There's a quote by Alain de Botton that I love: "There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life."
I believe this wholeheartedly, and believe that margin and balance are very different things. Margin is possible when balance is not: when you're juggling kids' or a partner's schedules, when you're taking care of an aging parent, when you're battling a life-threatening illness yourself — all on top of running a business.
Margin gives you space to think even when all your responsibilities don't distribute themselves evenly. Margin allows you to pause and breathe. Margin gives you the clarity to see which opportunities are worth pursuing and which require a "no" or a "not yet."
Margin doesn't happen by accident. It happens because of specific and thoughtful planning. I really don't believe any of us will ever achieve "balance" simply because life doesn't work that way. There are always surprises in life — some good and some not — but being intentional about creating margin allows us to make room for and to navigate those surprises gracefully.
Originally published August 2015