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Why We Need White Space in Our Lives

Point to Ponder:

Where in your life do you need to "de-crapify" and add more white space?

Have you ever heard of "white space"? As of last Tuesday I was completely unaware this was a thing until I stumbled upon it while listening to my favorite podcast called Live Inspired by John O'leary. John O'leary's incredibly inspiring life could be a blog post in and of itself, but for the sake of following the white space rule of having a reductive mindset (less is more), I'll keep it simple and just recommend that you not only check out his website and listen to his podcasts, but also read his book On Fire.

As for learning about "white space", John O'leary interviewed Juliet Funt, the founder of White Space at Work. While Juliet and her team primarily work with businesses, the white space/reductive/productivity vs activity mindset can and should be adopted in our personal and family lives too. For the sake of her business and working with businesses, this is how she describes white space:

White space is a strategic pause taken between activities. It can be used in tiny sips as small as two seconds or in longer stretches. These thoughtful pauses laced through the busyness of the workday are the oxygen that allows everything else to catch fire. WhiteSpace can be recuperative; to reboot your exhausted brain and body. It can also be constructive; this is time spent on driving business results through introspection, strategy and big picture thinking.We help companies insert the fruitful and rich element of WhiteSpace into their lives and workflow — watching them reap the enormous, immediate benefits. When starved for WhiteSpace, employees are disengaged, overwhelmed and distracted. With WhiteSpace, creativity and engagement take root and blossom into growth and focused execution.

As I continued to listen to the podcast Juliet explained that white space is the product of "stripping away", saying "no thank you", renouncing, and letting go of the unnecessary--the things that are keeping us busy yet add no value. To use her words, we need to de-crapify our workflow and life so we can create more white space. Furthermore, the goal of adding white space is to be productive, which my definition is to produce and make something of value. Juliet claims, and I couldn't agree more, that now more than ever our lives are full of activity (busy or vigorous action or movement), though most of our activity is not fruit producing activity. In addition, she calls the non-fruit bearing activity "thieves", which steal our time and rob us of our our health, happiness, family, relationships--all of the things that are most important.

So, how do we add white space to our work, personal life and family life? Juliet has a ton of fantastic nuggets and information so I really encourage you to create some white space so you can listen to the podcast, however her first recommendation is to simply be aware of our activities and start paying attention to what we spend our time on. She uses the examples of driving our kids around to too many activities which can be disruptive to the family unit and family time, to spending an hour reading reviews and lamenting over where to go to dinner. Ultimately, she suggests that upon becoming more aware, we start strengthening our reductive muscles by practicing the stripping away of and letting go of non-value producing activities, a.k.a. stress adding, time sucking or obligatory items and activities that do not produce value. And finally, each day we can start by asking ourselves these four thought-provoking and introspective questions:

  • Is there anything I can let go of?

  • When is good enough, good enough?

  • What do I truly need to know?

  • What deserves my attention?


Action Item:

Become aware of what you are spending your time on and if it aligns with what is important in your life, if it is adding stress or if it is productive and adding value.



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