I hate the word busy.

I’ve learned the hard way that overscheduling myself with a packed day is not only counter-productive, it’s a horrible way to live. I don’t like for my schedule to be 100% full.

In his book Margin, Richard Swenson says: “Most people commit to a 120 percent life and wonder why the burden feels so heavy.” He continues, questioning why we rarely see someone schedule only to 80%…  “leaving a margin for responding to the unexpected that God sends our way.”

I don’t want my life to be so overscheduled that there’s no time for the spontaneous. I don’t want to miss out on opportunities for God to lead because I scheduled away our availability.

I’m constantly reminding myself that saying no isn’t a negative thing, that it can be one of the most positive choices that I make.

When’s the last time you said no with intention?

  • Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God

    I love the idea of “leaving a margin” for the unexpected! It’s only taken 52 years, but I have finally grasped the concept of leaving room for being available to/for God. His ways of using me or interacting with me are so much more fulfilling than the things that I plan. I am a “recovering” perfectionist and over-scheduleaholic and I have to say that learning to say “no” can be such a blessing because it allows you to say “yes” to God. Thank you for a wonderful post and good reminder…

  • Kerith Stull

    Finding the margins… What a great thought — the label/wording AND leaving room for it! Great way to start my morning. Thanks!

  • http://vanessa32313instagram Vanessa

    I love when you mention that:” you don’t want to miss out on opportunities for God to lead because I scheduled away our availability”
    Thank you

  • Stacey

    Thank you for a great reminder! I knew a Christian woman that said many years ago that the enemy loved “busy” Christians. As a younger woman at the time, I didn’t understand. I now realize we can become so busy….even FOR God that we do not have time for Him.

  • Sandi

    I’ve been doing a lot of that here lately. I leave little time for the things that need attention like my house but most importantly….GOD. Yes, I will defintely do my best from now on to learn to say no to some of the tasks and say yes to GOD.

  • Lisa Blake

    urm… think the last time I left room for spontaneity and said no with intention was before marriage and children. It’s been a life of trying to please everyone and often becoming fraught in the process of managing the whole family’s schedule so my own feels like its 200% full! I love the idea of simplifying and saying no with intention – 80% schedule – no lets be daring 75% schedule sounds idyllic….. my new phrase on the fridge – LESS IS MORE! With God’s grace, a whole load of prayer, a good dose of courage and your encouraging words, I feel like I might be able to make some changes – thank you!

  • Linda@Creekside

    Yes, dear Nester. It’s all about the white space, the margins, the place to breathe deep, to pause long

  • Nancy R

    Hi, I just said NO yesterday to our church asking for more volunteers to help with a cleanup. I used to fill my days right up when the kids were at home–not necessarily all the time with things outside the home, but included managing the home and the children. I now have bipolar disease and I have to say no to keep me on balance. God works in mysterious ways.

  • Jamie Rohrbaugh

    I’ve been working on that! I just said “no” the other day when I got a call from the children’s pastor at my church, asking me to help serve with the kids’ ministry. I don’t have kids yet myself and don’t have much experience with them yet, and I’m already terribly overcommitted and don’t feel called to that area at all. So “no” it was, even though I hated to disappoint her. But I am so glad I did! Even thinking about taking on another thing stressed me out.

  • Tricia Robertson

    I used to think of ministry as a scheduled, planned thing and I was constantly over-booked. Since I’ve been saying “no” more often, I’ve found that ministry can occur when we simply show up for life. Margin allows us to be present and available when those God opportunities arise, whether it involves stopping to listen to someone’s troubles at the store, praying for an immediate need, or just giving others more grace when they cut us off on the freeway. God bless them, they probably need some margin in their lives.

    • The Nester

      well said!!!

  • Debbie Putman

    This summer, for the first time in years, I allowed margin. I had a long to-do list, and start school tomorrow with most of it undone. What I am is more rested, filled with His grace. What I am hoping is the new school year belongs to Him, not me.

  • Rachel Q @ TrippingOverTypeset

    I’m finally getting in the groove of this NOT over-scheduling. I find it really takes discipline and intentional “no” action! Even saying “no” to checking emails and Facebook and instead quieting my mind and spirit…listening for His voice instead of the voices of other people’s status’s and emails to me. :)

    • The Nester

      yes, you are so right, it DOES take discipline to say no, I think we assume it’s a lazy choice but sometimes it can be so difficult and intentional.

  • Beth Williams

    For me saying “No” is quite easy. I realize, with older parents, that the unexpected can happen at any moment in time. I also like having a little “Me” time in a day to relax and reflect. I might use some of that time to read the Bible, or listen to Christian music & do devotionals.

    I enjoy “busy” days, but not so full of activities that you feel rushed & unrelaxed. My hubby and I drive a lot to get places & need down time from all the traffic.

    Love the idea of a margin.

  • Penny

    The word” margin” has taken on a whole new meaning. Thank-you so much for the reminder of how important it is to leave the door open….otherwise we might not be aware of who we may have shut out.Or who we were not meant to shut out.


  • Rachael @ Mommy, LCSW

    I have been struggling with being over scheduled this summer, and have recently been reminding myself of the need to slow down. Thankfully, we have a gloriously unscheduled week this week! I need the slower pace, and so do my kids. Having time to slow down and enjoy the moment is o critical for their development, and my peace of mind. Thanks for the confirmation!

    • The Nester

      enjoy your week Rachael!

  • Ruthie Lewis

    love this! I’ve learned to say no and not feel guilty about it. I now know what I need and can handle and when I live this way, my Peace and Joy meter sky rockets!

