Choosing Margin in Life

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Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about hurrying and stress and the kind of life I want to lead. I don’t thrive on being rushed – in my activities or in my soul.

I didn’t come to this realization until later in life: when I was younger, I just rushed around feeling low-level terrible, occasionally falling quite ill, and being generally irritated with people when I was in a hurry, which was most of the time.

But over the past few years, especially since living in Italy, I’ve really had to question how much of the rushing, the hurrying, the busy-ness, is my choice. Sure, maybe I don’t choose the hours of every meeting I have to attend, or the closing time of the shops I need to buy from, or the train times which seem to dictate life in this city. But the truth is, I can move many meetings, I can shop another day, I can take an earlier train.

I choose the type of work I do – meetings are a result of that choice. I choose when and where to shop: if I plan ahead even just a little, I can have more flexibility. If I account for delays and other unforeseen situations, the trains seem less dictatorial.

All this choice is a privilege, not something everyone has.

This privilege of choice means that I really can’t pass blame on anyone else, though. I choose my schedule. And I am consciously choosing more margin, less rushing.

By margin, I mean breathing room, flexibility, space.

I have stopped cramming my schedule.

I’ve stopped cramming it hourly, so that even on a full day, I have time to recollect myself and I don’t feel like I might miss the next thing if I don’t time everything perfectly.

I’ve stopped cramming it weekly.  Taking a hint from The Nester, I don’t schedule meetings on Mondays. Even if I have a busy week, I know I have Monday to collect myself, deal with housekeeping tasks, and stare at the wall – crucial for my introverted self!

I’ve also stopped cramming my schedule daily. I make sure that I always have margin in the morning, so my day starts out in a restful state, and I am working on developing some ‘margin in the evening’ – which currently looks like, “lying in bed awake for a very long time trying to decompress” – clearly it needs work!

Of course not everyone has as much time or flexibility for the margin I’m talking about. But all of us, ultimately, choose our schedules, by choosing the things that fill them.

Is there a way you can begin to give yourself even an extra five minutes of margin in your day?