As you travel through the countryside, you may notice an area around the edge of a field which is planted with a different crop to the main field. They’re called arable field margins and exist for various purposes: to provide a buffer zone to protect streams and hedges from the agricultural activity; to provide pollen and nectar for those all-important pollinating insects; or for wildlife conservation purposes.
These margins are today regarded as a key part of arable farming, not just an aesthetically-pleasing extra.
On the page, margins make text easier to read by providing some white space around the words. Ever run out of paper and ended up scribbling in the margins? It makes it very difficult to decipher your notes afterwards.
So margins offer protection, opportunity for refreshment, the chance to conserve important elements, and help us to make sense of things.
If we were to set up and observe margins for ourselves, could they perform the same function? Could they stop our work and our lives becoming overcrowded and confused?
Here are some areas where I’m trying to preserve margins:
Margins around my diary
I work in an organization with multiple buildings in the same city. None of them are more than ten minutes’ walk from each other, but without some margin in my diary, I end up rushing around from one meeting to the next. Even when they are in the same building, meetings without margins mean that I don’t take time to process one meeting or reset my mind for the next one.
Using margins to create a combination of meetings, time to work independently and time to work with colleagues allows me to have a more balanced approach which in turn I find to be more effective.
Margins in my social schedule are important too. As an introvert, I need to build in quiet time to recharge my mental batteries. If you’re an extrovert who is working from home at the moment, perhaps you need to book in lunch with a friend to break up your day.
Margins around my workload
Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I’m the best person to do it. Perhaps I think the right person is too busy, or maybe I’m too busy to train them, or maybe I think I’ll meet resistance from either the person who requires the job done or the person to whom I’m delegating, or it’s just easier to do it myself: any number of things can mean that extra tasks encroach on my core tasks. I’m carrying too much and am bound to drop something. End result: I risk doing nothing well.
Margins around my money
I read recently that the recession has hit saving habits hard. In these uncertain financial times, I want to manage my money as effectively as possible to ensure that I have some financial flexibility.
How about you? Are you trying to squeeze in another meeting today? Or rushing to do the shopping before the dentist to save time later and then missing your appointment? Are you taking on a project because it’s quicker than briefing a colleague who could really add value to it? Are you going for a run now to balance out those Krispy Kremes later?
Today’s pebble for you to contemplate:
In which areas of your work or life would it be helpful to preserve margins?
What do you think?
Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.
If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we can work together?