Updated: Aug 24
What do you crave in your open white space: creativity, energy replenishment, you time, all of the above?
For the curious and skeptics who see the concept of scheduling open time as defeating the purpose, bear with me as I have you consider the possibility of gaining the feeling of open time in your calendar and in your life by using your schedule. Managing white space is an energy management best practice.
White space: time that’s allocated to do what you want to do. It’s the visual open space in your calendar when you can think deeply, vision, ideate and rejuvenate. White space is the block of time, ideally planned in your schedule, to enable pausing, getting out of reactive mode, reflecting, and reenergizing. White space is where a leader’s autopilot function is disrupted.
Like most leaders, my life is full and I often feel I am missing time to think, time to be creative and time for myself. On the days when I don't see any white space in my calendar, I have a feeling of dismay of missing out on what white space could be generating for my doing my best work, for my family, and for me. I can't seem to find the time to get unscheduled time for me.
How can you find white space where there is no white space to book? What would happen if you scheduled white space?
Look at what might be in your daily routine and schedule that would let you visualize and use your time differently to realize a resulting effect equivalent to white space.
When walking to a meeting, I put my phone away. I focus on my walk time and let my mind go. On that short walk I experience many ideas and solutions and I arrive at my meeting feeling energized and focused.
I look forward to my walking time and the creative return I get from such a short and routine time slot. Walking is the headspace that let’s me engage my Default State brain. The discovery of the Default Network part of the brain is what’s led to the belief that unfocused free time is an important (and underutilized) factor in breakthrough innovations.
Boating is where I also find my default state. Boating to a point where land isn’t visible and not another boat was to be seen. With no distractions, I focused on the moment, I enjoyed the beauty of boating, the perfect summer day and the company of great friends. In that time my brain shuts down and that is an unusual feat. No thoughts equated to no stress. When I return from boating, I feel incredibly rejuvenated. My scheduled activity gave me the same return and more as finding white space. I now see the potential for creating the same effect of white space for me, walking and water are starting points in my schedule.
So what are the things you do every day or have in your schedule that you can shift your focus?
Consider how you think about you in your plans. Contemplate the potential of embracing your schedule and leverage the time slots differently to give you the same effect as white space.
Need ideas to develop the possibilities white space? Start with these:
Wake up 15 minutes earlier
Do several minutes of deep breathing
Use a routine like showering and brushing your teeth as white space
Take a 10-minute walk about
Lift your head, get out of your head and look around your surrounds. Really take everything in
Spend a couple minute looking at your favourite happy pictures
Schedule or use an app to remind you for breaks, thinking shifts or habits
Realize the feeling of white space in your schedule.
Lisa W. Haydon is a business leader and entrepreneur with over 30 years of operational experience leading teams in banking, capital markets, technology and professional services. Lisa’s instinct for sorting through business complexities, understanding distinctive leader personalities, and realizing results compelled her to leave a corporate career and become an entrepreneur.
Her company, Pivotal Growth, introduced a technology tool for leadership development assessment and planning. The suite of tools offers diagnostic capabilities to synthesize and accelerate people performance.
Lisa’s skills and the Pivotal Growth product help companies enhance their performance and support leaders achieving greater confidence and success.