Living In The Margin

The word “margin” has many definitions, including one that can dramatically improve our lives. Margin allows us to function effectively without continually maxing out important personal resources such as time, energy, money, patience, capacity, etc.

A person who lives with little or no margin is constantly operating with a tank that’s nearly empty in one or more category. A person with sufficient margin has portions of those resources left over even after being highly productive with them. Operating without margin is draining and ineffective in the short term. The long-range outcome will be total burnout, just as running a machine at full throttle for an extended period will cause a malfunction.

Here are some examples:

  • Always racing to get somewhere at the last minute or consistently arriving late are indicators of living without time margin. The person who shows up early and can relax or read a magazine while waiting for the appointment to begin is living with time margin.
  • Someone who can afford the luxury model, but selects the less expensive one instead is engaging financial margin. The purchase that stretches one’s ability to make the payment each month creates a lack of financial margin.
  • Trying to accomplish “just one more thing” when you’re struggling to keep your eyes open is living without margin in the physical realm. The one who stops trying to produce and can rest or wind down is experiencing physical capacity margin, and will actually be more productive overall.
  • Eating the last slice of pizza when you’re already full vs. pushing the plate away with a few french fries still on it … that’s the difference between no food margin and food margin.

The principle of margin can be applied to all these areas and more. You get the idea.

How much margin is enough? That will vary by the individual. Experiment for yourself, and incorporate at least sufficient margin to enjoy life without a great deal of stress.

Because demands on all our resources are so numerous, we can easily become overwhelmed and depleted. A major factor in avoiding this is to incorporate the principle of margin into our lives. This means living in such a way that there are resources left over when the commitment is achieved. Peace and greater productivity, rather than excess anxiety and diminished effectiveness, will result.

Steve Fales
AdServices Inc.

2 thoughts on “Living In The Margin

  1. Bruce says:

    Very timely. Sending this to board members of a non-profit board I sit on. I’m getting a lot of ” we have X dollars, we can do this” leaving us no reserves. I’m fighting to have a years reserves in case everything goes bad.

  2. alan says:

    Rediscovered this post yesterday and salute the message. It’s become “The American Way” to do everything to excess with no sense of proportion. The principle of margin may sound like a return to a simpler time, but it’s really a prescription for living life more fully in the present time.

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