Just think of your day, week, or year as a piece of classic ruled notebook paper. All the space in the middle is where we fill up with as much content as we can. But the margins are the areas that are mainly left blank. In school this is where we received back comments from our teachers. If you are like me it is the place in book where I leave notes about a great passage or a quote I want to use later. The point is that there is space…..for more. For more thoughts, dreams, corrections and….in life time for friends.
This week I had lunch with an old friend from my early college days. Mike was one of my pack and we shared so many great adventures, challenges and formative experiences. But like so many people in our lives we lost track of each other until a mutual friend, Matt Singley, brought us back onto each others radar.
Over our lunch Mike wanted to know more about my digital shabbats or what I refer to now as my online fasts. (You can read about those here) Where the conversation quickly went to was margins. Mainly that none of us have any left. We both realized that if there was space we quickly filled it up with busyness instead of deeper things like quality time with friends and family. As I have travelled around the world I have noticed that in the US we lack any significant relationship time. There are no after lunch siestas or 5 hour dinners starting at 9 pm.
What I think suffers most in our lack of margin is our connections to each other. And I am not saying that mainly because we don’t have time for connections. We suffer most because we lose ourselves in our busy lives. We lose what Seth Godin calls “wall time”. We lose quiet moments with our maker. We begin to blend with everything around us and find at the end of the day that we have no grounding and little identity left. And from that we don’t connect with each other because we are lost ourselves.
About a year ago my wife Kristine told me she wanted to start getting up at 4am. I told her she was crazy. But I decided to try getting up with her. Now it is a habit. We rise at 4 am at least three days a week and around 5 to 5:30 on the days we don’t work out. I accidentally found a huge margin in my life. Instead of filling it up with more busyness I decided to read, pray and enjoy the very quiet hours of the early morning. If my day gets crazy I am not as stressed because I already have a reserve from every morning. And around 9pm I am too tired to stress about the day. All I want to do is be asleep.
I am currently reading Andy Traub’s book Early to Rise with a client. She wanted to start getting up early after hearing about my experiences, and asked “how do I do that too”. I had to answer, “I have no idea”, but Andy does. As I have been reading the book, a chapter a day for a week, I have noticed that it is mainly about disrupting many bad habits like going to bed late and choosing new healthy ones. One benefit is that I have found that I have a significant amount of time everyday for margin.
Do you have any margin in your life? If you had some who would you mindfully connect or reconnect with? Here is a challenge. The next time an old friend comes to mind, go one step beyond thinking about the good ole days and call them up. Invite them to coffee or lunch. Reconnect. And if you are finding yourself never having much to say in a conversation, then take a close look at your life. You may need some margin.