Buffer: Keep a Margin

Kari Andrade

Kari Andrade with her daughter

“…Kari predicts the duration of any experience and adds extra time. In so doing, she acknowledges the uncertainty of life. The message is to budget more time than we think we need. When I remember to buffer, my days feel much calmer.” Good Busy p. 7-8

February is dedicated to the Buffer, a practice of setting aside more time than you think you will need for various tasks. Since Good Busy’s release in September 2012, I have heard from many readers that they resonate with buffering, Kari Andrade’s practice. Some, who struggle with punctuality, say they are now inspired to buffer more.

Since February includes Valentine’s Day, I have been wondering whether the buffer practice can be an act of love. Is there a way for you to love people better by buffering? Can you honor your commitments to yourself and to others by keeping a margin and allowing more space in your everyday life? I invited Kari to my house in early January to explore these questions and to reflect on how the practice of buffering continues to evolve in her own life.

Kari and I discussed an experience in her past that continues to shape her perspective on buffering. Growing up, Kari’s family was always the last to arrive at social events. “I equate being late with being out of control and being less than,” Kari said. Since her childhood and certainly since the book’s release, Kari and Eddie, her father, have talked about their different approaches to time. Eddie claims that Kari’s childhood was not chaotic, but that her own high need for structure influences her everyday practices. Their ongoing dialogue illustrates how differently individual family members can relate to time.

Kari sees the buffer practice as a way to love people who have a different relationship with time from her own. She estimates how long an activity might take someone else so she is not disappointed or mad if things don’t happen as originally scheduled. For instance, Kari anticipates the actual time people will show up, rather than rely on the time they say. She anticipates what she knows they often do and makes adjustments to her own expectations.

Kari tries to show her love for others by trying to better understand their relationship with time instead of nagging them incessantly. Sometimes she even buffers for others. If she is going somewhere with her husband and daughter, Kari will think through how long it will take for the family to get ready and will get them moving a little sooner than they might on their own.

Kari and I discussed whether or not the buffer is a practice of efficiency or inefficiency. Even though Kari brings projects along in her car in case she arrives early and has to wait, she sees buffering as an inefficient practice because she is making the choice not to use all of her time productively. When you buffer, there will be idle time because you leave more space between commitments. On the other hand, I think buffering affords greater efficiency because when you are calm and focused you can get more done.

Kari’s final words of advice about the buffer are, “Always remember, nobody ever plans to get gas or go to the bathroom. You have to add extra time for it.”

Your assignment this month is to practice buffering. Think through your commitments each day and imagine how you will move from one meeting or activity to the next without stress. Think about why you cut deadlines so close. Do you need to cancel or postpone some of your commitments? Reflect on what it might look like to be calm inside your busyness.

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1 Response to Buffer: Keep a Margin

  1. Cathy Hasty says:

    I have done this for many years and highly recommend it as a way to decrease stress and increase satisfaction with life. Thanks for reminding me!

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