and extra commitments.

Be more productive

Creativity is the messy process of experimentation and innovation. And it needs extended periods without distraction to truly grow and flourish. It may sound counterintuitive, but building margin into the calendar for creativity and focused work can actually be the secret to productivity.

By focusing on what is most important and finding ways to delegate the rest, we can free up mental space to solve complex problems and work on more creative projects. Even simply carving out thirty minutes to an hour of uninterrupted time at the beginning of each day can maximize your effectiveness, thus saving you time in the long run.

I started blocking out one morning each week after reading the book When by Daniel Pink. This focused time means no meetings and very little email. These are now the most life-giving hours of my workweek and when I accomplish the most meaningful work.

Have more meaningful relationships

Filling our calendars with many good things is not the best way to live.

Slowing down our pace and allowing some white space on our calendars means enjoying a family dinner instead of rushing the kids off to their next activity. Go on a date night and connect with your spouse instead of catching up on late-night emails. Or spend extra time with a friend over coffee because you know how life-giving it is.

Jesus commands us to “love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another” (John 13:34 CSB). Just as he loved those around him by being fully present, we can obey this command by creating more space for the people that God has placed in our lives.

And obeying this command will benefit us as well. By creating space in our schedules for those who matter most, we prioritize the best part of life—sharing it with others. Walking with others helps the stressful and difficult parts of life feel more meaningful, bearable, and worthwhile.

Creating more margin requires deliberate planning. Our unruly schedules can dominate our minds and exhaust our souls. Sometimes in life’s struggles, we are unable to hear God or experience the abundant life that he promises.

If you are ready for a guide to find healing and hope, check out Inés Franklin’s new book Uncharted: Navigating Your Unique Journey of Faith. Her careful analysis and scholarly approach to the Bible will encourage you to discover the truth that at the very foundation of the Christian faith lies an invitation to active surrender—to offer and release all our circumstances to our perfectly loving God, giving him complete authority over our lives.