Finding Balance and Creating More “White Space”

I first heard the phrase, “White Space” a few months ago…

I was on a gym bike, peddling nowhere slowly, listening to a podcast and feeling totally overwhelmed. And then suddenly Tiffany Han from Raise Your Hand Say Yes was telling me that my white space was all out of whack.

HUH? White space whaaaaat? (Hang on, I’ll get to that in a minute..)

It made so much sense to me at the time, because I finally GOT it…

The reason my planning wasn’t equaling productivity.

And here’s what else I realised…

SO MANY of us are getting this balance thing wrong. We’re over-planning our lives like there’s no tomorrow. We’re cramming every little minute with work and things we think we need to be busy with.

All so that we don’t “waste time.”

We feel like it’s expected – part of this millennial constantly-switched on digital age.

And, we feel like if we waste a second of time, we’ll get left behind.

Right?

So we try and do as much as possible and plan till kingdom come.

And yet, we STILL don’t get to everything.

SIGH. 

HELLO, OVERWHELM

Aaaah, planning. It seems so productive, doesn’t it?

Truth, though? Over-planning is actually a form of procrastination. Yup. Really.

And let me just say this: if you’re ambitious like I am, and tend to want to have everything done perfectly and please everyone, this post is written just for YOU.

Because, damn. I wish I’d known this kind of thing years ago.

So, let’s talk about this “white space” thing.

This is actually a term used in the copywriting world; it’s when you format your articles with space so that it makes for easier reading.

A more pleasant user experience, so to speak.

White space also relates to home décor and the minimalistic style. Keeping things simplified and uncluttered is pleasing on the eye – in décor and in copy.

It makes us feel calm. I mean, think of a cluttered room or a blog post that reads more like an essay.
Urg.

So, where does this all fit into balance and planning?

I’ll tell you…

MAKING TIME FOR “WHITE SPACE”

First, let’s be honest; most of us think that any kind of free time is wasted time, right?

Like we could be doing this thing or that thing because there’s just never enough time!
I’m so bad with this…

My mind automatically goes in a hundred and one directions thinking of all the things I could squeeze in.

For example

Lying in bed on a Saturday morning. I lie there and think, “I could be blogging more!” Or, I have a free hour in the evening and I spend it working instead of relaxing. It’s so easy to fall into this go-go-go habit, when it’s considered the “norm”.

I tell you though, it’s not great for our overall well-being and stress, that’s for sure.

So “white space” in terms of finding balance, is about carving out time to do…

NOTHING.
Nada.
Nix.
Zilch.

Now, if you’re ambitious, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, Whaaaaat? No Melanie, just no.

There’s SO. MUCH. TO. DO. Get REAL.

I know. I hear you.

But hear me out quick…

Have you ever noticed how much more focused and productive you feel after taking a full hour lunch, instead of gulping down your food at your desk and having a quick 5-minute coffee chat and calling that “lunch”?

It’s true…

We’re not robots, contrary to popular belief. We’re HUMAN beings.

We need our breaks…

Moments to just clear our minds for a bit.

We need MORE down time.

At home AND at work…

Every day, in order to function properly, to be of sound mental health, and to be productive.

Okay. Great, so HOW do we do this?

Simple.

We get REAL about our priorities and our well-being boundaries.

HOW TO CREATE MORE FREE TIME IN YOUR LIFE

When you give yourself that free time, you’ll be amazed at how much calmer, and MORE creative and focused you feel.

Forget the over-planning and trying to do more.

You can get SO much done, when you give your brain the break it needs… Here are 11 ideas to get you started:

#1 – Work free time into your day
This works so well at the end of the workday when your brain is tired. It’s also the perfect opportunity to research or read about your industry and events, brainstorm for projects, plan the next day, upskill or learn a course, or just get creative – doodle, draw, etc.

#2 – Keep weekends free
Prioritise these for fun, family and friends – not extra time to work. End of story.

#3 –Use a shared Google calendar
Block off time for things like naps or reading or quality time or date nights or me time, or whatever. Treat your free time like an appointment, because it’s really that important.

#4 – Create a morning habit
Even if it’s just 15 minutes. Use it for “me time” and to centre yourself for the day ahead.

#5 – Have a “no plans” weekend
Even if it’s only once a month. Nowhere to be and no one you have to see. Just time to BE. Hello sleeping in late, catching up on gardening, having a leisurely braai just for the fun of it. Maybe a Netflix binge-watching sesh? Yes, please.

