Ah, employment. Margins are defined by Richard Swenson as the "space that once existed between ourselves and our limits. It's something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations." To have margins at work means that you have enough time to complete necessary tasks, plan for future (possible advancement) and still have time left to go home and have a life there, too. How do you do this? Here are some thoughts to help you answer this question:
1. First, ask whether your job has sufficient margins for your comfort. Some jobs are really meant for two people and no matter how hard you work or how dedicated you are, the job is out of hand. How well compensated are you for your job? Certainly we all understand that some jobs require periods of stress. Constant stress, however, due to lack of margins, creates an unproductive environment. How often do you worry that, despite your best efforts, you cannot complete your tasks at hand (let alone plan for future tasks)?
2. Consider yourself. Are you well-suited for the job you have? Does it energize you on a regular basis? If not, why not? Are you approaching or at your limit of toleration for this particular job, industry, or career?
3. Think about your workspace. Does it allow for constant interruptions? If so, is there any way to screen less-essential activity? At the very least, you should have uninterrupted planning time every day. Some people can make do with a few minutes and others may need the better part of an hour. Put up a sign that says you should only be interrupted for important reasons. Be proactive about creating some margins to get your work done.
4. Another aspect of your workspace to consider is whether you have adequate supplies that are handy. Do you have enough envelopes, staples, a hole-punch, water, etc., so that whatever it is that you need to use on a frequent basis, you can access it easily? Or, are you using up any time margins you have by hunting down a 3-hole punch or a piece of stationery several times a week?
5. Get a planner and use it. Organize your tasks for the day, week, month, quarter, year, and build in margins for accomplishing them.
6. Start saying "no" to non-essential tasks. While you might enjoy serving on the "Morale Committee," it might do more for your morale to get your job done.
7. Don't be lazy and then claim that you don't have enough time (or margins) to complete your job. If you've ever played a computer game at work then I'm talking to you. Read Larry Winget's book, It's Called Work for a Reason! Your Success is Your Own Damn Fault. This is an in-your-face book and it's worth reading and sharing with others.
8. Are you (really) doing your job and also doing part of someone else's? Is that person being compensated for the work that *you* are doing? If you're serious about creating margins at work, you must report this. Go immediately to your supervisor and say "enough is enough." If the person is your supervisor, go up another rung on the ladder. Be prepared for repercussions, both positive and negative.
9. Consider whether you are paid a salary or an hourly wage. Certainly salaried individuals are expected to work until the job is done, but that does not mean you are expected to work yourself into an early grave. Ask for a job description review. The job may have outgrown one person.
10. If you simply can't create any margins in this job, and if it's driving you nuts, you need to start looking around for something else. Ask your friends and family if they think you should get a new job - sometimes the response will surprise you.
Some of these are a little "edgy," but working month in and month out with no margins will take its toll. Consider what applies to you, and push yourself a little past what's comfortable. You have the ability to help keep chaos at bay.
Margins are "the difference between calm and crazed." To receive weekly tips about margins, just go to Pumpernickel Publishing where you can sign up to receive one tip per week in one or more of the following series:
**Tips: Creating Margins in Your Personal Life
**Tips: Creating Margins in Your Professional Life
**Tips: Creating Time, Energy, & Life Margins: Tips for Teachers
Tip: If you are interested in more than one, it's better to sign up for one at a time...or at least only sign up for one today and then a different one tomorrow. That way, you really will only get one tip on a given day and you'll have a chance to implement that before you get the next one.
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**From the Desk of Meggin McIntosh
(c) 2008 by Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D., "The Ph. D. of Productivity"(tm)
Through her company, Emphasis on Excellence, Inc., Meggin McIntosh changes what people know, feel, dream, and do. Sound interesting? It is!