Margin: One Word for 2020.
Those who follow this blog will have heard me talk about the ‘one word’ concept recently. This is where you choose just one word to be the focus of your year, an expression of how you want to grow and develop. Last year my word was TRUST. This year I have chosen the word MARGIN.
The dictionary definition of margin is ‘the amount by which one thing is greater than another’. That’s a very prosaic take on it, more suitable to measuring distances and results than human activity. I prefer Craig Groeschel’s definition:
“Margin is the amount you have beyond what you need.”
It’s time margin so that you’re not always pressured by the clock. It’s relationship margin so that you’re not just giving the bare minimum to your loved ones. It’s schedule margin, so you’ve got time for rest and recharging beyond the bare requirements for adequate functioning. It’s financial margin so that you’re not spending every pound you earn. It’s moral margin so that you’re a good distance away from the things that will trip you up. I want margin in all these ways.
Why margin? Partly as a reaction to what happened last year, partly as a precaution for may happen this year. Last year was frenetically busy and I lost all margin. Circumstances at work became particularly acute, I was adjusting to the realities of having two children and I took on too many commitments. On top of all that, I published my first book and realised a lifelong dream. As fantastic as that was, it dominated my time and I found myself burning the candle at both ends for too many nights in a row. I finished 2019 very tired and very stressed.
When I look ahead to this year, it could easily go the same way. Things might have settled down at work, but with books two and three of the Oron Amular trilogy both due for publication it’s shaping up to be another full-on year. That’s good, so long as I don’t let it run away with me. Unlike many commitments, I find writing stuff very hard to say no to and keep in balance. I’m so invested in it, and I just love doing it so much. I could easily spend all my time writing and worldbuilding and marketing, but then everything else in life would suffer – my family, my friends, my faith.
So, I’m proactively seeking to build in margin, both in my schedule and in my mindset. I want to set aside more time for rest and keep a tight rein on my expectations. What can I do this year that won’t leave my burnt out? What should be prioritised, and what can wait till 2021? It’s one thing to push yourself and strive for excellence, but you can’t live like that all the time. If you push too hard for too long things can break.
I realised last year, that while I can be phenomenally productive and efficient with my use of time, it could also be very stressful. Any little interruption grated on me and other good things suffered as a result. I want to have a buffer around my productivity that allows me to be interrupted. If I’m too busy to be interrupted by my children, then I’m too busy. Busyness should be a temporary burst, not a way of life.
I also want to ensure I’m not too busy to be interrupted by God. sometimes we can get so focused on what we want to do, or on what we think He wants us to do, that we miss what He actually wants us to do. Sometimes God-given opportunities come up and we should have the margin to be able to seize them and serve His priorities and deadlines, not just our own.
These are the things I want this year: keeping things in balance, allowing enough time for rest and relationships, being available for God and others. I want this year to be an experiment in all this, to see if it’s possible to attain those things whilst still being productive and making progress towards your dreams. Are both things possible? We’ll see. Come back at the end of the year to hear how I got on.
In the meantime, thanks for reading. There’ll be lots of other interesting blog-posts coming up, including a series on the Book of Numbers. Come back soon, and don’t forget to subscribe by email to never miss a post.