White Space—Why It Will Benefit You

When I talk about white space, I mean time for thinking, for creating, and for relaxing. Yes, it may seem counter-intuitive to add time in a schedule that is already over-taxed. However, until you block off protected time for yourself—and I mean absolutely uninterruptible time—you will not have the energy and thinking power to approach your work from fresh perspectives.

Granted, adding white space to your packed calendar is a huge commitment. It is not easy and it can’t happen overnight. But I have seen many of my clients take it seriously and just do it — so I know you can too. You’ll experience three types of benefits: You will 1) increase the quality of your work, 2) you will sleep better, and 3) you will smile more and feel more of your mojo!

Planning, Creating, Recovering

There are three kinds of white space, and all three are important to our productivity and energy levels.

  1. White space planning
  2. White space creating
  3. White space playing/relaxing/doing nothing

Daily, Weekly, Monthly

So how exactly what does this magical white space look like?

1. Planning

First thing every work day, set aside 30-45 minutes. Make it before you look at the day’s emails or take calls or texts.

On Mondays, make a ritual of planning your whole week. Look at your schedule and commitments. Write down your 5 to 7 big goals for the week and schedule time to work on those priorities. Then plan your Monday. On other work days, use your morning white space time to look at the day’s schedule and set your key priorities for the day.

2. Creating

Schedule this type of white space time at least once a month. Brainstorm an issue, fix a problem, advance a major project, innovate or improve something. I suggest a block of 2 to 3 hours. Decide what environment would be most inspiring, such as a park, a spa, or a coffee shop.

3. Relax/Play/Recover

Leadership consultant and psychologist Dr. John Townsend says there are two kinds of recovery: active recovery and inactive recovery. Active recovery relieves stress in healthy ways such as exercise, sports, fun with friends and creative pursuits. But when leaders are so stressed they only have the energy for inactive recovery, they maybe squeeze in household errands and children’s activities—or just watch too much TV, eat too much comfort food and drink too much wine.

So ask yourself, do you have enough active recovery? Or are you a weekend couch potato? If you’re a bit more active than that, how much time are you spending doing things you love to do—or used to enjoy? Make a list of the top 10 things you would most like to do with your downtime. Is it hiking, visiting museums, playing music, doing yoga, going dancing? Then carve out two hours once a week and start doing these things — even if it means you have to hire someone to help out with household chores.

Get Ready to Prune!

Now of course the big question is, how can you carve out this magical white space?

Simple! By pruning your schedule of the unnecessary junk and deadwood you’ve unknowingly tolerated for years. That’s what we’ll be talking about next time.

For now, take time (!) to assess your level of energy, efficiency, and creativity, and inventory what takes up your time. Get ready to prune!

 
Elaine Morris