If you do any kind of writing on your laptop or tablet, you will be familiar with margin; it is the space around the edge of your words, between your content and the edges of your page.

If you are in business, you will be familiar with margin; it is the difference between what you make and the cost of making it (with apologies to the economists and accountants who read this).

How about in life?

How would you define margin there?

Richard Swenson, in his book of the same name, defines margin as the gap between our load and our limits, between what is needed and what we can offer.

Now let me ask you how big is your margin?

Do you live (like most people) in the space beyond 100% capacity? Squeezing in one or two more things to show how committed or capable you are?

Maybe you feel like you have no control over your margins? The sales targets keep increasing, the relational issues soak up more and more time, the opportunities are just too attractive to pass up.

Well here’s a truth I learned years ago, when I worked in graphic design for a few years: the margin is essential.

It is the margin that makes text readable, it is the margin around a logo that makes it stand out, it is the margin of a table that makes the content clear , it is the margin within each cell that makes your spreadsheet data speak.

So if you are aware of a lack of margin, the costs may be higher than you see at first glance. There’s the cost in communication breakdowns, there’s the cost in relational capital, there’s the cost in lost connections with customers or clients, there’s the missed creative thoughts, the forgotten ideas, there’s the price of fueling your existence with caffeine or adrenaline; the list is almost endless.

The best thing you can do for a long document is to increase the margins. And the best thing you can do for an overloaded life is the same.

How do we increase our margins?

  1. Identify the pressures - which margin do I need to increase? (top or bottom, left or right, time or profit, rest or creativity?)

  2. Make a plan - map out your perfect day or perfect week, do a brain dump or mind map to capture all that is in your head, then start to arrange it in a new place (on paper, on your calendar, in your budget, wherever).

  3. Say no - what are the two or three least-productive or unfruitful things you do? Stop them.

  4. Set a rest budget. How long? When? Where? Daily, weekly and monthly. Give yourself the gift of margin by eliminating whatever steals from your rest budget. (Top offenders are TV, electronics, social media, and workaholism).

If you don’t protect your margins, you are robbing us of the full benefit of you. You are devaluing what you have to offer and treating yourself as a consumable not a commodity. Invest yourself with margins - and you will profit.

Why not drop a suggestion for others in the comments?