Can the Lack of Margin Cause Overwhelm?

What does an overwhelmed life look like? In my last blog I talked about overcoming overwhelmed by addressing the fears that keep you in an overwhelmed state. If you have not read it, here is the link.

Today I want to discuss what I consider to be a huge contributor to a person's overwhelmed state - ....MARGIN or better said a LACK OF MARGIN!

For clarity, the word margin means an edge or border. So imagine guard rails on a highway, the edging around a flower bed or even a page break in a document.

The word margin may sound sterile or only for those in business but margin is really about having space. Margin is space on each side of an appointment AND accurate space for an appointment. Space to transition between tasks in your day. Space to be off, space to be still, space to rest, space to listen, space to learn, space to be refilled.

In my coaching I will see one of the following:

  1. No planning. The calendar is blank.

  2. Planning just the appointments. There is a lot of blank hours.

  3. Rigid planning. No blank space because every appointment buts up to each other.

For those in camp #1 - you may think that all that planning robs you of freedom and spontaneity.

For those in camp #2 - you believe the appointments with others should be on the calendar but never give thought to putting you on the calendar. And, you also like the thought of all that blank area for times of spontaneity.

For those in camp #3 - you are so structured that if one appointment goes over your day is behind.

Today I want to talk about #3 - in my next blog, I will address #1 & #2.

Are you a rigid planner?

  • Is your day hijacked by ONE person being late or that phone call going over by even 2 minutes?

  • Is your calendar scheduled so tight that every time you look at it you get overwhelmed?

One of the thoughts that leads to this is that a person feels like if they don't plan EVERYTHING they will not accomplish anything. There is some wise thinking in this thought, stay tuned to my next blog, but the problem is that they are letting tasks overtake their calendar instead of letting their calendar be a place of intention. There can also be such a drive to hustle that a calendar with space or margin implies being lazy. Got your attention yet?

When we just plug in tasks there is a great chance that our day WILL NOT go as planned.

Why because we are just putting a warm body in a seat, not really checking to see if it belongs there and can do the job.

Rigid planners usually:

  1. Don't give enough time for a task, appointment, or project.

  2. Don't factor in any transition time like driving there or back.

  3. Overlap tasks to the point they end their day with a lot of uncompleted items.

  4. Don't factor in down time for themselves.

Why? Because they under estimate the time it will take and under value their self-care. The basic fact is that we all need to refill and recharge. The flip side is if you run on overwhelm all the time you will crash. Just think about that last vacation where it took you a couple of days to get in the grove only to go back to the grind. If your living for vacations and weekends you are definitely not building margin into your life.

What is the fix? Before I get to that let me caution you that there will be some juggling at first. You will need to be open to moving appointments, accepting that getting less done in the day on paper will actually make you more productive and healthier!

1. Open up your calendar.

2. Choose tomorrow's schedule.

a. Do you have transition time in between appointments or tasks?

b. Do you have enough time allocated to each item? For example, you might have blocked out 30 minutes to run to the grocery store. The store is 10 minutes from your house. So you are only giving yourself 10 minutes to shop. Is that possible? Even if you are running in for one item you are assuming the store is not busy or you won't see a couple of more items that takes you out of your 10 minute window.

3. Go back in and extend your appointments/tasks to a reasonable time frame.

4. Now surround those appointments/tasks with margin/space of transition.

At this point, you are seeing a more realistic and less overwhelming daily schedule. You may also need to reschedule appointments/tasks because they are now overlapping with others due to allocating the correct time frame and transition time.

Create the habit of building margin into your schedule and you will start to drop the weight of overwhelm!

In the midst of a universe that cannot exist for a second without constant motion, God transcended the order of nature. He stopped. He rested. And He prescribes the same for you and me.

Priscilla Shirer

Do you have any questions or need any direction with coaching, please email me at or check out my website at

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