Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives
Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives

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RX: FROM THE DESK OF RICHARD A. SWENSON, M.D. Overload is not having time to finish the book you're reading on stress. Margin is having time to read it twice. Overload is fatigue. Margin is energy. Overload is red ink. Margin is black ink. Overload is hurry. Margin is calm. Overload is anxiety. Margin is security. Overload is the disease of the 90's. Margin is the cure.

As a medical practitioner, Dr. Richard Swenson sees a steady stream of exhausted, hurting people coming into his office. A majority of them are suffering from an uncontrolled societal epidemic: living without margin.

Margin is the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits. It's something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations.

As a society, we've forgotten what margin is. In the push for progress, margin has been devoured. So we feel distressed in ill-defined ways. We are besieged by anxiety, stress, and fatigue. Our relationships suffer. We have unexplained aches and pains. The flood of daily events seems beyond our control. We're overloaded.

In Margin, Dr. Swenson provides a prescription against the danger of overloaded lives. Focusing on margin in four key areas-emotional energy, physical energy, time, and finances-he offers an overall picture of health that employs contentment, simplicity, balance, and rest.

If you yearn for relief from the pain and pressure of overload, take a lifelong dose of Margin under the care of a specialist. The benefits of good health, financial stability, fulfilling relationships, and availability for God's purposes will follow you all your days.

"I am excited that Dick Swenson has decided to put in print the guiding principles of his life and Christian ministry. I am confident this book will be a great inspiration and practical help to all who read it."-Jay Kesler, president, Taylor University

"If contentment made house calls, its prescription would be 'increase your reserves.' In his timely book, Dr. Swenson offers the perfect prescription for our hurried lives. Margin is a home remedy for people who've run our of time, energy, confidence, and courage."-Tim Kimmel, author of Homegrown Heroes and Little House on the Freeway

"With the experience and insight of an astute clinician, Dr. Swenson offers an abundance of thoughtful, constructive steps to overcome the pressures of contemporary life that impair our efforts to attain balance and find inner peace. Margin provides valuable suggestions to every reader interested in physical and emotional health."-Armand Nicholi, Jr., M.D., associate clinical professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

Customer Reviews:

