Margin is a term entrenched in the financial world.

Margin trading. Stock margin. Profit margin — the examples are vast.

In situ, it means the sum total between a ‘product or service’s selling price and the cost of production’.

In practice, margin is a buffer.


In other words, margin is whatever fills the gap between success and ruin.

Margin is what’s left over after both variable and invariable costs have been paid. Margin is what lifts and breaths life into the business.

Without a healthy dollar margin in the bank, the business is lifeless. There’s no room to expand, and no room for emergencies.

Ergo, there is no such thing as a marginless business.

While the terms have a strict economic application, margin and marginless are transferable.

The cult of progress and its sibling, the cult of efficacy, have killed the importance of having a breathing space between tasks.

Regaining a sense of why having a time margin is important is as life-preserving as having a margin for error when driving a car.

Dr. Richard Swenson, in his 2004 book, Margin: Restoring time reserves to overloaded lives, extended the meaning of margin and marginless to include time.

For Swenson, margin ‘is the space between our load and our limits.’

It ‘is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations’.

Margin, he adds, ‘is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.’

Margin ‘exists for relationship.’


Swenson argues that ‘the contemporary absence of margin is linked to the march of progress’ and the decline of community.

Rush hour. Instant food. Instant movies. All are part of an instant, consume ‘on demand’ culture, and humanity is struggling to keep time.

Modern-day living surrounds us with ‘frenzy, interruptions, distractions’, and a lack of direction.

The consequence is marginless living:

“Being thirty minutes late to the doctor’s office because you were ten minutes late getting out of the bank, because you were ten minutes late dropping the kids off at school, because the car ran out of petrol, and you forgot your wallet.”

Marginless living taxes us into exhaustion.

Emotional, relational, and societal ‘pains of progress’ indicate that ‘the lack of margin’ in our lives, is a ‘much greater component of our pain than most realise.’

For evidence of this, look at how high levels of stress and anxiety are harming relationships.

According to Swenson, ‘Stress is not the circumstance, it is our response to circumstance.’

One example is “jacket-on-chair” culture.

A guilt-driven workplace paradigm, illustrated by some of Allyson Zimmermann’s list of ‘dysfunctional unwritten rules’ that defy work-life balance:

  1. Walk faster around the building (so you look like you’re busy)
  2. Don’t reply to emails too fast (so you look like you’re busy)
  3. Sit closest to the CEO in a board meeting
  4. He/she who speaks loudest and longest wins
  5. Leave a jacket on your chair so it looks like you’re still around the office
  6. Send an email late at night or on weekends to appear dedicated
  7. Don’t smile too much

Modern society is conditioned to live on adrenaline.

The result is fatigue, poor diet and substance abuse.

It’s fair then to state: a) marginless living is an abuse of our adrenal system, and b) it leads to addictions.

Such as caffeine dependency, the black market for prescription meds, and other hard drugs.

Substance abuse maintains the adrenal high.

Society then turns to self-medicating or pill-popping prescription drugs to find an equilibrium. To return us to normalcy.

Time margins allow us to slow down, rest, work and play. If there’s no rush, there’s no need to feed “the rush of adrenaline.”

Facing the world with fresh eyes is better for productivity and creativity, than wearing ourselves to the bone.

Quality of outcome goes hand-in-hand with the quantity of work done. As the axiom goes, all good things take time. Even God took a day off.

We need, Swenson advises, ‘room to breathe. We need freedom to think and permission to heal. Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity. No one has the time to listen, let alone love.’

To borrow a phrase picked up from one of my wife’s favourite authors: ‘Life is not an emergency.’

Having a margin ends the marginalisation of men from the families.

The solution is to ‘regain control. Then redirect it.’

Break the addiction. Don’t let progress ‘call the shots.’

[Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels]

About the Author: Rod Lampard

Rod, his wife Jonda, and their five kids are homeschooling veterans. Rod spent 12 years in management at Koorong, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry & Theology, and is a writer for the theological, politically edgy news site Caldron Pool. Rod also writes for the Spectator. Find his personal blog here.

Leave A Comment