How NOT to Live an Overloaded Life

There is a sad fact in this world we live in. Many people live overloaded lives. They have so many activities and responsibilities that they often feel exhausted. They live from paycheck to paycheck with no room for unexpected expenses. And they keep spending their emotional and physical energy with little or no time to restore it.

There’s a book related to it entitled Margin. The book argues that many people fill their lives up to the capacity, be it in term of energy, finance, or time. As a result, their lives are no longer in balance. They might seem "productive" in one or two areas of their lives, but the other areas of their lives suffer. They might have a good career, for instance, but their health and relationships suffer.

This, of course, is not a good way to live. So what can we do to avoid such a situation? What can we do to keep our lives in balance? I agree with the book’s advice here:

Give margin to your life in the form of emotional, physical, financial and time reserves

Don’t fill your life up to the capacity. Give yourself margin. Give yourself space to breath. You might not achieve as much as other people in the short term, but you will live a happier and more enjoyable life in the long term.

Here are eight things you can do to give margin to your life:

1. Trim your commitments

You might want to do many things, but the fact is you can’t do everything you want. Trying to do too much will only deplete your physical and mental energy. Not only that, it might also take time away from your relationships.

So, instead of taking everything that comes your way, use the 80/20 rule to choose only the most essential ones. If you already have too many commitments, go over them and trim the non-essential ones. Learn to say no without feeling guilty.

2. Set boundaries

Don’t fill up your time with work. Set boundaries. For example, you might decide not to touch your work above 6 p.m. so that you can focus on your family. Or you might decide to take one or two days off every week. Everyone has different situations, so set the boundaries that work for you.

3. Spend less than you earn

This is a basic principle of personal finance but it’s an easy one to forget, especially in this age of credit cards. Credit cards make it easy for people to spend money they don’t have. As a result, many people fall into financial troubles.

The first thing you need to do is tracking your spending. The reason is that it can give you understanding of how you actually spend your money.

After that, you can take action to control your expenses. Remove unnecessary expenses. Find cheaper ways to do things. This requires sacrifices but it’s good for you in the long term.

4. Build an emergency fund

Again, this is a basic principle of personal finance. You need to build an emergency fund for unexpected situations so that you can handle them when they come.

There are different opinions about how big an emergency fund should be, but make it at least three months’ worth of your (and your family’s) living expenses.

5. Make time to exercise

Exercise can boost your personal energy and keep your energy level high throughout the day. So make it a habit to exercise, either by yourself or with a friend. You will be more productive and less stressed as a result.

6. Have enough rest

Your body needs enough rest to function properly. Therefore don’t sacrifice your sleep time for work or any other activities. Make sure that you get 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night.

7. Pray or meditate

Doing this can boost your mental energy and give you peace of mind. You can then think more clearly and stay calm throughout the day.

8. Make quality time for relationships

Your relationships are great source of mental energy. Not only should you make time for them, but also you should make sure that it’s quality time. Give your full attention to the people you are with. Let them feel that you appreciate them.


What do you think? Do you have other tips to give margin to someone’s life?

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  1. Great article! Definitely an issues that i’ve been dealing with as the years go by… I think through awareness & experience, I slowly work my way towards a healthy mental and physical well-being. Easy said then done at times.

  2. Nice things to think about. I would also add that we need to know what is important in our lives so that we can have clear intent on what we are working towards. In this way, the extraneous things are more obvious.

  3. Its funny, how I can write about some of the same subjects, and forget them myself. I totally need to REALLY put time into meditating more… It is so easy to feel the need to get right to work, and over estimate the benefits of getting your mind right first.

    That, and I already started setting limits to my work, so it does not get out of hand, I do not burn out, and always look forward to getting back to it. Thanks…

    Surfs up,

  4. Nice article. It made me think of a quote that I like about moderation:

    “What most astonishes me in Humankind is that the Human Being loses health trying to gather riches… and then loses riches trying to recover health. And for thinking anxiously about the future, forgets to live the present in such a way that ends up not living the present or the future. And lives as death is never going to arrive… and dies as if he has never had lived.”
    The Dalai Lama

  5. Excellent points Donald and it can’t be stated enough. It’s easy to get caught up in the doing of life and forget that we need to balance out our priorities.