  • this is the book you have been looking for ~ read it
    This is a wonderful book. Dr Swenson shows you how to turn off , tune out, unplug, get off the grid. If you feel like you are running all the time, burning the candle at both ends, you are. In this book Dr. Swenson shows you how to get your life back.
    This is one of my favorite books and it has a permanent place on my bookshelf. Everyone in our cities & states.. needs this book. Get back to what really matters in life. Read this book. It will change your life and you will be glad you bought this book.
    ...more info
  • Very practical
    Our family doctor recommended this book when my husband was facing tremendous stress. It's full of very practical things to do that actually help. My husband put his watch away immediately, among other things. He was glad he read it. Just about saved his sanity. He knew he was stressed, but he didn't realize what it was doing to him till he read Margin. I'm so thankful he got it. ...more info
  • Margin in life
    Great help in working through the demands of life. Margin helps one to think through and prioritize the myriad of things that cry for attention. This is a must for those who are being crushed by the busyness of their lives....more info
  • Something To Think About
    This book is something that everyone over the age of 21 should read carefully and think about for a long time. Then, make steps to create margin in your life. This book explains why you need margin, how it can change your life, and how to find/create it. Our society is careening towards self-destruction... here is a way one person at a time to change that. Read it like a college text... underline it... then implement it....more info
  • Changing my life
    What Swenson writes makes so much sense. This book is changing the way I approach work and life in general. I am even giving a talk to young adult ministry leaders this weekend incorporating many of the principles from the book. This is a much read to ask you to take a close look at your life and what you are living for....more info
  • Reduce stress, increase your quality (and enjoyment) of life
    Richard Swenson has given us a "how to" book for reducing stress, increasing our quality (and enjoyment) of life by increasing the MARGIN in many areas of life. MARGIN is the difference between the resources we have and those we must have based on commitments we make. For example, financially, if we need $75,000 per year to live and we make $100,000, we have a margin of $25,000. I specifically liked the author's point that 100 years ago most people had much more MARGIN than we have today. Whether it is the MARGIN in our finances or the MARGIN in our time commitments versus how much time we have to give, the smaller the MARGIN the higher the stress and the less productive and satisfied we are as human beings! I also liked the point that Swenson made that MARGIN time can be used for planning, creative thinking and other activities that get lost when we are too busy and stressed out. The author's message is much needed in today's fast paced and hectic world - and, who knows, perhaps more MARGIN (savings, health, etc.) could impact the entire world if more people applied the principles in the book....more info
  • This book teaches you how to live life like Jesus lived.
    Margin was one of the best books I have ever read. I have read it three times so far. It teaches you how to live life in a manner that seems to me the way Christ meant for us to live. Most of us are living life the way "the world" says we should. The book, Margin, makes you step back and review your life and reevaluate your priorities. I think it can help people reduce their stress and get much more enjoyment out of life. It teaches a simple life style, and wanting less, not more. If you read these reviews, Dr. Swenson, I just want to say thank you. I am buying two more copies for stressed out friends....more info
  • Who do you have time for?
    Dr. Swenson asks us if God were to ask us to do something, could we say yes? That was quite an eye opener for me! Who ever thought about being available for God? This book did change my life and made me refocus on my priorities. I think our society equates busyness with productivity. Not necessarily true. To the point, the author walks what he talks and that meant a lot to me. If you are not happy with your present lot - this book could be a great help!...more info
  • This book changed my life
    This book made me quit a daily radio show that I loved -- and I couldn't be happier. I read "Margin" before having the author on as a guest. Reading through his description of "marginless living," I felt like he'd been spying on me. I was editing a newspaper, running a news service, doing a radio show, taking freelance jobs, and going to grad school. Something had to give, and too often it was my health and my family. "Margin" helped me learn to say no to good things that just don't fit into my life. I still struggle with "overload," but this book has given me practical tools to deal with the problem. Swenson's clear diagnosis of the problem of overload, combined with no-nonsense solutions, is just the cure for our overloaded times....more info
  • Buying copies as gifts
    This is an excellent book. The author does an amazing job of articulating the concept, need, and application of a life lived with margins. I am purchasing copies for my friends....more info
  • Recycled platitudes disappoint
    I was drawn into purchasing this book through the hyperbolic five star reviews of others. I can only wonder if they are the author's friends, or better yet, "where's the beef?" The existing reviews talk about how life changing the book is but are slim on content.

    I'll comment here about Section 2, regarded as the most useful part of the book - the part where we're told how to get margin back in our life. The areas where we need margin are categorized as emotional, physical, financial, time and so on. To restore emotional margin, the author suggests getting a pet, having hope, building relationships, and growing in faith, hope and love, among other things. Nothing earth shattering here; the same can be found on any self-help website. To restore financial margin, one must live below their means. A revelation! To restore physical margin, eat well, exercise often, and try to get sound sleep.

    Are you getting the idea yet? This book is full of recycled platitudes - homespun wisdom which has evidently fallen into disuse, because it takes works like this to remind us "of what really matters in life." I have more confidence in people than the author: I happen to believe that the vast majority of people realize that if they don't have enough time in the day to do things, they are quite capable of turning off the television and getting the things done which need done. They certainly doesn't need to drop the coinage on this book to realize that is the cure.

    Sorry 5 star reviewers, I guess I didn't need the Kool-Aid. I was raised with enough common sense to know all this stuff already. I'm pretty disappointed with the total lack of anything novel in this book. I haven't found anything my grandmother probably hasn't told me somewhere along in life.

    ...more info
  • Prescriptions for how to simplify your life
    This book opens one eyes to the frantic futile pace at which we are living. Not only does it accurately describe the problem, but there are excellent prescriptions given for how to get out of the rat race and the many traps we have set in our lives....more info
  • A Key Book for All Christians: In My Top 25 All Time Books
    Margin is a crucial book for any serious Christian. In a day of pushing the envelope, Swenson urges us to leave room ("margin") for the unexpected (and to reduce stress).

    Many believers schedule their time to the hilt, live within their credit limit rather than their means, and displace time with family and God with good things, but not the most important things.

    Although Swenson, himself an M.D., practices what he preaches, he does perhaps go a little overboard in some areas (resisting buying a computer, wearing a watch, etc.). But, all in all, he argues for balance and sanity to replace the rat race many Christians join. He gives the reader permission to be counter-cultural. He asks us if we could imagine Jesus leaving the Last Supper because His pager went off!

