Overcome an Overloaded Life: Create Margin

We’re all busy in the same sorts of ways. Our lives are consumed with the crushing weight of family, work, and church activities. Our lives are bombarded with requests, demands, and desires. Individual situations may be quantitatively less busy than others, and some more so, but as a society we are living a shared experience of an overwhelmed life.

Where does it all stop? When will things slow down? How can we recapture time lost?

Technology has delivered time-saving devices that actually consume more time. Progress moves our lives faster and faster, yet we seem incapable of enjoying little if any benefit. We desire and often achieve more. We have bought into a full-life timeshare to only find ourselves bankrupt in emptiness.

Are you asking this question:

I don’t have enough time to do the things I need to do, let alone the things I want to do.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Margin, by Richard A. Swenson

Margin is the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits. Today we use margin just to get by. This book is for anyone who yearns for relief from the pressure of overload. Reevaluate your priorities, determine the value of rest and simplicity in your life, and see where your identity really comes from. The benefits can be good health, financial stability, fulfilling relationships, and availability for God’s purpose.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Life in much of the world today is essentially devoid of time and space. The time and space that once existed in the lives of family and friends who regularly lingered after dinner, visited with the neighbors, sat on the front porch, went for long walks, planted flowers or a garden, and always had a full night’s sleep.

People are exhausted from trying to live life in a 24/7 world. People are stressed trying to keep the good things going and the bad things at bay. People are overloaded with things that (maybe) were once good but now are burdens.

We need more time. We need more space. We need more reserves. We need more buffer.

We need margin.

Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing and suffocating. 

To be healthy, we require margin in at least four areas: emotional energy, physical energy, time, and finances. Conditions of modern living, however, have drained these margins rather than sustaining them.

Restoring Margin in Emotional Energy

  1. Cultivate social supports – The existence of intact, functioning, healthy, nurturing systems of social support are as good a resource for replenishing depleted energy reserves as can be found.
  2. Reconcile relationships – True reconciliation is one of the most powerful of all human interactions.
  3. Serve one another – One of the best ways to heal your own pain is to focus instead on meeting the needs of others.
  4. Rest – Be with people and serve them. But be sure to get away occasionally. Escape. Relax. Sleep in. Rest restores.

Restoring Margin in Physical Energy

  1. Take personal responsibility – Until we accept personal responsibility for our own health, the road to the future will remain paved with aches.
  2. Change your habits – Changing habit disorders often requires changing lifestyles.
  3. Decrease intake of fat, sugars, and total calories – There are healthier foods that also taste good, we can change our bad habits, and we can’t afford not to.
  4. Exercise for the body, mind, and spirit – One hundred percent of people who exercise to the point of cardiorespiratory fitness will experience an increased sense of well-being.

Restoring Time Margin

  1. Expect the unexpected – To plan for the unexpected is not an invitation to sloppiness or mediocrity but instead a concession to reality.
  2. Learn to say “No” – Saying No is not just a good idea, it has now become a mathematical necessity.
  3. Get less done but do the right things – Busyness is not a synonym for kingdom work – it is only busyness.
  4. Prune the activity branches – Even though it is much harder to stop something than start it, periodically, get out the clippers and prune away.

Restoring Financial Margin

  1. Live within your harvest – Not only should you make do with what you have but accept what you have.
  2. Discipline desires and redefine needs – Clarify the distinction between needs and desires and be honest about it before God.
  3. Fast – The world does not stop nor the family fall apart when we unplug from the treadmill of consumerism for a period.
  4. Counter culture – Willingly and knowingly wrestle control from a culture wanting to tell us what we must buy and own.

Richard A. Swenson, Margin

A NEXT STEP

Review the above four areas of margin needed in your life, and choose the one that you personally most need at this time.

Block off a two-hour minimum time where you will not be disturbed. Turn off your mobile phone and ask not to be disturbed.

On a chart tablet, list the margin area you chose at the top, and then divide the chart tablet into four quadrants. In each quadrant, list one of the four actions that accompany the margin area above.

Taking at least 20 minutes for each, list actions or thoughts that come to mind in each of the four areas. List everything that comes to mind, even if it doesn’t seem practical at first.

When you have completed all four quadrants, review the tablet and connect any similar actions with a line. Now, force rank at least three actions in each of the quadrants.

List the top three from each quadrant on a new chart tablet entitled, “My Prescriptions for Restoring Margin.” For each, write out a brief description and date as to when you will begin taking this action.

Repeat the above steps once per week until you have covered all four areas of margin in your life. Calendar time one month from the start your work in each of the four areas to revisit your progress, making changes as needed.

Bonus: Walk your leadership team through this exercise. The greatest gift you may give your staff is the ability to create margin.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 87-1, released February 2018.


 

This is part of a weekly series posting excerpts from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix book excerpts for church leaders.

SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; each solution is taken from a different book. Additionally, a practical action step is included with each solution.

As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS Remix provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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What to Do When You’re Burned Out

It happens to everyone sooner or later. You’re producing great work, everything seems to be running smoothly, and in short – you’re on fire. Then soon you feel the first pangs of that fire turning on you, and within a short while you’re running on empty.

 

When this happens, ideas don’t flow as easily, and everything you try seems to take much more effort than you have available. Yet you still have to produce. You have to deliver the results you’re being paid to produce, and there is little reprieve from the pressure of the create-on-demand world.

