Winning- Living on The Edge

What are the 3 things that your phone helps you do better?…

 

FACEBOOK

Most of us would say 1. Communicate through social media 2. Manage email 3. Know the time 4. Manage schedule 5. Talk! etc

Decades ago, when they looked at all the technological inventions that were changing people’s lives, futurists predicted that the future society would be a leisure society, where robots, gadgets and all kinds of inventions would make human lives increasingly easier. In the 1960s, testimonies before US senate subcommittees predicted that new technology would speed up the work process so much that Americans would soon be dealing with the problem of too much time on their hands, and wondering what to do with it!

Of course part of their prediction did come true – progress did occur; many gadgets we take for granted today that were unimaginable then; microwave ovens, computers, mobile phones, the Internet, email, GPS and social media to name but a few. Paradoxically though, citizens of many  developed countries today, with all the progress, are the most driven and stressed out societies in all of history! They also have some of the least vacation time in the world. The irony is that we in Africa are rushing really quickly to catch up and to be just like them!

 

 

You see, the so-called ‘labor saving devices’ have made life easier for sure, but they’ve also led to longer working hours and practically no free time! Today, we live overfull, overloaded and over-extended lives. When it comes to our time, we try and fit in as much as we can into our crowded days. When it comes to finances, we spend every single coin that comes in, and often, even more, and many of us almost literally crawl to that next paycheck! And when it comes to energy, we have so much going on that by the time the we’re home in the evening, all our energy is spent, with little left over for family or for ourselves. For many of us, our lives are like rubber bands – we’re stretched to the absolute limit and holding on for dear life.

I know – that’s ironic; because we’re working hard to achieve more! But when you live your life with no reserves, you eventually experience the law of diminishing returns. The more you do, the less you actually accomplish. And eventually, it may even lead to burnout. We’re going to be looking at that next week.

This is why we’re doing a whole series about this unusual topic. If we do not get our lives in order, then many of us will not accomplish what we were created for. When Jesus died, He said, ‘it is finished’. Many of us are living such lives that at the end of our lives we are in danger of saying, ‘I am finished!’ How do we keep from pushing our lives to the absolute limit and crashing before we get to where God intended for us?

I’ve got to say, this is a difficult series because we are confronting the idols of this age… and what we’re learning from God’s word goes counter to how everyone around us lives.

This week we want to learn from a political leader who was also a wealthy businessman, prolific author, and a famous philosopher. He wrote several books to mentor young leaders so that they would avoid mistakes and win in life. So please turn with me to Ecclesiastes 11:1-2. It’s a short passage of Scripture, but one that has some powerful truths for us to unpack today…

‘Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return. Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight; you do not know what disaster may come upon the land’. Ecclesiastes 11:1-2

The context of our passage is financial, and King Solomon is urging those he is mentoring to invest widely because if you don’t invest, there is no return; no seed – no harvest! But then he goes on to further say they divide their investments into seven portions – one for each day. But after mentioning seven, the number of days in a week, he doesn’t stop there. He says divide them into 8 portions. The idea is so at the end of the week, even if disaster strikes, you will always have some reserve. He is saying, you need to put a little aside for the day may come when the unexpected happens and what saves you is that you had a little margin on the side. Solomon is teaching a very important principal, that I want to call the Margin Principle.

Margins may be defined as the space that exists between the load you are carrying, and your limit. Your load represents the things that you carry every day – your relationships, your obligations, your work, and so on. Your margin represents your tipping point – the point where you are likely to crack and go over the edge. In other words your margin is like the reserve tank in your car – the part when your fuel gauge has passed the letter ‘E’. Some people seem to think E stands for ‘Enough’! No, it actually stands for ‘empty’ and what the warning light is telling you is that you are now driving on your reserve tank and if you don’t stop to refuel, you soon face the danger of grinding to a halt, right on the highway.

