Pastor: How To Keep Your Margin in a Fast-Paced and Busy Life

introducing margin in the life of a busy pastor


The busier I am the more margin I need. One way to ensure there is margin in my work, is to plan out an Ideal Week.


Do these numbers mean anything to you? 12, 23, 36, 53, 73, 96? Or perhaps you would prefer them in “old money”? 40, 75, 118, 175, 240, 315? What might they have to do with margin?

They are the braking distances for cars in metres and in feet at 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 and 70 miles per hour, according to the UK’s Highway Code.

Faster Means More Margin

The faster I go, the more margin I need.

Pastor Rick Warren

For some reason, those braking distances jumped into my head. Quite a few years ago now, I learned through them that the faster your vehicle is going, the more margin you need between you and the vehicle in front of you. The faster you are going, the longer it takes to stop.

Suddenly, I had an eureka moment: the faster I am going with work, in other words, the busier I am, the more margin I need.

This is, of course, the exact opposite of what we usually think in the moment, when we’re busy. When we have a lot on our plate, the first thing that comes into our head isn’t usually, “You know, I should leave all this work and take half a day off”! More likely, is the thought, I could just cram in one more task here, or I don’t need to rest this evening, I’ll work up to midnight instead.

Margin is the difference between rest and exhaustion. It’s what helps me to breathe a little more easily.

Planning Margin into Your Week

Thanks to Michael Hyatt, one of the best ways I have found to ensure there is margin in my work, is to plan out an Ideal Week. The Ideal Week helps me to plan out my week in advance. This would be what my week would look like if I had 100 per cent. control over it. In it, I create some margin: spaces between activities, or reflective activities such as meditation, workday startup ritual, workday shutdown review, prayer and journalling, reading, breathing space, Sabbath and weekly review, and so on. Whilst most weeks don’t look completely like this, they are in my digital calendar as a template, and as things change, the blocks are moved around, but crucially, I try not to fill up the spaces, nor forget the reflective practices. This becomes incredibly hard, but as Rick Warren reminds us, even more crucial the busier we are.

If you’re a Salvation Army officer, or someone else who uses Microsoft Outlook, then it has recently introduced a setting under Calendar to automatically shorten the duration of all events in your calendar – up to 10 minutes early for an event that lasts up to one hour, and up to 15 minutes for any event that lasts an hour or more. This is a great way to force you to remember to add margin into your schedule!

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

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