Scheduling For The Unscheduled

The Importance Of Margin In Our Daily Lives (Part 1 of 2)

I loved my high school English teacher, Ms. Webb. She was smart, creative, kind, and yet her class was HARD. She somehow managed to get most of us to love her, despite her high expectations. The negative emotion was usually related to the use of the MLA Style (Modern Language Association) of writing, and the very precise expectations for how the paper should be formatted and cited. In case you forgot, 1″ margins were the standard, and as much as we all tried to sneak 1.25″ margins so our papers would meet the 5 page length required, we were always caught.

A friend pointed out recently that I use the word ‘margin’ frequently when I make references to my time, and that many people may not relate to that word in that way. I actually had to stop and think about the normal context for the word. Thus, my trip down memory lane to high school English class.

Margin literally means “the edge or border of something.” To say it another way, margin guards the empty space and creates the ‘white space’.  In my family, margin has come to mean, “our cushion, our free time, our rest time or just our unscheduled time.” Just as my writing in English class required a border around the words so they would not run off the page, having margin matters.  When we don’t have margin, we are missing the guardrails that prevent us from going off the edge.  Trust me, we know this the hard way.

We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with requests, opportunities, and demands. If we are not careful, we will end up living someone else’s expectation for us. One of the greatest words I can utter on any given day is “NO.” “NO” is a complete sentence. And it is not “NO” for the sake of being a Debbie Downer or difficult or for a power trip. It is for choosing great instead of good. Remarkable instead of status quo. Freedom instead of expectation. Passion instead of obligation. Rest instead of exhaustion.

My kids are young and my husband is in a pivotal time in his career. The demands of this season are no joke. He travels frequently in the Fall and Spring, which also aligns with most sports and extracurricular activity schedules. We have had to make a specific choice that we do not do “extra” things during that season because our little family needs more time together and margin to just “BE.” Our kids do not play sports, or take dance, or participate in any clubs. During this particular time of our lives, we pursue family/friends, minimal church activities, and work/school. In the Fall and Spring, that’s it. However, during the summers when we have lots of margin, we pile on the fun and extras.

This may seem like common sense to some and completely anarchy to another. (What?? No extracurricular stuff during school!?!) Every family is going to be different. However, if you find yourself constantly complaining about carpool, or stressing about fitting in a family dinner between sports activities, or yearning for life to slow down, you may need to rethink your plan for margin.

In part 2 of this series, I will lay out a plan of how to do just that. For further reading on this subject, check out this book.

Join The Conversation: Does the term ‘margin’ resonate with you? Do you see a need for ‘white space’ or unscheduled time for you and your family? Have you experienced consequences of not having ‘margin?’ You can leave a comment by clicking here.