Many of us are living life without reserves. Like a driver driving on E, we’re in danger of grinding to halt on the highway of life and not getting to where God intended us to get to. We have aligned all our obligations like a tightly packed tiles of dominoes with no margin of error, if one thing goes wrong, all the dominoes tip over . We get home tired, exhausted and stressed, having only managed a few of the things we had planned to. We have built our lives with no allowance for the unexpected. And Solomon is saying ‘that’s not faith, that’s foolishness!’ God gave you a mind so that you can think and plan ahead.

So which are the margins we need to build in our lives? I can think of at least three types. The first is…

TIME MARGINS – The interesting thing about time is that once time passes, you can never recover it. It’s gone. That’s why we have sayings like ‘time is money’. ‘I’m racing against time’. ‘He’s living on borrowed time’. Because we know that time is inelastic, we want to use as much of it as possible while we still can.

As a result, we plan our days with back-to-back appointments. A meeting at 10am is meant to end at noon, and the one at noon is immediately followed by one at 1pm, and so on. But there’s a big problem with this. Most people underestimate the time required to get a job done by about 30%! So you plan on taking three hours to get a job done, but in truth the job takes four. When you have no margins in between, you are bound to be late to the next thing. We haven’t even scheduled time to go to the bathroom so we’re running and the warning lights are flashing! We leave at 1.45pm for a 2pm meeting, knowing it will take half an hour to get there. The slightest hint of delay, whether it is traffic or even a slow petrol station attendant, gets us irritable and stressed, and turns us into creative storytellers. We’ve all overheard that conversation in a bus – “Oh you’re already at Community! Aaahh, I’m just round the corner, I’m on Ngong Road”! What the person is not saying is that they are in Riruta, which is technically off Ngong Road, but they might as well have been in Ngong.

How do we create time margins? What you must do is to plan each day in blocks. For instance, say your workday starts at 8:30 – plan your first block till 10:30. Second block could be after a short time margin, 11am – 12:30. After lunch have a block of 1:30 – 3pm and then the fourth is from 3:30 – 5:00: Four blocks in a day. How you build in margins is first of all by leaving some space in between, but secondly by planning for only three of the four blocks, leaving one totally unscheduled. The fourth becomes your margin; if an unexpected meeting is called, or an engagement spills over, or a personal or professional crisis comes up, you can still manage effectively.

What do you do with that half hour or 15 minutes buffer between blocks? A buffer allows you to debrief your last appointment, and prepare your thoughts for the next one. It also allows you to be on time. Among our staff team, we have a ten-minute rule that says, ‘10 minutes early is on time, on time is late and 10 minutes late is disrespectful’! But what do you do if you’re the only one on time? Well, that’s an opportunity to pray for your appointment and think through what you want to get out of it. This will make you much more productive!

I guess what this is also saying is don’t plan to accomplish more than three big tasks in one day. If one block is write several important letters and answer email, the second block is doing a departmental meeting and the third is an interview of a new hire, then anything else you do that day is a bonus!

I admit some of these may be easier said than done, especially if you work in a fast-paced environment, with multiple complex tasks and impossible deadlines. But the problem is that some of us are working a job that was meant to be done by two people! If you planned your work effectively and worked to the best of your ability within the time allocated and it still didn’t please your boss, then perhaps you are working for the wrong boss!

EMOTIONAL MARGINS

One of the signs that you have thin emotional margins is that the least bit of emotional upheaval tips us over the edge. A fight with the boss, a marital disagreement, a child falls sick, or you lose your job – something like this throws your lives into a complete tail-spin! Another symptom is being easily angered or irritated. Someone talks to you and you find yourself answering rudely. Or you find yourself snapping or scolding your children or spouse for no reason. Many parents fight with feelings of guilt because by the time you are finally with the kids, you are so wasted that you can’t really stand their stories! If you are running on empty emotionally, and unknown to you, you are setting yourself up for an emotional breakdown.