    Ruthie Lewis
    Author, Speaker, Life Coach

  • Kate

    Oh, I so resonate with this.

    Our God is in the business of doing the unexpected! Full of surprises and twists and turns. And allotting Him time, room, space…..there is blessing in it. He will show up :) And our hearts and minds will be a bit more at peace because of it.

    Good, good word.

    Kind Blessings,
    Kate :)

  • linda

    Great thought for the day. I have given myself the freedom to say no when I have to. I should use it more often. Still having issues pleasing people, when it is God we should be trying to please instead.

  • Marinalva Sickler

    Short, precious, and powerful! The option of leaving a margin is better than rush through or losing it all.

  • Carrie

    This is profound. I have been wanting to be more intentional with my time, and I’m glad that I found this reminder to leave room in the margins. Life does feel better that way.

  • Kim

    This is the first summer I haven’t booked anything other than a week at the beach. While it’s been odd having such a wide open calendar it’s been such a pleasure just to spend time with my family and really BE with them without the pressure of the next thing that has to be done. It’s given me the freedom to enjoy them.

  • Emily

    Love this. I struggle with it all the time (saying “no” is not always easy and definitely takes some intention!), but find I really need some extra margin to maintain sanity and to allow the Lord to speak into me and fill me. I read Swenson’s book recently and found his premise to be spot on.

  • Joanna

    You’ve talked about creating margin before, and it really resounded with me then…I am guilty of living 120% and burning out not only myself but those around me who I love the most.

    I used to feel bad saying no to things if I didn’t have a reason to say no…as in, something ELSE planned/scheduled for that time. Now I realize I can just say no in order to PROTECT that precious time from being eaten up.

    Blessings, Joanna

  • Lis

    First, I just have to say how much I appreciate this short, but very sweet, post. A post can be direct and get right to the point!

    I don’t know why–especially as a Christian–I have been so conflicted about that word “no.” {To the point I’ve been mulling a blog post about it.}

    I believe most of my life leaves room for the unexpected, but I allow many weeks to become a race of running from one thing to the other.

    Today I said no and though I knew it was the right decision, I still feel bad! It’s hard to know the balance of extending past our comfort zone or going out of our way to help {bless} someone and also needing to protect our time and boundaries.

    Great post. Food for thought for sure!

  • Ann

    A few years ago my hubby and I made the decision to be intentional about leaving lots of margin in our lives. I’ve noticed 2 things about refusing to be busy: 1) A lot of people don’t get it – they think it sounds impossible, or dull, or they think we really are busy but just manage it well. 2) Our tolerance for busyness has gone waaay down. The more we creep towards being busy, the more agitated our kids act and the more irritated we are with one another.

    On the other hand, while I say “no” to say many things, I feel like I’m making much more of an impact in the Kingdom and in the lives of those around me than I was when I was committed up to my eyeballs in churchy things.

  • Lisa

    Fabulous perspective!

  • Vivi

    What an excellent choice of a hated word! I tried to guess what it would be as I navigated from my e-mail notice to this post. I considered “sucks,” “hate,” and a few others. “Busy” never crossed my mind. But it is spot-on.
    I have spent my life being busy–juggling work, family, community–to the neglect of myself many, many times. I’ve had to deal with the fall-out from those well-intentioned choices, including the health consequences and the just plain old exhaustion and even resentment–not so much of people but of “situations,” of “life in general” taking turns that threw more and more burdens my way. I also realize I’ve not felt “good enough” and that I’ve tried to prove myself worthy–to myself and to others.
    When was the last time I said “no” with intention? Just this morning. I said it to myself. I didn’t “have to” get up and start my usual routine of coffee and prayer time. I could say a longer prayer lying in bed (& that didn’t make me a heathen or cause me to lose brownie points with God), then bring my coffee back to bed so I could feel the pleasure of my heating pad on an aching back, and enjoy an important book I am reading for a bit. So I said “no” to the hardest person for me to say that to: myself and my “shoulds.”
    Thanks for an important post!

  • Kelly @

    This is such an important reminder. Thank you for this.

    I learned this lesson the hard way. Boy, did I!

    I find it difficult to say no in the workplace, so I put together a list of tips for me and others who struggle with it too. I’m still learning though!

  • Esther

    What a great reminder especially during this time when my children are off from school. So many events and ministries to be a part of but I just felt God tugging at my heart to say no to many of them in this season. Now I just need to learn not fill that time to feel productive but to enjoy the simpler things in life as well as just sitting and spending time with God.

  • Shelly Hendricks

    Chronic illness and disability have been a blessing in disguise in my life for just this reason. I was very guilty of scheduling life to 150% at all times. I didn’t even realize what I was robbing myself and my family of, and I especially didn’t realize that I was closing my ears and sometimes my talents, to God. As much as I pray to be restored to health and ability, I also recognize the ways that God has used these circumstances to fulfill Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
    Now I try to enjoy my cleared schedule and the time it has allowed me with my family and my God, instead of wallowing in the unfairness of it all. And as much as I miss being able to DO and GO, my children and my husband have all told me since my illness how much they appreciate the slower, calmer me.

  • Mary Lee Carrigan

    I can’t remember who I heard/read this from, but it has stuck with me! Everytime we say yes to something ….. we are saying no to something. What are we saying no to? Now i think before I say yes ….. will this mean a no to my family when they need me, etc. Definitely changed me to think this way. I don’t have to be super mom and be involved in every activity there is ….. might be super in they eyes of the world, but at home to the ones who matter – i’m a worn out, cranky mom. Not the way God intended it to be.