Time: Having a broad margin in your life

I read a reference to someone famous writing they wanted a margin in their life. I can’t remember who, and I can’t be arsed finding the reference (it was in Gretchen Rubin’s book, Happier at Home, which I have returned to the library) as I see that as wasting the margin that I want in my life. But I think it was that Thoreau fellow. 

Anyway, I read the reference and thought, in arm pumping style, which is so not me, “Yes, that’s what I want.” 

I want a margin to allow me to do or not do things. Things that do not HAVE TO BE DONE. Things that do not shout at me to be done. A margin to breath. A margin to laze around until afternoon in my pjs. A margin to blog or daydream or gaze out the window and think about gardening. A margin to sit in front of the fan and enjoy the white noise and background family noises and be slothful. 

I used to love drawing margins in my workbooks at school. 2.5cm in red pen, using a ruler of course -how could people stand the wiggly, crocked free-hand line? The margin gave space so the page was not crammed with writing. Of course it gave room to correct errors, if, heavens above, corrections were needed in copying notes or in first drafts. But I just loved the space for nothing but to be space. 

This makes me twitch. Too cramped.

Ah!! Much better.


I want a margin in my life to protect me from work demands. (And sometimes from the demands of homeownership and adult life.)

When I’m home I want to Be At Home. When I leave the office I want to clock off from work. 

My boss sent me a text one Friday this year at quarter past five saying he’d call me later that afternoon to discuss an issue. Really, in whose definition is after five, the afternoon??? Surely the afternoon is nearly up and we are moving into the evening? And it is Friday!

I responded by saying I was now socialising and it’d have to wait until Monday morning. He apologised and explained that he’d written the text before he got on a plane and the text must have only sent upon landing. Still, he planned to contact me after his flight landed and after he had collected his luggage and got to the car from long term parking and he was driving home from the airport. That would be way after 5.30pm. Not afternoon by anyone’s standards, surely?

And by discuss issues he’d off-load a heap of shit by discussing a complaint about which I could do nothing until Monday so I’d just feel annoyed all weekend. 

I am proud of myself for managing my manager. 

Other steps on building my margin: I haven’t looked at my work emails out of hours, since disconnecting the work email account from my phone. 

OK, I haven’t been totally free after hours. Phone calls. Thinking how to deal with some issues. Discussing issues with colleagues. But still I am doing much better at “clocking off” and feeling much better. 

I’m averaging about 45 hours a week at work.  Effectively I work non-stop, maybe stopping for 15 minutes for lunch, but usually working while I eat. Really that’s enough. I am not taking my work home. 

I’m ruling a margin around my life. 

PS. On searching for images on margins in life turns out lots of people want margins and it’s a common concept in self-help blogs and books. That’s me! Jumping on the bandwagon late in life. Oh well, better late than never. Some sites tell you “Five simple ways to create margins”, others how better to use margins. Pfft. Well, der. I need to switch off my connectivity, especially from work. And walk out of the office. Who’d a thunk it??? Anyway, I’ve gone with my metaphoric exercise book margins rather than the usual metaphors of a mindful, quiet, sunset, natural image. Way too obvious!!!

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16 thoughts on “Time: Having a broad margin in your life

  1. Yep. I hear the song you’re singing, sister from another mother and father. I’ve steadfastly refused to get a work phone so that people can’t contact me out of work. They still do, but because they’re calling my personal mobile, they really do think twice. I only begrudgingly got a laptop last year when Chaos was sick *all* the time, but I make sure it stays at work. I think because, when I started, my kids were small, there weren’t the expectations that I work after work… I am happy for that to stay that way. By the time my kids are free range, we’ll have the Old People to attend to (we’re both effectively only children)

    But I still find my “other full time job’ (you know, the parenting/wife one) encroaches on the margins way more than I’d like. I want to sit on the couch with my book or my crochet or do some writing or something else creative – but I still have to Do All The Things like, I dunno, procure food, prepare food, clean clothes for people, do the bits and bobs the cleaner doesn’t do (none of which are essential, but all of which annoy me if they’re not done), pay the bills, remember who’s where and doing what, because somehow I signed up for all of that.

    Decisions need to be made, firm borders need to be raised, delegations need to be done.

  2. SO pertinent with the storms this last weekend – I just didn’t WANT to work, as the impacted areas weren’t mine. Every boss call annoyed me, as it wasn’t me who had answers and if I did, it was from other people contacting me an intruding. I was SO filthy about it all. I’m yet to have a calm chat about my boundaries… I feel my boss and his are terrified for their jobs, and it’s making my life harder, when… well… anyhow.

    I recently counted my actual hours (that I tell work) and it’s 44ish a week I think, sometimes 42, but that’s not accounting for the calls that happen sometimes in the margins. I don’t usually mind, but when I DO mind, I want to have a full on tantrum!! And then… the boss took two days off, and didn’t mention it to me – and that got me cranky cause now it IS work time, and I need his help/advice/action on things and he’s ‘off’. Yes, he says he’s phone’s on, but I don’t call. I do email. And don’t expect a response (in these cases, but generally, email is seen to me as a ‘when you can’ method)

    • I get the whole bosses terrified for their jobs. In the public service its all about protecting the political masters from bad news stories. It is really bizarre the things that get the bureaucrats jumping (via the minister’s staff).

      But then you have the added layer of being in an essential service. People understandably get worked up without power to run their stuff.

  3. Our Principal has ruled a margin around emails…none after 6pm or before 6am. Everyone is frequently reminded of Outlook’s “delay send” feature. That’s good because I don’t mind so much working over-time during term if it’s on my terms.

    Still working 50-55ish a week and I can’t see how we can meet the demands of the job in less time than that. Next week is school camp so a dozen or more off us will be on duty around the clock from Monday 8am till Friday 4pm. We also have to leave all the work for the classes we’re missing back at school (that really weirds me out…is 24 hour legal duty of care in an off-site workspace not enough?) So we’ll leave work as well and then mark it next weekend when we return.

    All good though…I won’t feel guilty when I get that ‘time-in-lieu’ back at Easter term break. And it’s definitely worth it to go hard for 10 weeks but then have holidays as our ‘margin for living’.

  4. I am enjoying a time in my life which is leisurely and I do many of the things I want to do every day. I track my overtime at work and I can take an extra day off here and there to compensate. In my dreams, I would like to have 6 or 8 consecutive vacation weeks off work – usually take just one week at a time – but otherwise, happy here.

    • I have five and a half weeks coming up soon which includes two weeks of school holidays and three and a half weeks of long service leave. I feel like taking some time in lieu but know I won’t. There’s always work that’s waiting so I can’t really nick off early.

  5. I want to go back to the days my mum and dad and grandparents knew…this busyness called life just gets too much to cope with – we are here to live but life gets in the way. Hope you find some wide margins to protect your home life from work x

  6. Pingback: How are the margins going? | lucinda sans

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