What are you doing to find margin?

I had the chance to listen a speaker talk to a group of school district administrators about the importance of finding balance recently. A few were on their devices as he made his plea for the group to spend more time working at “finding margin.”

As I share this, I am fully aware that I am also in a constant struggle to ensure that I am the appropriate level of balance. Finding the best way to be fully present both professionally and personally is important. While I believe we can have both I also believe that we must prioritize the personal over the professional and come to an understanding that we are not our jobs. Ultimately, we will be replaced in our professional positions, but there is no one who can ever replace us in our personal positions as spouses, partners, siblings, friends, etc.

With this in mind, I think it is important that leaders model the importance of finding margin. There are so many ways that this can happen:

  • It can be a commitment to exercise a few times a week
  • A few minutes of meditation
  • Keeping a gratitude journal
  • A regular technology disconnect
  • Time dedicated to learning something new
  • Dinner with loved ones or friends regularly

The session reminded me of a couple of quotes from Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead :

“Self-awareness and self-love matter. Who we are is how we lead.”

“At some point, if everything on the list is important, then nothing is truly a driver for you.”

While the focus of the session was on leadership, I know that all of this is equally true for classroom teachers who lead our students each day. The to-do lists just seem to get longer and on most days they will not get fully completed. Without finding some margin for yourself, the only thing you assure is that you will not be there for the people who most need you. I am always drawn back to the analogy of the oxygen masks on the airplane. We need to keep ourselves breathing first.

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