So how do we build emotional margins? It’s by doing the things that energize us. What are the things that fill your tank? For some of us, we get charged when we play sports, exercise, read a book, go to a play, hang out with friends, bake, or spend time by ourselves. You know it’s a tank filler you when after this activity, you find you are energized and ready to face the day’s challenges. Conversely, tank drainers leave you feeling wasted. It could be long meetings, needy people, relational conflict, or having to confront someone. What are your tank drainers? While the best thing you can do is to avoid or delegate tank drainers, it’s not always possible. You need to make sure you are balancing them every week with some things that add to your tank. Schedule in some tank fillers. But be careful! There are those things we do that we think are adding to our tank, but really are hidden tank drainers. Ever felt like you wanna unwind with a good series or some back to back movies? Then you find after a few episodes you can’t stop, and when you eventually do you feel even more tired than when you started? Extended time on social media or the internet also has this effect. The third area is…

FINANCIAL MARGINS – No other realm gives people more stress than when we have no financial reserves. Finances can give you ulcers, sleepless nights, nightmares and stress, especially when the unexpected happens. Many people have learnt the fine art of living beyond their means. We live by consuming close to, or more than, 100% of our income on a regular basis, leaving very little for the ‘just-in-case’ of life. This means in a best case scenario you’ll survive; you’ll stretch every shilling you make to take care of your rent, food, fees and so on, and even though you may just make it by the end of the month!

The challenge comes if you hit an unexpected emergency – you have to move to another house, you lose a big customer, you are involved in a minor car accident, one of your parents falls ill or you lose your job. Many people end up being ruined by unexpected expenses.

While you cannot control the future, you can build a financial buffer, also known as an emergency fund. This is where you set aside the equivalent of 3–6 months of your total monthly living expenses, to be touched ONLY in the case of an emergency. The amount of buffer depends on your specific situation – do you have children? Do you have health insurance? Are you trying to pay off debt? And so on.

If you don’t already have an emergency fund, it will take discipline and time to get it going. I encourage you to start small. Accumulating one month’s worth of expenses will take time, let alone three to six months. Start by creating an account where you can regularly put aside small amounts of money. You can even begin with a few hundred shillings a month. Even though this may not seem to add up that quickly, the important thing is to start putting something aside and make it a habit. It may be hard at first, but after a little while, your life re-adjusts and you slowly get used to that money not being there. This gives you the opportunity to bump it up slightly.

The most dangerous part of a sermon like this is the fact that a lot of us agree with what we’ve heard, and yet we can easily go home and nothing changes. So as we close, allow me to give you this week’s challenge. We’re going to call it #Margins…

(a) Be Early – This week, plan to attend every meeting you step in to at least ten minutes before time. This means that you will plan your day ahead and plan buffers between your appointments.

(b) Begin Your Emergency Fund – If you don’t already have an emergency fund, begin this week. Open a saving account, even if it is as simple as an M-Shwari Account on your phone. Make a deposit in that account, regardless of how small or large it is, and commit to .

(c) Boost Your Energy – Before the weekend, create time to do at least one thing that fills your emotional tank. Not TV or media related!

Brothers and sisters, it’s more important that you to finish your race that God marked for you alive, than to live on the edge and to not finish at all.

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2 Responses to “Winning- Living on The Edge”

  1. Had to work over the weekend so missed church last Sunday & as is the norm, received my sermon notes via e-mail kama kawa but paid it no mind. Come Monday, a friend (Bless you Kevin) implored me to read through the blog/sermon notes.

    Long story short, been having cray (crazy) days sometimes nights cramming loads on my plate then being irritable when it overflows & burn out checks in.

    Pastor M. you simplified this week for me. Broke down my day in tiny biteable chunks of hours & I’m proud of self (pat on the back) that I got a lot done & I had Bonus time to just chill & reflect. Replicating this for a lifetime so help me God. Looking forward to a tank filler activity this weekend that I’ve missed. As for the Emergency Fund, baby steps but getting there.

    Bless!

    Manciny Migwi.

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  2. Hello, i am enjoying this Month series. Its really a challenge though!
    Just a two sense thought…at times i find it tricky for the ” Wanjiku” to relate to this series esp. where block planning is involved and unplugging early. And for those guys like me where planning our day is a bit tricky coz of the kid of works we do…lets say a matatu conductor and Chauffeurs….Us as the “Wanjiku” we really hustle to make it!

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