Relief for Overloaded Lives

Bill Bispeck
3 min readSep 1, 2023

Do you have Margin in your life?

In his book, Margin, Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, Richard A. Swenson, M.D. speaks to all who are caught up in today’s fast pace culture. Many people seem to be driven to jam pack their lives with as much action and activity as they can experience. We are bombarded with slogans like “You only go around once in life”, and “Go for the gusto.” Making the most of every minute seems to be a prominent value in today’s corporate culture and in our lives outside of work. The idea of rest has become a theoretical concept. Why has this happened and what can we do to counter what Dr. Swenson believes is the greatest pathogen in today’s society and the greatest saboteur of true contentment?

Swenson believes this great human pathogen is “Marginless Living.” He defines Margin as the space between your load and your limits and he looks at it not only in the time dimension of our lives, but also in the physical, financial and emotional arenas. As finite beings we all have a limited capacity for doing things. Today’s society pushes us to commit ourselves at near 100% capacity utilization. We strive to get more done with less and do it faster than ever before. After all that’s progress, right?

Do you have margin in your life? If we carefully plan, commit, and schedule every minute of every day we can become very time efficient and very productive. However, if something unforeseen comes up, we quickly move into margin deficit status or overload.

The author says to consider the margin on the pages of a book. If you take your ruler and measure the margin dimensions of the page of a typical book and calculate the area, the surprising result is that the margin occupies 40 to 50% of the space on the page. What a waste of space! Just think of how much paper we would save if we took out the margins. This would save a lot of money and a lot of trees considering all the books published in the world. Right? Can you imagine a book without margins? It would be chaotic and aesthetically displeasing. We don’t begrudge a book its margin but we do tend to deny ourselves margin in our lives.

If one flies from New York to Los Angeles and changes planes in Chicago, one doesn’t schedule only five minutes to change planes. That would be insane. However, that is how some of us design our lives. I know I have.

Swenson maintains that speed, education, and technology are not the answers to all the world’s problems. Lives out of balance in the long run make leaders unhappy and ineffective, like a light filament that burns brightly before burning out.

So, what about it? How do you restore margin in all areas of your life, that is, if your agree that margin is worth having? Dr. Swenson orders up the prescriptions in his fine book on the subject. For each area of life, emotional, physical, financial, and time, he prescribes very specific steps to restore margin and reduce pain. His overall strategy is centered on the practice of simplicity and contentment. This book is a good read for leaders and may very well change your life.


“I don’t have time to put gas in the car.” — Unknown Author

“There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.” — Henry A. Kissinger