The Value of Living With Margin

“If there’s just no breathing room everything looks like it’s suffocating.” That’s what I say when someone shows me a design that has no room for margin. When I am working within photoshop I see the benefit in having breathing room around my image. It allows the viewer to see what I want them to see.

Perhaps a better example would be to look at the words on a page. When you open up a book you expect to find margin on all four sides of the text. This blank space gives you room to make notations and write insights as they come to you. A book without margin leaves no room for reflection or reaction.

Just as we’ve come to value the margins inside any book, so we should value the same type of space in our lives. Too often we spread ourselves to our very edges leaving little room for adjustments. Busyness blinds us to the value in blank space.

Pairing any task with a life of zero margin leaves no room for experiencing the extraordinary or responding to a moment of need.


A few weeks ago I wrote about being locked into $60,000 of debt. The debt was bad, but the bigger tragedy was my inability to make any decisions with my money. While paying off my debt I had no margin to take advantage of any opportunities that came my way.

I missed out on traveling, investment opportunities, business opportunities, as well as family time. I was always working to make my next payment.

Accounting for every dollar you earn locks you into your current situation. Leaving margin in your finances gives you freedom to respond to the opportunities life presents.

Time and Relationships

While margin in finances is something I have yet to master (but I’m working on it) it is the area of leaving margin in my schedule where I struggle most. I want to be on time, but I’m often late. I want to relax, but I always have something to do. I want to slow down, but I don’t. Deep down I believe that spending time in more places is better than spending more time in one place.

Consider the value of relationships. Building margin into our schedule breathes life into relationships. Having an extra fifteen minutes to listen to a friend or five minutes before work to play with your kids might not seem like much to you, but it communicates to them that they are valued. The opposite is true. Having to cut off conversations and running out of the house without loving on your son or daughter communicates you don’t consider them a priority.

Am I Living With Margin?

The illustration of living within margin is a new one for me. At my church we have placed high value on the measure of “Am I living with margin?” Time and money are two vital areas where I realize I need to build in margin. Are there any areas of your life where margin is currently too narrow?

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