Know How to Create and Set Margins in Your Life

Years ago, I was visiting with my family and mentioned that I thought I might start taking Spanish classes again. I didn’t think I was saying anything shocking but apparently I was because the table went silent. Then my brother spoke and he gave me advice that I have never forgotten.

A Life Without Margins

“Your living life without any margins, you need to have margins,” he said. As first I didn’t understand what he meant but he asked me to share my schedule at the time of the conversation. From 8am to noon I was in company dance class and rehearsal with the dance company I was a member of. At noon I would eat lunch then start the office work for the dance company and the dance and drama center I co-owned. Around 4pm or 4:15pm I would begin teaching dance classes until 9pm. On nights that I didn’t teach until 9pm, I was at Washington University taking classes for a graduate degree. On Saturday I would teach from 9am to noon or 1pm and then either went home to do homework or was touring our dance ensembles (our student dance groups) to various  organizations and institutions. On Sunday was homework and dance ensemble touring if it was also scheduled on Sunday. If the dance company I was a member of was performing that would be happening Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with a Sunday matinee. 

In other words I basically had occasional Sundays off and sometimes Saturday afternoon. I also don’t want to forget to mention that when you are dancing and teaching dance that much your body is just physically tired if not in pain all the time. Never mind the idea of getting laundry, cleaning and grocery shopping done.

Some how I thought I would fit in a Spanish class? It was crazy. I had no margins. There was no room for anything to go wrong or take longer than it’s normally allotted time. My brother was referring how a piece of lined paper has a margin on both sides in addition to the top and the bottom margins. We use those spaces for the spill over of words and notes that we don’t have room for in the body of the paper.

We all Need Margins in Our Life

We all need margins in our lives because life is messy and doesn’t stay within the lines. As it happened I ended up having to have back surgery which ended up not going right. I had thought it would mean a couple weeks off but I woke up from surgery not being able to hold myself up and walk, in addition to increased pain. Obviously I was not able to dance much less come back to work for a long time. Actually I was never able to dance professionally again.

Unfortunately, because my life was so tightly scheduled, my health problems negatively affected others. I wasn’t able to travel back to where I lived. I had had the surgery in New York City and was living in St,. Louis. I made it to my Mom’s home in Washington DC to recuperate after spending some time in a New York City hospital then a hotel near the hospital.

Otherwise Everything Falls Apart

Meanwhile, back in St. Louis, my business partner was trying to cover my classes and her classes and the company work. I think she ended up bringing in another teacher to help but it was majorly disruptive. I wasn’t even able to come back to St. Louis for about 6 weeks. And then I wasn’t able to teach or work very much. 

Everything fell apart in my life because I had been so tightly scheduled that I had to drop out of everything and that not only adversely affected me but the people I worked with. I had no backup plan and no margins so that it was inevitable that things fell apart.

I also discovered I had no life outside of what I did of dancing, teaching and going to school. So when I couldn’t do those things, it was lonely and boring. I had had no room in my life to cultivate a life in St. Louis. You need margins to do that.

Do You Have Margins in Your Life?

Look at how your life is composed. Are there margins for spillage? Start blocking out your margins so that you have some room not just to get everything done but also to cultivate a well-rounded life that always has some space for “overflow.

Abigail Wurf, PCC, M.Ed helps professionals, entrepreneurs, and small business owners affected by ADHD and/or Executive function issues achieve success in business and in life. Located in Washington DC, Abigail works with clients in person, over the phone and over the Internet. Her new book, “Forget Perfect: How to Succeed in Your Profession and Personal Life Even if You Have ADHD,” is loaded with tips to help overwhelmed people get things done and be more strategic about how to live their lives. To receive a free consult from Abigail, make a request through the contact form and she will get back with you to schedule.