    As a pastor of 24 years, I have used this book to help me manage my own life. I have shared its Biblical insights from the pulpit and used this material extensively in my counseling ministry. This is truly a "must read" book. It is a life changer....more info

  • Cure for Overload
    If you don't have time to read this book...nuff said...but maybe you should. In this wireless, marginless age, I've noticed that I'm often the only relic on the rental car bus without his nose buried in his Blackberry or iPhone. Not that I have this subject mastered---far from it. It's a daily discipline to build margin into my life.

    So, tell me. How do you relate to Dr. Dick Swenson's eloquent description below of the difference between living a marginless life versus the real thing? He writes:

    Marginless is fatigue. Margin is energy.
    Marginless is red ink; margin is black ink.
    Marginless is hurry; margin is calm.
    Marginless is anxiety; margin is security.
    Marginless is culture; margin is counterculture.
    Marginless is the disease of the new millennium; margin is the cure.

    It's likely that you---or several team members---live on the precipice of a marginless life, without adequate emotional energy, physical energy, time or finances. A life WITH margin honors God---the opposite does not. If you've never read this classic, or it's been a while since you've done a margin self-assessment, you'll deeply appreciate Swenson's practical and biblical look at a healthy life that is characterized by contentment, simplicity, balance, rest and authentic relationships.

    He's very, very practical. The margin doctor suggests you deactivate your home answering machine, or record this message, "Please wait for the beep and hang up." I describe my really dumb workaholic former lifestyle in the "Team Bucket" chapter of my book, Mastering The Management Buckets: 20 Critical Competencies for Leading Your Business or Non-profit. Swenson's book has the cure for overload and is a must companion to mastering the buckets. It's a keeper and it deserves a place of honor in your organization's resource library.

    ...more info
  • Fantastic
    This is clearly one of the best books that I have ever read. This book really changed my life. This is a must read for any busy person ... it will save your life....more info
  • I know how you feel!
    This book really covers that sense of urgency that we Americans feel today. Dr. Swenson offers great suggestions for acknowledging the lack of margin in our lives and learning how to restore it. A must read, but follow it up with "The Overload Syndrome"!...more info
  • Margin Changed My Life
    After reading Dr. Swenson's life-challenging book, our family did what he did and left life in town to move to the Backside of Nowhere. With all of our "good" activities pulling us in 20 different directions, we had to do something to regain control of our time, our life and our environment.

    That was in 1998 and we haven't regretted it once.

    The fruit of this move is becoming evident in our children. They have the time and space they need to mature responsibly and this mom now has the time to live life with them in an incredible environment. We call it Paradise.

    We've built learning centers throughout our log home, all through the woods and even in the creek to create a natural sense of adventure because we want our children to enjoy learning while they are young.

    Dr. Swenson's Margin, and God's provision, gave us this life....more info

  • A needed and helpful book for busy people
    I recently realized that every time I see someone on television sleeping in a hammock, I'm envious. It just looks so appealing! Well, I think I know why. It's because people who have time to nap in a hammock, have margin. Today I finished Dr. Richard Swenson's book of that title, which rates as one of the most important books on life-management that I've read. Swenson is convinced (and I think he's right) that we live in an unprecedented age where the pace and complexity of life conspire to produce exponential levels of stress and overload. Margin is the space in various areas of our lives - physical, emotional, time, financial - that can protect us from overload. When margin decreases, stress increases and burn-out is the end result.

    Swenson spends the first part of the book discussing the cultural changes and societal reasons that account for the pain of stress and overload. This is his diagnosis of our pain. Much of this material reads like a sociology textbook and might even be boring to some people, but that should not put one off from reading the book.

    The second section, discussing the presription for overloaded lives is really the heart of the book, and easily make the book worth reading. The prescription is margin - margin in physical energy, emotional energy, time, and finances. We don't have margin because we overwork, overcommit, overspend and overeat. We spend too many hours at the office, accumulate too much debt, spend too little time in silence and solitude, neglect nutrition and exercise and rest, and fail to nurture important relationships. What we need is a strict regimen of lifestyle changes which will help us cultivate margin in our bodies, our souls, our calendars, and our budgets. This calls for discipline and intentionality. These chapaters are especially helpful in providing wise strategies to help us along the way. I've read a good bit of this material twice.

