Tips on Restoring Margin | The Practical Disciple

Tips on Restoring Margin

In response to my post, “Living in the Rhythm–First Steps”, blog reader, P.D. Novice, commented “I was wondering what are some practical ways to restore margin? For starters, I was thinking saying “no” more often and also scheduling bigger chunks of time for each endeavor.” Well, P.D. Novice your instincts are dead on and I want offer some suggestions.

Regarding saying no– “I need to learn to say no, more” is the perennial anthem of rhythm lackers. But seldom are we taught much about saying no. I have a couple thoughts to help you.

First, why do you so often say yes. A typical yes saying scenario for me is…I get a request. I want to be helpful. I don’t have a direct conflict and can’t think of a better excuse than I am too busy. Being too busy sounds too cliche or like I don’t know how to manage my life, so before you know it I have said yes to something I really am not invested in doing. As it approaches I find myself stressed, resentful, or resisting. That’s no fun. So, what’s the alternative. A friend of mine once shared with me the quote, “Self care is a holy obligation.” The quote haunted me for awhile. I came to realize that time for my family, for rest and/or myself was a necessity. I learned that I needed to start examining why I said yes to things and only say yes if it was a purposeful yes. I frequently now will have a request from someone that involves an evening or weekend day that I really am not ready to give up. When that happens I am now totally comfortable with saying, “I am sorrow I can’t. I have another commitment.” Sometimes that commitment is downtime or margin. It’s also perfectly okay to say, “I am really overcommitted and have no business taking that on right now.”

Second, another common issue that I have experienced is saying “yes” to something only to have that commit be more than I really understood. It’s okay and important when that happens to go back to the person who asked you and say, “When I said yes what I understood was that I would be doing a, b, and c. I didn’t know that this included d through h. I can’t do that. I need to either step down or be allowed to only do a, b, and c.”

Regarding scheduling bigger chunks–I common problem for many people is living on “idealized” time rather than “realistic” time. For example, in your head you decide it takes 8 minutes to get to work, but the reality is this only happens under absolute ideal circumstance. In other words, some one can get to church in 8 minutes if everything goes okay, but let’s face the facts–How often does it ideally work? Seldom. So what happens? You are scurrying to get out the door, frantically looking at the clock with 10 minutes left. You get in the car and look at the clock in your car, it’s a different time but you assure yourself that it’s five minutes fast and your still okay. You probably are because you did set five minutes fast to enable you to play this idiotic stress filled dance. You are stressed at every red light, stop sign and slow driver. You find yourself behind the wheel saying things that ought not be said on the way to church (or anywhere for all that matters) at seniors who drive beneath the speed limit. You get to church at just the last minute or rushing in with apologies for being late. Does any of that sound familiar? If so, then you probably live out of an idealized perspective of time rather than a realistic perspective. Learned to think in terms of “I could get this done in 20 minutes, but I probably need to plan on 30 minutes to be on the safe side.” or “I can get to church in 8 minutes but what would be so much better is to leave 15 minutes early so I can get there, switch gears and settle in.” It’s learning to make a shift from idealizing time to truly having ideally what is needed and desired. Start with one or two items that you habitually short change on time. Give ten, twenty or even thiry percent more time and see what happens. I think you find it incredibly stress reducing.

Here are a somes signs that probably indicate that you are living in too much of a hurry.

  • Constantly apologizing for being late or having work incomplete
  • Mentally scurrying for excuses to offer for the above.
  • Speeding in your car
  • Jockeying for the ideal short line in the grocery store.
  • Being angry that a person in the line you almost picked is checked out before you.
  • Unable to get to sleep because you are trying to figure out how you will get it all done tomorrow
  • Making bottomless “to do” list that never ever get to done.
  • Adding things to your “to do” list that you complete, so you don’t feel as bad about the ones that aren’t finished.
  • Physically getting sick when a commitment comes up that you said yes to do, but that you do not want to do and have no way out of. (That really happens. Your body will say no for your if you are not careful)
  • Having to bail from commitments.

If you experience these types of symptoms regularly you are divorced from the Rhythm of Living and are primed to crash. The good news is that restoring margin can make a significant difference in your health, happiness and ability to serve God at the best of your abilities.

Peace from The Practical Disciple

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  • After reading your article on saying “no” I sat and thought about the reason behind some of my insistent need to say “yes” to whatever is asked of me in a “ministry” setting. I determined somehow there is a other-mposed and self-imposed guilt that rages when I utter those words, “no” when pertaining to my vocation. The big questions is “why?”, which may be different for each person working in ministry, but I also seem to think there may be a common link. What do you think?
    Also, I immediately thought of the many times in the Gospels that we see Jesus walking away from the crowds and even his closest disciples to go out alone to his father.

    Novice P.D. 13 years ago

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