Creating MarginEvery Tuesday, Intersections features a post from Emily, Justin’s wife.

The end of summer brings the start of a lot of things for our family, even though our kids aren’t school age yet! It often feels like the calendar is exploding this time of year no matter what effort is put into creating margin.

What’s margin, you ask? According to Webster, it’s the extra amount of something, like time, that can be used if needed.

I almost laughed when I read that phrase “extra time.” Who has that? Well, come to think of it, maybe I should…

Why do we do so many of the things we do anyway? Some commitments are unavoidable. Others are fun. A few probably are the result of “keeping up” with what others are doing. I think we often just don’t think about what would be a better use of time to keep us from feeling stressed later.

This week, we’re talking again about our journey towards a simple life (here). Last week (here), we chatted about simplifying the process of life. Simplifying the schedule is the second of three areas our family has made changes in, in order to simplify.

Guarding your calendar may be one of the largest barriers to a simple life. Always having somewhere to run to impacts so many areas of life- nutrition, stress, ability to focus, condition of our homes, and relationships to name a few.

I want all those areas to be in balance, but you know what else I want? I want to have the time to be involved with people. I want to be a friend who is available – someone my friends know they can call. I want our life to be ordered in such a way that there is the ability to serve people. In order to serve people, life can’t be all about me.

A full calendar doesn’t mean life is always about me, but a calendar that can never be changed or adjusted might mean that. I figure, if my household is always on the brink of unraveling, then I’m not able to be generous with time for others. Jesus had time for people; I should have time for people.

As we’ve worked to get better with how we handle our family’s calendar, here are a few things we’ve discovered that are helping us to simplify our schedules.

  1. Go techie. This is so not me – I like paper and pencil, but it has helped us so much! The traditional calendar on the fridge didn’t seem to be cutting it for us, so we got tech savvy and learned how to use google calendar. Justin and I can both enter events through our email accounts as they arise and the other can see them instantly. No more double booking or having to talk 17 times about what didn’t get written on the calendar!
  2. Learn to say no. This might seem a little too easy, but it works. My last job always had opportunities available to work more – and I always wanted to say yes, but it wasn’t good for our family. So Justin just kept telling me no. There are endless ways to be involved at church, and there really is need for people to serve, but you cannot do everything! This is a hard lesson I keeping learning!
  3. Look for the big picture. Evaluating why it would be good to do something before I commit to it, has been really helpful the last couple of months as we looked towards what we will be involved in in the coming year. Justin in particular has had several opportunities we’ve just said no to because there are other things that fit better in line with what we’re working towards at the moment. If it doesn’t fit with what you want to accomplish overall, maybe it’s something you should just say no to right now.

Creating margin to live in isn’t easy. It’ll always require attention in the world we operate in, but it’ll be worth it. One of our pastors often tells us to simply “love Jesus, love people, and love life.” I’m pretty sure if I fight to manage our schedule, I’ll be in a much better position to live out that motto.

Question: What has helped you manage your family’s schedule? Leave a comment!