    The third part of the book deals with the result of building margin into our lives, namely health - health measured in contentment, balance, rest, and relationships. The chapters on contentment and balance were especially helpful to me, partly because they probe deeper than behavioral issues into the motivations of the heart. Other positives in the book include Swenson's extensive quotations from sociological and cultural researchers, his personal anecdotes, and his meditation on Scripture. Some weaknesses are an occasionally corny writing style, some weak interpretations of Scripture, and perhaps assuming too much from less than scientific research. But these are mild criticisms at best and do not really affect the overall message or usefulness of the book.

    As a whole, this is a commendable book and one that is needed by most of the people I know. Almost everyone is too busy, stressed, tired, and overloaded. I certainly have been. And I intend to make some changes. One of those just may be purchasing a hammock for my back yard, so that I can enjoy some afternoon naps every now and then while my son plays in his sandbox nearby....more info
  • A Timely Antidote to What Ails Modern Man
    As its subtitle suggests, MARGIN is a holistic treatment of the modern day malady called overload. Written by Richard A. Swenson, M.D., a former practicing physician, the book is the result of more than a decade of professional research and personal experience.

    Following several years as an associate professor at a state medical school, Swenson now writes and speaks full-time as an expert on the intersection of faith, health, culture and the future. And his insightful analysis here does not disappoint, as he succeeds brilliantly at bridging the gap between the sacred and the secular, the timeless and the temporal.

    Defining margin as the space that exists between people and their personal limits, Swenson suggests it is has largely been squeezed out of our lives and become yet another casualty of the harried and hurried times in which we live. Yet margin must be restored if we are to experience health through contentment, simplicity, balance and rest, he says.

    From the opening chapter titled "Marginless Living," Swenson describes the decimation left in the wake of living with chronic overload. From our overstressed teachers and overworked farmers to overburdened pastors and overwhelmed parents, society at large has succumbed to the pressures of progress.

    And, according to Swenson, the type of overload we are experiencing is a relatively new phenomenon, exponential in growth and unprecedented in scope. Fueled by the power of technology, living today has accelerated to warp speed, with many people yearning for a rest stop, if not an exit ramp, off the frenetic freeway of life.

    "Progress's biggest failure has been its inability to nurture and protect right relationships," writes Swenson. And he suggests that the remedy is a return to a safer and saner lifestyle, one where people are thought of as priorities instead of problems, time is considered an ally rather than an enemy, and material wealth is less about making money than it is about living meaningfully.

    While the price of progress can exact a painful toll, through the establishment of healthy limits, such as learning how to say no to over-commitment, Swenson advocates that a renewed emphasis on voluntary simplicity not only enhances one's standard of living, it is fast becoming a necessity for survival.

    Swenson's frequent use of statistics, figures and graphs --- especially as he diagnoses the symptom of pain caused by overload --- can itself be somewhat burdensome at times, but it is well worth wading through the material to get to the marrow of his message: the prescription of margin for a prognosis of health.

    As proven and prescribed by Dr. Swenson, MARGIN acts as a timely antidote to what ails modern man. And with sales well into six figures since its initial release in 1992, the book has earned its well-deserved place among contemporary Christian classics. Explaining complex change in context is Swenson's calling card, and his cure for it is a cause for celebration. Consider it a house call from heaven with hope and help for the soul.

    --- Reviewed by Sean Fowlds...more info

  • What The World Needs Now is.....Margin!
    If Dr. Swenson knew me he'd have given me a copy of his book so I could be the prime example of the changes it would make in a life. I especially appreciated his explanation of the differences between life then and now--the world is not just different, it's grown exponentially. And our stresses have grown at the same rate. As Dr. Swenson points out, this is NOT the way God intended us to live. SLOW DOWN--find out how, and how to make your life more meaningful and more fulfilling. We'll all appreciate it as we regain margin in the world around us....more info
  • Swenson Boils it down to Simplicity
    I'd skip the first half of the book as it is a bit tedious and statistic-y, but the latter half is revolutionary. Dr. Swenson gave me permission to slow down, to live simply, to enjoy people
    more than things. He proposes a radical way to slow down life. He made me long for relationships, frugality, giving hilariously, and contentment....more info
  • Good and Practical Suggestions for Dealing With Life
    Swenson's book is an excellent and timely read for the person who wants to learn how to develop more time and space for a fruitful life.

