What is it?

White space is dedicated time when you take a mental pause from work and other commitments to let the mind travel in whatever direction it sees fit. It’s perhaps an hour or two when you can mentally rest and recuperate, but also naturally think constructively and creatively about the bigger picture and the future. The idea is that you remove yourself from your current existing demands, give yourself a mental blank canvas and maybe, just maybe, spark a little bit of innovation. 

Why it’s important 

The cult of constant productivity has thankfully lost some of its aura – it’s pretty clear that being super-busy does not equal progress. Intentionally creating white space, especially when you’re running a small business, is vital. ‘It makes us strategic,’ says Chris Bailey, author of several books on productivity including Hyperfocus: How to Work Less and Achieve More. ‘You can have one idea that pops up when your mind is wandering that can change the course of your business. You could have an idea that can multiply your revenue or you might have an insight on what products you should be devoting all your resources to. We just need to create the space for ideas to arise – it’s thoughtfulness that ultimately leads to innovation.’ Your own experiences will likely bear this out. Ask someone to come up with a great idea during their work day and it’s tricky. The shower, meanwhile, can be a hot (and wet) bed of creativity. 

Create your own white space 

• Do an audit of how you’re currently spending your working week. 

Is your calendar jam-packed with meetings and commitments? What can be reduced or cut completely to create space? Be as ruthless as you can. 

Schedule it. 

Block out periods in your calendar, about two hours at a time, specifically for white space. Ideally this is something you should find time for every day, but if that’s not immediately possible, start small. Just 10 to 15 minutes between tasks can be valuable. 

• Find activities that work for you. 

This will vary from person to person, but there are plenty of things you might do: go for a stroll in nature (without your phone); listen to classical music; read more fiction; tinker with a hobby; potter about the house; or just gaze vacantly out the window. 

Protect it. 

Due to the hectic nature of running a business, it’s easy for this practice to be the first thing to be cut. That would be a mistake – it’s an essential and valuable use of your time. Hold it sacred!

This article was first published in Courier issue 42, August/September 2021. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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