Stressed. Exhausted. Overwhelmed. Maxed-out. Overloaded.
Just a few symptoms of a mom without margin in her life. What is margin? I’m not talking about the nice white border around a sheet of notebook paper, or the financial banking term. I’m talking about the margin, or space, around our life which provides us with cushion. According to Dr. Richard Swenson in his book, The Overload Syndrome, “Margin is the space that once existed between our load and our limits. Margin is the space between vitality and exhaustion. It is our breathing room, our reserves, our leeway. Margin is the opposite of overload, and therefore the antidote for that vexatious condition.” The goal is to have margin around our lives, which allows for the spur-of-the-moment, the flexibility, the freedom and the peace.
I’m a mom without margin. I leave no breathing room in my life. I push my limits to the max. I’m overloaded.
But what do I expect? I have four kids ranging in age from 10-years-old to eight-months-old. Of course I’m stressed, exhausted and overloaded. But here’s the deal — even with four kids and all the details which go along with them, margin can exist in my busy life. It can exist in yours, too! We just have to seek it out, implement it and protect it. We have to examine our schedules, compare our priorities with our current commitments and apply some self-control.
When I look at my weekly schedule, I see where margin can exist. I just have to stop sabotaging myself with my crazy antics and make it happen. Here are ways I’ve determined how to get my margin back. Maybe you can relate.
Some researchers say multitasking can reduce productivity by approximately 40%. Like many moms, I do more than one thing at a time and to do any less seems unnatural. If I’m nursing my baby, I’m checking my email. If I’m on a conference call, I’m making my kids an after-school snack. If I’m in the car for more than 10 minutes, I’m returning phone calls. If I’m waiting at a red light — shamefully, I’m checking my email or worse, sending out a quick text before the light turns green. It’s ridiculous! The frenzy it causes me to feel is not worth the so-called productivity. And especially if that productivity is reduced by 40%! My goal this fall is to focus on one thing at the time and to be in the moment.
Practice Time Management
I’m a “time squeezer.” This means I squeeze as much as possible into the shortest amount of time. If I have 30 minutes before I need to pick up the kids at school, what better time than to grocery shop? No kidding! I rush around the store, buy things I don’t really need, hurry through the check out line and rush home to unload the groceries with three minutes to spare. And to think I pride myself on knowing exactly how long an errand will take, but at what cost? I’m a nervous wreck when I get my kids at school. So how do I get margin back in my life? I’ll take back those 30 minutes and leisurely drive to their school. Maybe even read the paper while I wait in my parked car. Or just sit and soak up the silence. Ahh. I’ll allow myself to enjoy the car ride and grocery shop another day.
Know Your Limits & Say No
As moms we pile too much on our plates and sadly, we don’t take anything off. It reminds me of a buffet where it all looks so good, (like all the great activities we’re involved in,) that we can’t help but overload our plates. We gorge ourselves and then we go back for more and fill another plate! Talk about overload! Instead, what if we filled just one plate leaving a nice margin between each item? Then as we eat the food, or complete the task, we can either leave that space empty, or replace it with something which aligns with our priorities. No time like the present to put this into practice! It’s the start of the school year, which means our plates are full with kids’ homework, school projects, after-school activities, PTA committees, fundraisers, birthday parties, play dates and more. Now is the time to step back, compare our top priorities with our commitments and take off our plate what doesn’t match up. Learn to say NO and release the guilt. Check out our recent post on how to say no gracefully, and let’s keep our plates healthy!
I’ve heard this term unplug a lot and it just hit me: the best chance I have to get margin into my busy life is to put my cell phone down. Is it just me or does anyone else struggle with cell phone addiction? That urge to constantly check your email no matter what you’re doing: waiting in the grocery line, the car line, the red light, the dinner table, the baseball game, the movie, the gym, walking in your neighborhood. We’re too accessible. This goes for texting, too. The annoying ‘ding’ which interrupts us and sucks us in at the most inopportune times. My most inopportune time is in the car.
Starting now, my car is a No Phone Zone and there’s even a pledge to go with it. No more multitasking and checking off my list the phone call I can make while driving from here to there. No more texting at the red lights or checking my email. I’m taking back this car time and the margin around it. Instead I’ll listen to music, enjoy the peace and quiet or talk with my kids about their days. Soon my kids will be behind the wheel and I’m their example of what to do and not do while driving. Yikes. Join me and take this pledge to get off of our phones while driving!
Rest comes in many forms. Mental rest, emotional rest, physical rest. Again, it goes back to time management and self control. Only you can take care of you. It’s easier to jump to the next chore at home, but how about allowing yourself to relax for 30 minutes? Flip through that 15th copy of Pottery Barn. Watch that Nashville episode you have on DVR. And don’t feel guilty about it. How about going to bed early tonight? Give your body and mind a break and rest in the margin that’s there for you.
These are just a few areas in my own life where margin exists. How about you? Where’s your margin and how can you protect it?