    The book's layout is orderly and the text is easily understood - thankfully, Swenson does not attempt to impress the reader with technical jargon and knows how to address his audience. Swenson organizes the book into three main parts: 1) The problem (pain), 2) the prescription (margin), and 3) the prognosis (health).

    As mentioned earlier, Swenson describes the problem of pain and the prescription of margin in layman terms. Swenson describes how we can either place undue pressure on ourselves or allow society to dictate the unrealistic expectations we are expected to live up to today. Especially helpful were the prescriptions Swenson prescribes for dealing with today's insane rat race. Particulary compelling were the suggestions for balance, rest, simplicity, and healthy relationships.

    All in all, an excellent read. The only reason I did not give it 5 stars was because I believe (in my humble opinion) that the author spent a little too much time describing the problem - he did not get into a comprehensive definition and description of the term "margin" until 1/3 of the way into the book. Despite this minor complaint, I highly recommend this book. The Christian will be encouraged to just rest in the love and acceptance of Jesus while the unbeliever will be encouraged to consider life is more than just career success and busy activities....more info

  • Please be more considerate of my margin!
    The topic of this book is timely and the concepts are important. I recommend the book because it has some very helpful observations about our overly busy society and it has a number of good suggestions on how to live life with greater sanity and satisfaction. I give the book only three stars because the author's writing is tedious. He either had a great book idea and the publisher told him the book needed to be thicker, or the publisher failed to edit with sufficient vigilance or both. The first five chapters could have been cut in size dramatically. It doesn't take 5 chapters for anyone living in the United States to realize that there is a problem with "margin." I wish the author had respected how time starved we are and starting discussing the solutions quite a bit earlier....more info
  • More practical than most, a great prescription for living
    Dr. Swenson not only points out the loss of margin in modern life he gives practical answers. When he says you need to open space for yourself emotionally, financially, physically, and with your time he doesn't leave you hanging. With each area he provides "prescriptions" that can be put into practice. In addition, he finishes by outlining the long term disciplines which are necessary to preserve margin in your life. Margin for what? Margin to live, to build real relationships and to regain the sense of purpose for your life....more info
  • Practical and Relevant
    This book makes sense. It is very well written, easy to understand and incredibly practical for today's world. It is a must read for anyone who wants their life back! It will challenge the way you live, your priorities, your relationships and what living is all about....more info
  • Excellent Read
    Very insightful book regarding the nature of stress and how to better manage it. ...more info
  • Excellent
    I think everyone would benefit by reading this book!! Most people have their priorities mixed up and are stressed out when they don't really need to be. Oh sure, we all think "Well, it's different for me..." but when you look at the whole picture realistically and what is really important in life (God,family,friends,helping others)and focus on all those blessings we already is so much more rewarding and stress free! Thank for this eye-opening and excellent book...and for offering it for use in the churches adult Sunday school class!!...more info
  • Margin - good but not what I was looking for
    Well thought out analysis and discussion, easy to read. I was looking for something with more Biblical material in it so the book didn't suit my needs....more info
  • Don't bother with this book.
    Unfortunately, Dr. Swenson has not written about anything new and offers no new solutions for fully loaded lives. Some of it is common sense in what to do and it is all about choices. I also was very disturbed that he came across that people can just quit things without suffering greatly. As a doctor I am sure it was easier for him. This ideal world of farming in the third world is not all great either. He seems to think that you can work part of the time and then leisure. Farmers have no leisure. They work or they don't eat and it is a 24 hour a day profession. I also don't see any solutions for single parents that have to work 2-3 jobs to make ends meet and tend to their children's needs. It is a pretty upper class perspective on life and needs. He offers no solutions to these perspectives. I also found the book very negative in the respect that perhaps we shouldn't want so much and we could do more without. I don't worship a God that thinks that way. The God I know and love wants us to prosper (not be greedy) but expect good things in our lives because we are his children. I saw none of that in his book....more info


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