How to Keep Margin in a Busy Life

Margin in life, like business, is necessary for profitability. The profit margin is an accounting measure designed to gauge the financial health of a business or industry. I challenge that life’s margins gauge the physical and emotional health of the person.

Very often I have to gauge my life’s margin. Almost every time I look, I am in the red! Ever since I can remember I have been spending energy that I don’t have. Logically, I know that my profitability in life would be far better if I used my energy where it needs to be spent – on my ultimate priorities.

Keep sane in a busy world by keeping margins. We have margins in business, why not our personal lives as well?
Keep sane in a busy world by keeping margins. We have margins in business, why not our personal lives as well?

I’ve always loved achieving my goals…FAST! It’s very hard for me to grow my business slowly, drive slowly, eat ice cream slowly, or talk slowly. Adding one more thing to my plate each day is just what I do. My mom is like a broken record, “Stacy Lyn, you’re going to be sorry if you don’t start taking time for yourself.” What exactly does that mean? I love my life and I love what I am doing so isn’t that taking time for myself? I do know what she means; I just don’t want to think about it when there’s so much to do.

I can’t say that the responsibilities I have in life aren’t overwhelming at times. I’m always pretty much in overdrive and don’t really know when to quit on a daily basis. Every day, I am responsible for the education, character, and schedules of my children (homeschool), the household affairs, cooking  and laundering clothes for a family of 9, and managing my husband’s dental practice. I can usually do this without feeling overwhelmed, but add any inevitable problems and my stress level begins to rise.

Last week I started feeling it; the pressure of too much. I even asked my mom, “What’s the signal that lets me know that I should stop work for the day?” You know, you can always do one more thing. I hadn’t planned it, but all of a sudden life events were pouring out instead of a running faucet, like a fire hose. On top of those events, we decided to buy a post office; yes, regular people own the buildings that the post office works out of – I didn’t know that either. Although this was a great investment for our family, it meant MORE work for me. A LLC, bank account, and a rental contract for the government  had to be set up. I, then, received a letter that several repairs had to be made to the building by March 11 which meant that I have had to find a repairman that I hope I can trust as well as make the appointment for his visit to a government building. I was notified Feb. 29th. That doesn’t give me much time to make sure things are done.

Launching this website is also a new huge endeavor that is still being worked out. Any of you bloggers out there know what a challenge this can be all by itself. On the home front, I have an air conditioning duct work problem that needs to be completely replaced, a leak in the basement, tax preparation, and quarterly reports for school due.

Well, this is the perfect time for me to be reading The Overload Syndrome, Learning to Live within Your Limits, by Richard Swenson.

The Overload Syndrome really hits home for me!
The Overload Syndrome really hits home for me!

In the book, the author takes you through someone who’s life has margin and they are at 80% capacity, someone at 100%, and someone at 120%. This morning I realized I was at 120%. He gives the example of someone asking their spouse, “Can we take the neighbors to dinner and a movie?” and the overloaded partner responds, “I have a better idea. Let’s just pull down the shades and pretend we’re not home.” Have any of you felt like this? I did this morning when the exterminator called and wanted to come by NOW. I politely said yes, but my blood started rushing to my head and I thought, “If anyone calls me in the next few minutes and asks me to something….” I knew it was time to readjust.

At that point, I got the kids on task and asked the older ones to watch the younger ones (yes, you all with all little ones, the day will come) while I took a much-needed walk. I felt that something had to be removed from my plate, but what? It seems overwhelming to even think about cutting one of these things out of my life, but really it’s quite a simple fix. Often I WANT to do things I think are “musts,” but I may not be called to do those things today.

How To Keep Margin in a Busy Life

  1. What are my top three priorities?
  2. What on my “To-Do” List fit into the top three priorities?
  3. Are any of these urgent.

I then make a new list only including the things that belong in those top three. Often the “urgent” things in my mind don’t even make it on the list of top three priorities. It’s not that I won’t get to them, but most if the time, I can schedule them for another week or even month.

After I determine the priority list, I then begin to prioritize which of those things are most important and list them by importance. I give them a time and date to get done that’s reasonable and begin plowing through doing “the next right thing” and in a few days, things are usually back to my “normal hectic” life.

If after asking myself these questions and making my lists I still can’t come to grips with how to get done all that need doing, I turn to Scott, my husband, for help in determining what must be done. Often he ends up helping me to accomplish some of the tasks. It’s great to have a fresh pair of eyes to “see” the truth of the matter.

I’d love your comments and I’d especially love to know how you keep margin in your life!!


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  1. I loved this article, it made me feel normal! There just aren’t enough hours in the day! We try to have a Friday date night and relax a little and ponder how crazy the week has been.

    1. I love that. Friday night date night. We take one of our kids out every Thursday – just one of them; the kids each look forward to their turn. The other kids get to enjoy their grandparents while we are out.

  2. Lori Orlando says:

    Again, Stacy, I love your honesty and how you share your day to day challenges caring for your family, homeschooling, taking care of all your business, etc. It is a lot of responsibility for sure! I love your idea about writing down the top 3 priorities. And then making a list of things that fit into those categories. I’m going to try that!
    I often think of the verse in Philippians…”I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” I was reminded recently that this doesn’t mean all things that “I” think need to get done, but rather all things that “Christ” is calling me to do. Loving Him, loving and taking care of our families are definitely top priority. I love that you share all of this. It encourages me a lot. I’m a stay at home Mom for our son who was born with Lowe Syndrome. It’s nice being able to talk and share with other Moms. Thanks so much for your ministry and blog.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing this Lori! I can’t tell you how much you encourage me with these words. I know you are doing a great job with your son and am so proud of you!

  3. Nancy Jo Adams says:

    As an outdoor writer with a steady clientele demand who also holds a full-time job in the “concrete jungle”, I live by a planner and “To-Do/Due-List”. Even though I prioritize my tasks, and my assignment deadlines are set in stone, I too struggle with being able to quiet down that blaring voice in my head that doesn’t conform to what I “see” in my planner but “thinks” is more important and must be done “NOW”! Sometimes I struggle with that because it is simply easier to just do the unimportant task to quiet my mind which always steals valuable time from the more urgent task and throws a kink in my planner. Sometimes I can hold off from doing the unimportant task but it never leaves my mind and sometimes robs minutes here and there. It’s very frustrating. Thank you for sharing so those of us that share in similar experiences know we are not the only one struggling. The struggle is real!

    1. Hi Nancy Jo! When you are running your own schedule and have mounds to do, I agree that it is easier to stop the “loudness” in our minds. It’s certainly a struggle. You are also right about these thoughts stealing valuable time. It’s hard to turn them off. WE are in this together! We’ll regret it one day to be sure if we keep choosing the urgent over the important. There are some days though that those things must be done. I may give it a try to schedule a day a week to do the urgent tasks so that I know I’ll be getting to it. That may quiet the “loud!”

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