So what do you do when you’re burned out? How can you begin to reclaim your creative energy and get “back in the game”?

Step One: Admit that you’re overextended.

This is critical, because many people are too afraid to admit such a thing because it breaks the illusion of invulnerability. Sometimes we’d rather perpetuate that illusion than engage in the kind of honesty that helps us be more effective. It’s important to accept that you have limits.

Sometimes it’s also helpful to share how you feel with your manager, though if it’s a season in which everyone is overextended, you’re likely to get the “yeah, me too” glare. Still, teams that are able to have these kinds of conversations openly and honestly are less likely to have massive explosions of distrust and anger down the road. (If you’re a team leader, encourage people to have these kinds of conversations with you, as it helps you gauge team members’ expectations and true limits.)

Create an inventory of your current commitments, upcoming obligations, and anything else that demands your focus, time, and energy. Get a good sense for where you are, how you got there, and the true scope of your current situation.

Read the rest of the article from Todd here.

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Todd Henry

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7 Sabbatical Insights for Pastors

The church I served as executive pastor for eight years (Christ Fellowship) graciously gives their pastors a sabbatical. Mine was scheduled for six weeks in the summer of 2010, but I was not quite sure I was going to make it until then.

In January of 2010, some signs of exhaustion were clear. I was struggling to sleep at night, always thinking about some issue or opportunity as I tossed in bed. I felt impatient and numb. I would completely crash on the couch on Sunday afternoons, barely move until Monday morning, and wake up still very tired. I was transparent with Kaye, my wife, and told her I thought I could make it until June–the start of the sabbatical. But in April, I hit a wall. I was in a simple meeting with our business administrator looking at a budget report, not something that usually stumped me. But I could not make sense of it. I was gone, toast. There was nothing left.

I called Kaye, and she quickly called a family in the church who let me stay at their house in the Florida Keys for a few days. Kaye came down at nights to have dinner. I slept, read, ate, and slept again each day for two days. God used those few days to get me through to the sabbatical and to show me how much I needed the time that the church was going to graciously give me in just a few weeks.

The sabbatical was incredible. Kaye and I planned it with great intentionality. And the Lord used it deeply in my life. I read entire books of the Bible in one sitting and felt overwhelmed with the grace of God. I played for hours with our girls, took Kaye on tons of dates, never once answered my phone, and exercised almost every day. When I came back to my ministry role, I was refreshed spiritually, physically, and mentally.

Here are seven lessons learned from my sabbatical:

1) Leave your cell phone behind. I bought a cheap disposable cell phone with pre-paid minutes on it. Only two people had the number, my assistant and my pastor. They both knew only to call in extreme emergencies. We defined what those would be beforehand, and only a few rare things made the list. The phone did not ring one time. It took me almost two weeks to stop occasionally reaching into my pocket to pull out my iPhone, which was not there.

2) Leave town. If I had not left town, I would have inexorably been drawn into needs I sensed in the area.

3) Open the trip with activities. We spent two weeks on a remote beach, but these were not the first two weeks of the trip. If I had opened up the sabbatical with stillness, my mind would have been preoccupied with the ministry back home. Instead, Kaye and I toured New York City non-stop before going to Kansas City to teach a class at a seminary. And while some would say the teaching was not rest, it was different from my normal routine, and my kids were able to stay on campus with me. We played each afternoon and evening and had a blast.

4) Know the cost is worth it. Some churches cover the cost of a sabbatical; others cover the cost of a sabbatical if the purpose is study or ministry preparation; and others leave the cost to the pastor without any expectation for study or preparation. If the cost is on you, realize that you get this opportunity rarely in your life. Realize what you spend is an investment in your ministry, your faith, and your family.

5) Ask others to help. My parents were invaluable during the sabbatical. They watched the kids for us for multiple weeks so that we could do several things alone.

6) Mentally resign. The only way I could completely disconnect was to resign, in a sense, from my role at the church. I never told anyone I was resigning. I did not submit a letter of resignation or make plans for another role. But I completely released the ministry to the Lord, something I should do continually, I know. I thanked Him for the season He had given me at the church and in my mind walked away. And it was so healthy. He reminded me through the process that He is the One who builds His church. I am not the one who is ultimately responsible. He is. He has invited me to serve His bride because He wants me, not because He needs me for anything. The mental resignation made the trip so liberating and refreshing.

7) Ease out and ease back in. Instead of having a hard stop to my responsibilities, I put my vacation email responder on about four days before my sabbatical would begin. During that time, I still checked my email and responded to ones that were critical. It was a way to give staff and others one final opportunity to have a conversation before I was going to be away for many weeks. In the same way, I re-engaged about 3 days before my sabbatical was going to be over. I wrote down key lessons from the time away and some goals for the next season of ministry. I replied to all of my emails and then saved them as a draft so as not to alert people to send me new emails. On the eve of my first day back, I sent all the emails. I was ready to hit the ground running the next day.

Two years later, Kaye and the kids still remember and talk about the sabbatical. And I remember some of the sweet times of fellowship I enjoyed with them and with the Lord. Reading Romans on the beach as the sun went down was very centering for me. Pastors, if the Lord gives you an opportunity for a sabbatical, take full advantage of the opportunity. It will be a blessing to you, your family, and the church.

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Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
 
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