  6. Donald: Great post. I really liked this one and totally agree that it is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. I thought the list you shared was great and helped point us in the direction of freeing ourselves from an overloaded life. I think we do need an approach and things we can do to make sure we aren’t too overloaded. Great post. Great list. Thanks for all the tips.

  7. That’s a really good way of putting it. I probably live life with a margin around it right now, but I didn’t in the past.

    I often think about squeezing something else in to my life, as I used to be able to do these things. I also used to be mentally ill!

    I think I’ll keep my margin nice and free from now on, and I will recognise that that’s what I’m doing.

  8. I was just talking about this with a friend today. I’ve been struggling with accepting when it’s “enough” – enough work, enough money, enough WHATEVER. I constantly tell myself that if THIS is good.. then this PLUS is even better.

    I don’t leave much margin in my life and I need to.

    • Yes, it’s always tempting to have more and more of something. But the key is to keep all areas of our lives in balance. Getting more of something is not worth it if it causes other areas to suffer.

  9. I love the word margin – it points so neatly to a spaciousness that’s needed so the soul can breathe, the mind relax and the emotions unwind. I also think we do all the people around us a favour when we make sure we have margins. Thanks for the post.

  10. There’s a lot to be said for fixing time for eating, sleeping, and working out.

    They’re a timeless trio of empowerment.

  11. Coming from a company called Balanced WorkLife, this is a great post.

    Thanks for giving some solid advice on the subject.

  12. Margins. This is such a good term and one that so many of us understand in other facets of our life — on paper, in the stock market, with disease. I really like how it is applied to our life overall.

    When desire for things, accomplishments, and experiences can be lightly held, we typically are in such better balance. Our deep grasping can certainly get our life whacked out.

    Thank you for your perspective.

  13. Absolutely!!!! I am really trying to work on number 7 here.

    With so much going on it can be real easy to get RIGHT TO WORK, when you wake up. I know that a meditate session will do wonders for my focus, and get me better prepared for my workday.

    Without it, you are just waiting to burn out!

    Surfs up,

  14. I think another important key is telling yourself that it is okay to not be so busy, telling yourself to not feel guilty.

    I feel that in today’s society people feel a pressure to be busy or to always be doing something, otherwise it means that they are unproductive or lazy.

    Great list by the way:)

  15. Number 2 is a big one for me. Setting boundaries has really helped me out a lot. I had to set a time when I would stop doing work, and join my friends a few times during the week. At one time I was working way too much. This just caused a lot of undue stress.

  16. Awesome points that really help everyone.

  17. Very encouraging article. In fact the whole new generation is so busy and overloaded in life that there is very little or less time for most important and vital aspects of life. Cutting out unwanted commitments or involvements is indeed key to create some quality time. At the same time, its important to take of health.

    I enjoyed reading this post.
    Thanks for the same.

  18. […] I’m in the process of reading Margin, the book mentioned in this article. It really is true that we are doing so much that there is no “give” in our schedules. This article talks about ways to add back margin. “How NOT to Live an Overloaded Life”. […]

  19. […] If you’d like to read more tips on how to live a simpler life, click here […]

  20. I have read many variations on this same advice. They are all useless.
    1) Trim your commitments. I am committed to feeding, clothing, and sheltering my wife and two children (and myself), and providing a moderately decent experience of life to the kids. Should I tell them I don’t want to pay the mortgage anymore, go find a tent or something?
    2) Set boundaries. Tell my work I’m taking a couple days off every week? Nice option, if you’re totally privileged, or rich, or something.
    3) Spend less than you earn? Which bill should I leave unpaid? mortgage? heating oil? car repair? my daughter’s tuition?
    4) Build an emergency fund. You try that when every paycheck is smaller than the bills it has to cover.

    And all the rest – “make time”. Well, maybe if I could figure out how to work my job and commute and keep the house from falling down and the cars on the road and have any time left over, I wouldn’t feel overloaded.

    Really, this is all like “How to be rich – first, get millions of dollars…”. Any idiot knows that these are the things we need to do. But when we’re totally battered by this miserable f*cking world and can’t begin to get our heads above water, how about offering something a bit more creative about how to actually reach any of these goals?

    I know I shouldn’t be pissed off that a desperate Google search for help didn’t turn up anything useful, but I wish people who have nothing to say other than just regurgitating the same tired pablum would just not bother.

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