I am the kind of person that if I sit down at my desk, or at a computer, or a messy table, I will compulsively start working. Unanswered emails in particular call to me like Sirens hidden in rocky reefs, where I know my little bit of marginal time will be utterly consumed as I justify “just one more.” I’m guilty of even answering emails on the ride home (when my husband is driving) while he’s asking me how my day was. The boundaries of my days blur into my sense of responsibility and ownership, my work ethic demands I follow through, even if it means leaving my family waiting in the car for a half an hour.

Like any other processor, l only have so much bandwidth and when I crash, things go completely black and I become veritably nonfunctional. I become not only a disgruntled employee, I become a bad friend, an irritable mom, and a nagging partner.

The only way to prevent that crash from taking place is to stop forcing more things into my days and start leaving my margins free. Think about it in terms of margins of a piece of paper. They’re thin, free spaces there to frame the text, and when you pass that line, your paper looks crowded and messy. Keeping your margins free means having a start time and a stop time for your tasks, and not beginning beforehand and not continuing afterward, no matter what. This frames your time definitely, and leaves free spaces for your brain to pause. In our pausing, we can feel ourselves breathe, and the expanse in our lungs can translate to a sense of openness and freedom of movement into the rest of our lives, which will no longer feel cramped and messy.

This morning, it was taking the last 3 free minutes of my pre-work day to drink my coffee and say a prayer, feel my breath fill my whole self down to my toes. At lunch, it was stopping my tasks when I was interrupted during my break and finishing these thoughts. So many of us feel like our boundaries aren’t respected by others, when the fact is we never communicate our boundaries to others and then we get cranky when our margins get written in. Take time to step into your margin and pause today, and work to keep your margins clear in the future.

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