Managing the Margin

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Do you wear yourself out trying to do too much, often feeling like you came up short by the end of the day? Now and then we all need to take stock of our time, taking inventory of what we really must do each day. What’s left is “the margin.” Once we understand what the margin is, we can do a better job of managing the odds and ends that are waiting to eat up our “free time.”

An hour is just 1/24th of your day, but what a huge chunk of your margin it may be! Taking good care of yourself takes time. So does pouring your life into those who need you. If you use the list below to take stock, you may find yourself better equipped to understand “where the time goes” and to make every hour count.

Start with 24 hours, then start subtracting   24
Sleep (Ideally 7-9 hours)                            (    ) hours
Dress, get ready, eat breakfast                  (    ) hours
Commute to work (there and back)            (    ) hours
Work (include lunch time)                           (    ) hours
Prepare and eat and clean up dinner         (    ) hours
Do housework, chores, paperwork             (    ) hours
Run errands, on average                            (    ) hours
Complete night time routine                        (    ) hours
Time Margin that,s left*                               *_______

(*Of course, reality would suggest subtracting another 60-90 minutes for the unexpected stuff of life that invariably happens.)

If you came up with a negative number, you’re doing too much. (No surprise there.) Something’s got to give, and it’s time for you to find that something and give it up.

  • Ask someone you trust to help you prayerfully decide where to cut down on your activities. Then ask that same friend to hold you accountable to your decision to return to a balanced life.
  • Begin to budget your time.
  • It might help to buy a monthly planning calendar to help you see the “big picture.”
  • Schedule in some “white space” every month for catching up or resting.
  • Take care not to add new commitments to an already full docket without eliminating something else.

If you came up with a positive number, good for you! Now you are equipped to properly evaluate the choices you make about the use of your time. Think about your time margin before you decide what to watch, what to do, what commitments to make.

There’s time to do all God wants you to do. But maybe it’s not all supposed to happen right now. Be patient. The One who made you can make your tasks and your time fit together perfectly.

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