#6 – Protect your personal time
Just because you have no plans, doesn’t mean you’re available for last minute things because it looks like you’re doing nothing. Be open about it with those nearest and dearest to you and let them know that your “nothing” plans are actually pretty BIG plans in your book. In other words: do not disturb unless it’s an emergency.

#7 – Work smarter, not harder
Do your high focus or creative work first in the day when your brain is most awake. You’ll be surprised at how much faster you get stuff done. Which means, more time at the end of the day for “white space”.

#8 – Under-plan your day
Stick to THREE main tasks and do them well – everything else after this is just a bonus. It’s an adjustment, for sure – especially if you’re used to creating LONG To Do lists. But, I’ve been doing this for a few weeks and I promise you, it’s made the WORLD of difference to my productivity and stress levels. Try it!

#9 – Create blocks of recharge time
Have those 15-20 minute windows between tasks to refuel and refresh.

#10 – Cut distractions and focus on priorities
Do you really need to catch up on Skype for an hour every morning? Can you do this once a week, maybe? Or later in the day?

#11 – Split up tasks
You don’t have to get it all done in one go. For example, instead of sitting for four hours on a blog post, I write for an hour and two days later, I spend one or two hours editing. This alone has freed up so much extra time!

IT’S ABOUT PROGRESS… NOT PERFECTION

There are two main things to focus on when creating more “white space” in your life:

  1. Find ways to be more productive and work smarter so you have more free time.
  2. Be protective about your personal (me time) and family time.

And remember, it’s all about tweaking as you go and finding what works for you.
It’s about making the choice to change things and to create more of what you want and need in your life.

Create the white space…
the time to do nothing, and
the moments in between all the crazy stuff.

I promise, your body and mind will thank you!

 

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15 Replies to “Finding Balance and Creating More “White Space””

  1. Progress, not perfection. This is my mantra. I have so little time outside of the three days I’m working, but I try not to feel too badly when I feel like I may have even wasted a weekend here and there. I know it’s a marathon towards the goal and not a sprint. Along the way, we have to be kind to ourselves. 🙂 Wonderful post!

  2. YES! I’m so with you there on the progress mindset. Because, perfection SUCKS. And I only wish I’d realised this years ago. Better late than never, hey?! And I’m 100% in agreement about life – and the creative journey especially, being a marathon and not a sprint. Like a few years marathon… it’s interesting! Thanks for that reminder; sometimes I forget to be kind and I’m a little (LOT) harder on myself than I should be. Hope you’re having a wonderful Sunday my friend! x

  3. In the words of Ron Swanson from Parks & Rec, “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.” Allowing yourself to re-prioritze your day so that you only focus on the top three things is the best way to making sure they get done, and get done well. I wish I had taken in the idea of white space when I was a college student, it would’ve been so helpful!

  4. I need my space. I sometime want to just go away alone where nobody can reach me. Definitely want to come back because I love my life, but alone time is a must. 🙂 nice post! White space taken a note 🙂 Cheers!!

  5. Haha, I’m with you there Suganthi!! I fantasise about a solo weekend away to some secluded (but SAFE!) cabin in the woods where I can just write my heart out. I’m glad you enjoyed the tips about the white space! 🙂

  6. OMG, I wish I’d learned about the top 3 items to focus on a day tip YEARS ago!! I’ve been doing this for the past few weeks and it’s made such a difference. That’s a cool saying, “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing” – I’m going to remember that one! 😉

  7. Thank you for such a beautiful post! I love to take time on weekend to stay in and do nothing, but then I remember the million things to do and feel guilty. I have so much I want to accomplish that I end up being very hard on myself and get stressed out. So I need to work on my self care and creating more white space for myself to relax and breathe.

  8. Hi Taryn! I can totally relate to what you’re saying here. Being ambitious is great, but sometimes I think we over-estimate all the things and goals we can realistically get to in one day. Nothing ever feels good enough. Yup, I hear you! Currently working on this too… underplanning is very new to me, but it’s helping! We shouldn’t feel guilty at all about taking time for self care. Never ever! It’s a necessity, not a luxury – and if we don’t do it, we’ll burn out fast. I’m going to pop you an email today that you can read over a cuppa. I hope it helps. xx

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