Picture a book that had no margins — the words completely filling each and every page of the entire book. Would that book be an easy read? No, it would feel chaotic and busy, probably even overwhelming.

So it is with our lives. If we don’t allow white space to breathe and refresh, but instead pack every moment of every day full to the brim with to-do’s and projects, our lives will feel chaotic, disorderly, and exhausting.

If you have a full schedule, you probably won’t naturally find much margin or breathing room in your life. Instead, you have to be intentional about cultivating it. Here are some ideas:

1. Allow Two Extra Hours Each Day

Instead of packing every hour of the day with an activity or project, schedule in at least two hours of margin time. This is buffer time to allow for the interruptions that are bound to happen. And if you don’t have two hours’ worth of interruptions in a day, you can use the extra time to do something relaxing and refreshing.

2. Schedule Time for Refreshment

We’re all wired differently, but one thing is true for everyone: we need to make time for refreshment. What this will be and how this will look will be unique to each person.

Some people are refreshed by doing something like sky-diving or rock-climbing. Me? I’d prefer to have a heart-to-heart talk with a friend or to cozy up in a quiet and clean house with a hot cup of tea or coffee and a good book.

Ask yourself what truly refreshes you. Make a list of the things that come to mind and then think through how you can incorporate some of these things into your everyday life.

Maybe it’s taking time to call a friend to catch up for 15 or 30 minutes a few times per week. Maybe it’s hiring a babysitter so you can go out to coffee with friends for a few hours every other week. Or maybe it’s just shutting down the electronics early, making yourself a cup of tea and spending 15 to 30 minutes with a good book before bed.

3. Foster Beauty & Creativity in Your Life

Make time for beauty, art, and creativity in your life. Once again, what constitutes “beauty” for one person will look different for someone else. But we all need to take more time to soak up the beautiful things in our life instead of rushing through our days at breakneck speed.

One of the reasons I aim to always have some kind of handwork project going — be it knitting, embroidery, or something else — is because it gives me a sense of fulfillment to create with my hands. And this creativity often breeds creativity and energy in other areas of my life.

I also love to drink tea or coffee out of cute mugs, listen to music with rich depth, try yummy new recipes, watch movies and read books with really great story lines, and burn delicious-smelling candles. Each of these are little ways that I seek to cultivate beauty, art, and creativity in my life — and in our home. They are such simple things, but they inspire and enrich my life.

4. Count Your Blessings

If I’m too busy to count my blessings, I’m just plain too busy. Reading One Thousand Gifts really inspired me anew in this area.

My mom gave me a Blessings Journal — a little journal with one line for each day of the year for you to write a blessing down. I’ve loved this because it’s so simple: it only takes 30 seconds each morning to write down a blessing or two, but it helps me to start out the day reminded of the wonderful blessings in my life. You could do something similar with a notebook or journal.

Take time each day — either when you get up or when you go to bed (or anytime in between!) to recount the many things you have to be grateful for. This will change your whole outlook on life!

When you take time to breathe deeply and have margin in your life, you’ll not only be in a much healthier and happier place, you’ll also be more refreshed so you can give out to others. Not to mention, you’ll just plain enjoy life a whole lot more!

Want more practical help and inspiration for finding breathing room in your life? Pick up a copy of my book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode

How do you carve out margin and breathing room in your life?

Don’t forget to be entered to win one of 5 copies of Say Goodbye to Survival Mode! Just head over to Monday’s post and leave a comment to be entered to win!

photo by snap713; photo by cuttlefish
  • http://faithspillingover.com betsydecruz

    I’ve been inspired by the idea of margin since I read The Overload Syndrome by Richard Swenson. These are some great ideas. I especially like what you say about creativity and having a handiwork project going.

  • Ruth

    I loved the margins analogy. I plan out my week in different coloured pens each Sunday afternoon. I plan in time with God, time for work, one coffee data each week, housework, appointments BUT I never plan in the margins! Thank you for this gentle reminder xx

  • http://www.creeksideministries.blogspot.com Linda@Creekside

    I’m all about white space and margins … and I’m so resonating with your heart and pen this morning, Crystal.

    I love Richard Swenson’s books. He really goes there …

    Solitude, rest, sanity, peace in our souls, in our spaces. YES!

  • http://bushelandapickle.com linda

    Could not have put it better!

  • http://about.me/RoseAtk Rose Atkinson

    This is truth! My word for 2014 is refresh and I am doing all of the above. It is working (though I am not out of the woods yet). Finding margin is key. Thanks for posting this!

