It’s taken me a while to get my head around this concept of building in margins. And it’s something I still struggle with. But read on to find out why it’s a good space to push into . . . 

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As with so many other things, your ability as a mother to get this right will change how your family lives life. Will it be rushed? In a panic? Always sitting up the back because you were last to arrive? Believe me, there IS a way to schedule in time to sit back, relax, enjoy people’s company and BREATHE.

Here’s a story to explain what I mean . . .

One term break, I took my children to see international performer Franciscus Henri. As a very funny children’s artist, we saw Franciscus regularly on television with ABC for Kids. I’m not sure who was more excited, me or my little housemates!

The concert began at 2pm, and I drove into the carpark just after 1:55, congratulating myself for arriving on time, after a huge rush to get everyone out, and into the car. Looking around, I was a bit puzzled.

Where is everyone? I thought. The carpark was packed, but there was no one to be seen.

We walked in the doors right on time, and to my surprise the place was a seething mass of children and mothers, all crammed into the large hall. We could hardly breathe for people. I sent the older ones up the front to sit with the other children on the floor, on the edge because there was no space right in front. And I squished up the back with the baby.

When did they all get here? I wondered.

A few years later I worked for a while as a venue manager. One school holiday, we had Dorothy the Dinosaur and Friends scheduled to perform. I couldn’t believe it when families turned up an hour ahead of time, and waited in line with their noisy, jumpy, excited kids, all keen for a glimpse of Dorothy! Call me a bit slow, but only then did the penny drop. I realized for the first time that with a large crowd, it’s important to arrive early, not just to get good seats, but to seat everyone in time for the show to start. It’s a good idea to arrive super-early to those sorts of things.

Building in Margins

But the whole idea of building in margins? Oh, my goodness, this is one area where I’m continually challenged. So different to me, my husband is always early, and I’m always trying to arrive right on time – which means I’m often late. It has a lot to do with our family-of-origin values. His family focuses on punctuality, and if arriving early means you avoid being late, that’s what you do.

On the other hand, my family is never so great at being on time. Well in truth, it was my mother who was not good at it, and my father was – which caused a lot of angst in our household. But as you discovered above, I’m much more like my Mother than my Dad, in this respect at least.

However, I have now got hold of something my mother never learnt: this idea of building in margins. Practically speaking, this means I aim to be ready to leave home 5-10 minutes earlier than I really need to. And I plan to be at my destination anything up to 30 minutes ahead of time (depending how far I am going) to allow for things like unexpected traffic snarls. Whoa! It makes so much difference!

Building in margins takes the stress out of trips to school, the airport, medical appointments, job interviews, and arriving last in line to special concerts!

Not only that, it avoids things like burn-out; and personally speaking I know it reduces stress-levels. There are lots of health benefits here. Funnily enough it is possible to be addicted to running late. Are you one of those? Check here!

We are Experts at Packing-it-in

If you are anything like me though, you usually make your life more stressed than you need to, and try to pack so much in. It’s often unintentional, but every waking moment is accounted for.

School drop-off . . . grocery shopping . . .  crazy work schedule . . . after school activities . . . coffee with girlfriends . . .  friends over for dinner . . . the never-ending To-Do list . . . trips to the dentist . . . and don’t forget to take the cat to the vet!

No wonder exhaustion hits.

Don’t get me wrong. Those are all important things. The mistake is when it’s all crammed into your schedule, with barely a moment for a breather. Our 21st Century lives are incredibly busy. So, how to do you slow down enough to enjoy the moments, take time for yourself, and give yourself a rest?

Sometimes it means saying “No” to good things. Sometimes it means saying not this week, let’s do it next week. And sometimes it means getting away from the rat race, even if it’s just for an afternoon outdoors at the park or the beach.

You may find this easy to do. And that’s great. But most people are slaves to their computers and phones. Even going to the bathroom, people do not completely stop because they are checking emails! When this happens your brain and body are not getting the time to properly slow down, so you cannot be the best version of “you”.

As Michael Hyatt says, “Margin is not something that just happens, You have to fight for it.”

Building In Margin

Here’s a list of margin-building ideas:

1.      Remember this: You are important

Make giving yourself me-time a priority.  How else can you do what needs to be done if you are always the last on the list to be cared for?

2.      Create space for your children

Give the kids some time in their schedule when you are not setting up things for them. Be prepared for boredom to set in. But it’s only by being bored that they can begin to explore other possibilities, and be creative in play and activity. Try a no-screens afternoon and see what happens. Also, be sure to have board games ready, and perhaps some jigsaw puzzles, paper, scissors and markers. See what happens.

3.      Schedule couple-time

When did you last get away for a weekend with your husband, or a date night? Schedule them in. They are completely necessary.

4.      Get good at building in margin in your diary

When you are scheduling items into your diary, try building in margin there too. Instead of going directly from one thing to the next, give yourself a breather. Deliberately go and read a book, stop at a local viewing point, or let the kids out to run at the park for 10 minutes. It will do you, and them, lots of good.

5.      Hide clocks for one day

This is a great holiday exercise – no clocks or watches for a whole day! Get up when you are ready, eat when you are hungry, and enjoy life without deadlines. It’s a very different way of life. Even though they are now young adults, my children still have happy memories of those days.

6.      Be strategic

If you find you constantly turn up late, how about aiming to leave 10 minutes earlier like I do? In discussions with my husband, I think I have a much more fluid concept of time than he does. Perhaps, like me, you easily lose track of time.

  • So, what you might do is tell yourself you are leaving home at 8:15am, ahead of the 8:25am planned departure time. And then you find yourself walking out the door at 8:25am. Bang on time.

Depending on how your head works, you may have to make it longer than 10 minutes.

  • When going to a concert or event, suck it up and get there early. You could even plan to go with another family, so you can wait in line together and catch up. It’s not a waste of time to arrive early – it’s a stress-reliever.

Yes, you are a busy 21st Century woman. But you are NOT superwoman. And you are not perfect! Your heart, body and soul will thank you for taking the time to slow down by building in margins. Stop. Breathe. Smell the roses.

Take it easy!

Next Up: 20 Ways to Rock at Being a Mother [10]: Being Response-able

Have you found any tried and true methods of building in margins?