Margins can be a wonderful thing. They create and protect space. They separate the key information from the periphery. In books and on paper, margins provide space for you to add your own notes. Sometimes we even adjust the margins based on how much information we have to cram onto a page.
But margins are, by definition, the edges; the periphery. Our days and time fill with our priorities, with what needs done. With filling others needs. We sometimes live our lives in the margins by not keeping ourselves and our needs a priority, by pushing our self-care and goals to the edges of our lives.
Living your life in the margins can show up in different ways. Maybe it shows up for you as putting off your goals. Maybe it shows up for you as not having time for yourself. Maybe it shows up for you as staying up late and not getting enough sleep because that’s the only chance you get to catch up, or to be alone.
Why do we live our lives in the margins? There are many reasons we might do this. It’s what has been modeled for us, it’s the expectation we feel (from ourselves and from others). We can’t say no and have too much on our plates. Ultimately the beliefs and stories we have about what we should do, how we should be, and what makes us worthy of love and belonging cause us to put ourselves last. To cram our needs and goals to the margins of our lives.
What can we do about this? Ultimately you need to change your story so you believe you are worthy of putting yourself first but this doesn’t happen overnight. While you are working on this, I want to provide a few strategies for rethinking how you plan your day. I want you to declutter, prioritize and reframe.
First, you need to declutter. If you are pushing yourself to the margin because your day is just too full, you need to simplify what’s on the page. One way to do this is to streamline. For example, batch cooking or cooking a few different meals on a slower day means dinner is already ready on busier days. This streamlines your efforts, decluttering your schedule on busier days.
To declutter, you can also outsource or delegate tasks from your plate. This can be difficult, but there are many ways to accomplish this.
What are the tasks that suck more time than they feel they should?
What are tasks where others need to take more responsibility?
What are services you could utilize to free up time? For example, grocery pickup. You order your groceries online and pick up when it’s convenient for you, so you save time walking through the aisles.
What are tasks that you could probably do better than others, but it really is okay if it doesn’t meet your exact standards? For example, I take my dog to a groomer now. I prefer how she looks when I do it myself, but I get joy and time from not having to do it myself.
Second, you need to prioritize. Ruthlessly. What are your life priorities? Narrow them. Narrow them again. You shouldn’t have more than 3. Your life should revolve around meeting those priorities. And you (your health and wellness, your social relationships, what brings you joy) should be one of them. Each day or week when you are planning out your time, ask yourself how your plans and actions support those priorities. As long as you are one of those priorities, you won’t be shoving yourself into the margins.
Finally, and this is a little counterintuitive, you can reframe how you think about margins. Instead of margins being overflow, where you cram in what couldn’t fit in the plan, margins can be built-in breathing room. Instead of squeezing everything you can into the planner, add in margins around these things. Build in buffer time before and after tasks so you aren’t rushing. Protect this breathing room for yourself. This built-in space throughout the day means time for yourself doesn’t get crammed into the margins.
If you’ve been living your life in the margins, it’s time to make yourself a priority.
Brown, B. (2015). Rising strong: How the ability to reset transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York: Random House.
Dalton, T. (2019, February 11). The Key to Prioritizing Your Workload. Retrieved from https://ppx.inkwellpress.com/blog/the-key-to-prioritizing-your-workload.
Sincero, J. (2013). You are a badass: How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life. Running Press, Philadelphia.