Five Keys to Creating Margin in Your Overloaded Life

14 August 2022


Our culture pressures us to keep working and consuming. It takes a conscious effort to step back, take a breather and re-prioritise, but doing so is really worth it for good health and peace of mind.

“We have more ‘things per person’ than any other nation in history. Closets are full, storage space is used up, and cars can’t fit into garages, having first imprisoned us with debt. Possessions then take over our houses and occupy our time. This begins to sound like an invasion. Everything I own, owns me. Why would I want more?” This is a gripping quote from a book by Dr Richard Swenson called Margin.

The subtitle of the book says it all, “Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives.”Margins

Richard A. Swenson, M.D. is a futurist, physician-researcher and bestselling author who received his B.S. in physics and then became a general practitioner. In 1982, Dr Swenson became an Associate Clinical Professor within the University of Wisconsin Medical School. As a physician, his focus is “cultural medicine,” researching the intersection of health and culture. As a futurist, his emphasis is fourfold: the future of the world system, western culture, faith, and healthcare.


Life in modern-day Australia is essentially devoid of time and space. Chronic overloading is the culprit: margin is the cure. (Note: I borrowed some of these words from the promo.)

This best-seller explains what margin is, why it is important, how it disappeared, and steps to get it back. Margin is the space between our load and our limits and is related to our reserves and resilience.

It is a buffer, a leeway, a gap; the place we go to heal, to relate, to reflect, to recharge our batteries, to focus on the things that matter most.

Margin offers seventy-five practical prescriptions for restoring margin in the essential areas of emotional energy, physical energy, time, and finances. Margin restores what culture has taken away: time to listen, strength to care, space to love.

I read the book some time ago. My wife got it for me as a cure for my Type A personality. It did not cure me, but it certainly mediated my extremes. I recommend it highly!

Larry Stockstill in his blog post, How to Implement Margin and Change Your Year, boils creating margin down to five key principles.


1. “Quality over quantity”

This one statement will help you slow down. It’s not how MUCH food or how FAST a human can eat, but how good it tastes going down.

Look at your work. Is it quality? Are you too hurried to look at the details? Do your projects end up as a hot mess in your lack of systems and rush to accomplish? Who wants a car they rushed to put together in order to meet a production quota?

2. “Stretch, don’t pop”

I saw a guy blow up a hot water bottle into a huge balloon. Suddenly, it reached its maximum limits and “BOOM.” Dr Swenson said it is a scientific fact that a camel carries such heavy loads that one added straw can break his back!

Grow, increase, and stretch… just don’t pop! Determine your limits and stay well inside of them. If the hot water bottle pops, it is of no use to anyone.

3. “Measure, don’t guess”

Ask anyone and they will tell you they are a “little busy.” Analyse their hours per week and you will see a totally different picture.

Margin operates on measurements. Check your physical performance (blood pressure, heart recovery after exercise, etc.). Look at your finances and how vulnerable you are to going broke. It will immediately help you get out of the “red zone” in any area.

4. “Relationships over resources”

Don’t miss your life trying to pay for it. If you live above your means, you will never have time to be with the ones you are providing for! The question is: “Three jobs… or three kids?”

Build in white space like the margins on this page. Don’t cram every space with something that makes money. If you do, you will have no time left for when your child tugs your shirt to go out and shoot basketball.

5. “Plan your margins with your spouse”

Don’t get defensive. Let your spouse speak into your life about the margins they see you running past. Implement their observations. The life you save could be your own!

Slowing Down

So why am I talking to you about Margin?

Last week I was chatting to a high-level training executive who spends his life working with people. He told me yesterday, “Warwick, I am going to start walking the dog.”

I said, “What do you mean?”

“Well, I am trying to do too much all the time. The people I work with are demanding my time. The projects I am working on are requiring more of my time. I am running out of time, so I have decided that I am going to start walking the dog more.”

I asked him how that is going to help. He said,

“African people say about us in the west, ‘You white people have watches but you have no time.’ So, I’m going to create time for me to walk my dog with my wife or even with my kids or even just on my own. This is going to help me slow down. I will do less, but that will create margin for myself and my family, because that’s what we need at the moment.”

Does anyone have a dog for sale?


“It is good to go on strike occasionally. Try!” These are the words of Richard Swenson that we should all heed from time to time.

Your homework? Have a crack at applying those five things outlined by Larry Stockstill to create margin.

Yours for More Margin,
Warwick Marsh

PS: Final invitation to join us at the Men’s Leadership Summit, Tops Conference Centre, on the weekend of 26-28 August 2022.

Bookings have been extended to now close midnight, this coming Monday 15 August 2022.

See video promo here, or watch below.

Download Summit flyer here.

Register here.


First published at Dads4Kids. Photo by Anna Shvets.


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