As we speak, I’m responsible for 10-15 major projects or events where I work. My job is to lead the Family Life Ministry at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis. This is the largest team and ministry in our church, which is quite a large church at close to 4000 in attendance on a weekend.
Don’t get me wrong- I love this job and I love our church. It’s so much fun and the church is amazing. It is unbelievably rewarding and refreshing to serve with this team of incredible and talented people. But there are days when I come home mentally (and sometimes emotionally) exhausted.
You may identify with that. The job you have, whether out in the work force or at home raising your children, is amazing, but exhausting. I bet you have days where you feel like you can’t go one step further. You need space, more time, or a chance to think straight for a second. I have those needs too. I call it “the need for margin.” It’s the need for space in your schedule.
This is bigger than simply checking things off your to-do list. A lot of times we think that productivity and getting things knocked out, task-wise, means we’re creating margin. We think this because checking off tasks on a list allows us to move on to the next task. But that’s not creating margin. That’s just moving on to the next busy task. It’s an illusion I was under for a very long time.
Understand: this is not about rushing through a day, getting tons of things done, just so you can collapse in the evening from sheer exhaustion. This is about intentionally ear-marking free space in your schedule for mental, emotional, and spiritual recalibration. The best example of this, I’ve found, are dogs. Think about it. Have you ever noticed how a dog carries out their day of activities? They will run and then nap, run and then nap, run and then nap. Very rarely will you see a dog run for hours straight and not stop to rest. They’re creating margin in their daily routine.
So, how do you do this? Well, to tell you the truth- I’m still learning that. But here are some helpful insights I’ve discovered over the past 7 months, that have helped me create the margin I’ve needed and not run out of gas in the process:
Do not schedule appointments back-to-back-to-back in your schedule.
If you can, leave some time (an hour to an hour and a half, or so) in between taking your child to the doctors office and being at the bus stop to greet your other children when they arrive home from school. Leave a half-hour to an hour of time in between meetings at work so you can mentally prepare for the next meeting.
Intentionally block off “un-touchable” time during the week.
I have a morning during my work week that is guarded for the purpose of study, preparation, and thought. I have deemed this “un-touchable time.” However, it is not easy to keep this un-touchable. There are constant demands for my time during that closed window in my schedule. There will be for yours too. This doesn’t happen by accident. If you aren’t intentional about guarding specific times, someone or something else will swipe it up. This doesn’t just apply to your weekly work schedule, this is also very applicable to your off time with family. Ask yourself- “Are my days off really ‘days off?'” If not, it’s time to get serious about making that time “un-touchable.”
Be willing to say no to some requests.
I told my team in one of our meetings, recently, that I am saying no to things in order to maximize my time in leading our team. The same is true for my home life. I’m just not going to say yes to a bunch of things that soak my schedule and pull me away from my wife and kids. It’s not always easy to do. I want to help out with lots of people and lots of things. But at what cost? Not having any time at home with my family? Not being able to think or feel straight because I’m so drained? It’s not worth it.
If you’re anything like me, you are busy. Between driving your kids everywhere, to the task load of work around the house, to your demanding schedule at work, you’re slammed. You probably struggle getting a decent meal in on a regular basis. This is all the more reason why you need to create margin. It may not be a large amount of margin but anything will help. What I’ve personally discovered, over the past year, is that, regardless of my task list, I need it. I need it to be a healthy leader, husband, father and friend.
What about you?
What has prevented you from creating margin in your schedule? What do you need to do to change this?