Creating Margin

How Downtime Enriches Your Life

Whenever you read, view a presentation, or look at art, you are affected by its design.  Color, texture, balance, and the subject itself are design elements that affect your experience.  Often-overlooked, and equally important, is the use of “white space” or margin.

Photo Credit © Robertas P'as/Thinkstock

Photo Credit © Robertas P'as/Thinkstock

What is margin?  What does it do?  Why is it so important?  And what does it have to do with your life? 

What Margin Is

Margin is the space around and through the text.  It is the space that surrounds the design elements.  In life, margin is time spent not producing anything.  It is time in between activities.  Margin creates space.

The Benefits From Building In Margin


Margins bring the text into focus.  The mechanics of reading become invisible, and you connect with the text.  In life, adding space between activities yields a richer experience.  You can finish one thing and be fully present in the next.  When you are with others, you honor them with your attention, creating a deeper connection.  When you are alone, you better connect with your inner self and your environment.


Margin gives the text balance.  Too little margin makes the page cluttered and busy.  Reading is difficult.  Similarly, when you race from one activity to the next, your mind is not able to process the stimuli that bombard you throughout the day.  You react instinctively instead of purposefully.  Your mind races, especially at night when trying to sleep.  At best you may find yourself frazzled; at worst, anxious or stressed.  The right amount of margin creates balance between thinking and doing, the inner and outer life.  It allows you to work through your thoughts and emotions, rest peacefully, and act with purpose.


Bad design causes confusion.  Your eye does not know where to look.  Effective use of white space in a design draws the eye toward the focal point.  It communicates clearly.  Adding white space to your life brings that same focus.  The white space highlights the main point, allowing you to put things into perspective.

White space also allows the cognitive mind and the instinctive mind to synch up.  The cognitive mind works much more slowly than the instinctive brain.  If you are not careful, instinct can overshadow reason right when you least want it to happen.  Space allows the thinking brain to align with the unconscious, creating a single-mindedness that is much more focused.


Creativity flourishes when the mind is allowed to run free.  Whatever you produce, whether an idea or product, will be better constructed when you include “not working” in the process.   Your best thinking is often done when you are not actively working on your project.  The highest achievers and innovative companies know this and use it to their best advantage.

Designing Margin in Your Life

Adding margin to your life will not happen by itself.  You must build it in.  And because this runs counter to much of our culture, you may have to fight to keep it.  But don’t give up; it’s worth the effort.  Your life’s design can be more beautiful and richer in connection, balance, focus, and innovation when you scatter a bit of white space among the color.

Question:  Have you created margin in your life?   What difference has it made?  To comment, click here.