  • Jen

    At first I felt that I was a failure at this! but, as I work full time in front of a computer…I have the blessing of reading these wonderfully encouraging emails! And, i connect with many people via email during the day. One of God’s greatest blessings in my life is how He uses cyberspace to bless me, and for me to connect and bless my friends who I would not otherwise have time to chat with.
    Now, if I could just have a clean house… haha!

  • cindy

    Good post Crystal! What u call margin, I call transition time. Th breathing room between activities where I give my mind time to shift gears. Kinda like a manual transmission vs automatic on a car. Our bodies n minds were not designed by God to go thru life at breakneck speed. It can be a recipe for ill health, depression, etc…
    Once again great post!

  • annie

    the word ‘margin’ makes me feel afraid. afraid that i’ll never have margin because there’s always something else to do. and feeling that if other things and people were more perfect, then i’d have some margin.

    boy, that was hard to say. :)

  • Ruth

    Annie, well done for what you’ve been brave enough to share. The Lord loves your honest heart. This may sound trite but I do believe that God’s desire is for YOU to step aside and take rest and refreshment in the margins. Psalm 23 comes to mind to pray for you. Keep being honest, it’s a precious gift but look out for the refreshment of still waters. Xx

  • http://www.smallishblog.com Evelyn Rennich

    I am a big fan of white space and breathing room in my daily sched. I hate rushing from one thing to the next, so generally (if commitments allow), I only plan ONE extra/out-of-the-house-thing for each day, in the morning. I have two young boys and one baby on the way, so that mid-morning slot is really all I have in between feeding them, catching a solid nap at home and preparing a homemade dinner. I find that only allowing one activity a day that doesn’t directly contribute to a thriving life at home is a major blessing to me, and I can still keep my family on a predictable routine. As for my own white space, I live for that quiet nap time hour that I can pour over the Word, journal, and sip a cuppa tea.

    Thanks for this great post! :)

  • http://www.solocontestas.com sylvia edna

    Thank you Crystal for the tips. I can identify with creating something. It gives me a sense of fulfillment and it does breed energy.

  • Tiff

    Thank you so much for these words! I’m a full time pastor and a stay at home mom. I truly try to squeeze something into every moment of my day….rushing to and fro because I’ve tried to do much in the time frame I’ve been given. I think I can always do one more thing before move on to the next appointment. You’ve helped me get a mental image of what my life looks like…a book without margins. Even during down time, I’m folding laundry or answering an email or sweeping the floor etc. I love the idea of a two hour buffer! And scheduling what I would call some “white space” time sounds heavenly. I’ve missed being creative the last couple years and just thinking about it makes me excited, refreshed and more like ME. Thank you!

  • Varsha

    Crystal ,
    I can’t put in words how much you have been to me in this past few years.. We have never met each other nor have we spoke to each other but your words have brought peace in me when I have been lonely and down .. Your advices have made a great differences in my life and and I am still learning a lot from you.. Today was plain another hectic day.. I plan to keep margin everyday in my life but some duties do take over my day and I am exhausted and with a terrible headache by now.. I read your blog multiple times a day and now reading this tells me to slow down again :)
    But now I am just taking a few minutes off from my to do list to read this and comment :) I also need to get a journal and write about my blessings … Just started and stopped doing it .. Feeling guilty now.. Thanks for all your support and encouragement to many of readers like me..
    May God bless you and your family..

  • http://joyceandnorm.wordpress.com Joyce

    Great tip to set aside those 2 hours!! :)

  • http://acrossmytable.blogspot.com Mrs.T

    I loved this and needed it today. Great, great advice. I too always have a needlework project going. I believe creativity is God-given and I am determined to nurture it in my life. My projects often take awhile (in some cases, years!) but I work away at them and find it so satisfying to work with my hands to produce something beautiful.

    I find, too, that God also helps us be creative in other areas — planning meals, cooking and baking, decorating, managing our homes on a budget, and many more. He even helps us to think creatively!

  • Beth WIlliams

    This whole month has been one chaotic whirlwind for me. My family, mostly one sister and I, are trying to get my dad moved into an assisted living facility. No one can image the amount of paperwork, meetings, long distance phone calls, etc. that must take place. After much work we are finally moving him this next Thursday. Praise God!! :)

    All this pressure and stress-plus the added workload has put me into “crazy mode”. I finally got some time Friday afternoon and just did nothing–no phones, work, anything. It felt good for a change not to be super tired and overwhelmed.

    I schedule some refreshment time each day. I get up a little early and have some hot tea & read the Bible before work. It helps to start my day.

    Also love your idea of a blessings journal. I have done a thankful journal for years. I begin by making a master list of what I’m thankful for–God, church, sins forgiven, etc. then each day I put in what I’m thankful for that day. It really puts into perspective how many blessings God has bestowed upon us!

    Blessings to everyone! :)