The Loss of Margin in Our Lives [Series: Margin]

Life is not getting any slower. If you are reading this, you probably feel stressed, overloaded, and tired more often than not. You probably know that you need to take more time off, more time for your family, more time for yourself. The problem is, you don’t know where to find that time. In our current world, discretionary time seems to have disappeared. But what we are missing is not time. What we are missing is margin.


The Purpose of Meetings: Informative vs. Collaborative

There are two things that can happen during a face to face meeting: creating content or sharing information. In terms of the workplace, face to face meetings should happen only when real time collaboration and discussion are necessary. They should not occur to simply share information. And yet, I imagine most of the meetings you attend fall into the informative category.



The test to know if you are too busy: margin indicators


This is my Golden Retriever, Maggie. I will argue with you all day that they are the best dog breed for families. But sometimes, okay – a lot of sometimes, I find myself too busy to properly care for her. On certain days, I don’t have time to toss the ball, I find her begging for attention intrusive and annoying, and I definitely don’t have time  to groom her to start her day.

That’s when I know I’m too busy.

Maggie is one of my “margin indicators”.  If I had the proper amount of margin (or “flexible time”) in my day, I would choose to spend some of it with Maggie. If I don’t have time to do some of these things with her, I don’t have enough margin. It’s that simple.

As Christians, when we get too busy, we get too tired. And when you are too tired, you don’t have the energy and focus to serve the Lord, and your church, effectively.

So when I notice that I’m not noticing Maggie, it’s a cue for me to slow down. It’s time to find some margin.

Another margin indicator for me is my car. I hate a dirty car – inside or out – so if it’s dirty for more than a week – time to slow down.

How about you? What margin indicators do you look for in your life?

Action Method: Organize your Ministry with this App

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As a missionary and a pastor, I juggle many different responsibilities. My tasks can change from day to day, especially when there is a special event or service planned. But normally, 9 out of 10 times, these tasks fall into a certain category of ministry.

Keeping all of these categories straight in my head proved to be impossible. Knowing what to prioritize or how much work was left on a specific project was as hard, or harder, than the work itself.

Thankfully I found a solution.

For the last year I have been using Action Method by Behance to keep my ministry life organized and in sync.

A big stress in ministry is realizing (or being told) that you need to finish a certain task, but having no good way to record that “to do” for later. So you end up emailing yourself, making a note on your phone, or (cringe) writing a reminder on a scrap of paper. No more. Enter Action Method.

With Action Method you can:

  • Record tasks that you must finish later
  • Track progress on a specific task or event
  • Plan your “To Do” list for the day
  • See a snapshot of work to do, by project or by date

Here’s an example of how I use it:

I’m in a meeting for our church plant, and the discussion ends with the realization that I need to produce a new document for internal staff use. I don’t have time to produce it now, but it needs to be completed and emailed to the staff by next Wednesday . I create an action item in Action Method: “create and email new meeting format guide to staff”. I categorize it as “church plant admin”. Then, next Wednesday morning when I am creating my to do list for the day, I open Action Method and see this task. It’s also color coded, so I immediately know at a glance it’s a church plant item that deserves my full attention. When I’ve completed it, I click the check button and it disappears. Ah, satisfaction.

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I use Action Method to tell me what I need to do and when I need to do it. It is my guide for accomplishing my goals – both daily and long range. Without it, I would be less effective, unorganized, and frankly a little frazzled.

What do you use to stay organized? Comment and describe your “to do” process below.


I’ve been trying to develop a filing system for preaching notes. If you are a pastor, you know the drill. If you aren’t – basically pastors and other speakers are always on the look out for the next inspiration, sermon illustration, current event topic, etc. These ideas can come from anywhere – and you need a place to keep all the notes, newspaper articles, stats, and pictures.

I was reading an article in Preaching Magazine recently about using Evernote as a sermon-idea filing system. This seemed like just the ticket for me, as Evernote is available on a number of different devices, including the iPhone and iPad (which I use).

I decided to test it out.

I’ve found Evernote to be extremely integrated and easy to use. I use Microsoft Outlook for my email client. Evernote integrates with it. I use Google Chrome as my web browser. Evernote integrates with it. I use an iPhone. Evernote is there. Ipad. Yep. You get the picture.

With Evernote, I can copy any link, picture, or full web page from any device. I can upload hand written notes, documents that I scan in using my iPhone (whoa!), and emails. They all go into customized folders that I’ve created to organize my different sermon topics and research interests. In short – Evernote, and programs like it, may end up being a minister’s best friend.

How do you organize your notes?

The Two Are One

I journal. Or, at least I make an effort too (sometimes life gets crazy).

I used to have 2 notebooks – one for my personal devotions, and one for journaling my thoughts at the day’s end. In retrospect, my life was compartmentalized. Not in a terrible way, but in a way that didn’t fully relate my devotional readings and prayer to what happened that day.

I’ve since combined these notebooks into one.

I hear pastors talk about being relevant. There is nothing more relevant than the Bible. Fear not pastor, if you are preaching God’s Word, you are relevant!  And there is nothing more relevant then reflecting in your journal at the end of a busy day, and thinking about how you did, compared with God’s standard from that morning.

Our life and God’s Word should intersect a thousand times during the day. The two notebooks are one.

Do you journal? Do you keep a devotional notebook? I’d love to hear your thoughts.



Focus is a major theme for me in 2011. I am focusing my energies on accomplishing the chief goal for our ministry – starting new churches in Metro Manila. With every work related activity, I ask the question “does this help me plant churches?”. If it doesn’t, it is not focused enough.

Are you focused? What question should you be asking everyday?

What Shapes You

It has been said that 2 things determine who you are: the people you meet and the books you read. I’d like to expound on that list for the times we find ourselves in…

You are shaped as a person by…

1) The media you consume
This includes traditional media, social media, books, iPad, iPod, etc, etc. We have so much information available to us. It affects us.

2) The people you communicate with
In our world, it’s not just the people you meet. I meet a lot of people. Offline and on. I communicate with a select few. Why? Because in my world that includes thousands of online friends, followers, and commenters, I have to be selective of who I pay attention too. Maybe I have time to Tweet back at you. Maybe I don’t. Maybe I have time to read your facebook note that you tagged me in for no apparent reason. Maybe I won’t. So I only communicate with a certain number of people each day, some online and some off, and they likewise for the same reason.

What media do you consume? And who do you choose to communicate with? They both impact you! 

Your comments below would be appreciated and helpful…