“Great leaders create margin, good leaders pay on time and poor leaders ask for an extension.”

One of the most common challenges in the 21st Century is feeling stressed and chronically overwhelmed. Too many leaders are busy, tired and feel stretched because there always seems to be more to do than we have time or energy to do it.

When life’s demands appear to be greater than our resources, the result is stress. We feel stressed about our lack of time, physical and emotional energy, relational demands and financial pressure.

Stress then shows up as irritability, anxiety, not eating well, poor sleep habits, not exercising regularly and making hasty and usually poor decisions. Stress comes to everyone, especially those who try to live and lead without a margin.

The concept of “margin” is based on the premise that it is wise to leave space in our lives to deal with the unexpected or unplanned events that always arise. This is in contrast with our tendency to pack our schedule full, or (as some people frame it) to “make the most of our time.”

Change starts with awareness and acceptance of present reality. If we don’t think how we are living creates problems for us, our family or our vocation, then we won’t change. So it might be wise to start with being brutally honest with your schedule, finances, tasks and commitments.

Take a look at your life and see if the occurrence of “unexpected events” are fairly common in your life and create stress because you don’t allow space in which to deal with these unplanned for events.

Great leadership is not about how hard you work, but how smart you work. If you don’t learn to fully disengage, you will never fully engage with passion, energy and effectiveness.

Without margins, interruptions become frustrating roadblocks rather than opportunities to see God. When we operate at or near 100% capacity, we have no time for interruptions.

No opportunities to see God outside of our pre-ordained to-do lists and jam-packed schedules. Yet, I would argue this is primarily where God is found, in the margins and “interruptions” of life.

Leaders who lead without margin not only damage their own life and relationships, they lead organizations into failure every day.

Pause and give thanks today for the good things in your life and put some time in your schedule to do “nothing!” Many times doing nothing is the best way to accomplish more.