Planning for Margin

Some of us are just better at planning ahead. People who do a good job of planning and preparing have some habits that the rest of us miss, unless we hang around them long enough for them to rub off on us. I am one of those people that used to be famous for improvising at the last minute and running at break-neck speed from one thing to the next. Until I married my husband many years ago. He taught me the value of planning for margin. Thankfully that habit has become part of how I think now and I find myself in a lot fewer emergencies as a result. I am not as good as he is and probably never will be, but so many aspects of my life are better because of this one habit, I decided to write about it.

Margin reduces risks.

In the beginning as I worked to establish a better habit, it seemed like a waste of time to take the first part of my day to look over the plan to add extra time in my calendar to drive somewhere comfortably or to take a break between calls. But when I did take the time — the benefits I started experiencing were enough positive reinforcement to help me understand the value of this practice on my life and relationships. For example, planning to arrive 15 minutes early made me less likely to experience stress when the traffic was backed up for some reason or I hit every red light. It also reduced the likelihood that I would speed or run a yellow light because of worry about being late. Arriving a little early actually felt great! I could feel calm and peaceful inside as I arrive. And of course others began to show their appreciation for my respect for their time too. Those of us who tend to underestimate the time required to get somewhere usually have a reputation for being disrespectful of the time of others. Weak excuses can take us only so far and eventually people become annoyed with repeated lateness and actually lose respect for US. If we excuse ourselves too often, it can even lead to the loss of important relationships.

The biggest benefit of all.

Maybe everything I’ve said thus far is kind of obvious. But the biggest surprise of all was that I began to hold MYSELF in higher regard in MY OWN EYES. Who would have thought that this would be the most valuable gift of all. As we choose to plan better, give ourselves some margin of safety and respect others more thoughtfully, we give ourselves the most valuable gift of all. Self-respect. One step at a time, it grows inch by inch until we hold our heads a little higher every day. These inches are nuggets of gold invested in our self worth. Who would have thought that a small change like this could make my life more peaceful, calm and fulfilling too? But it has. I can honestly say I am proud of myself for changing many traits that I used to excuse as “just my personality”. This helped me coin the phrase I share freely today….”we start with our personality — but it is our character that shapes who we become.