I recently wrote about the benefits of having white space in your life. Having pockets of time where nothing is scheduled gives you a buffer or margin of error. You can better respond to challenges or opportunities and can find time to relax and recharge.
But white space isn't easy to find.
You have to create it.
And work hard to keep it.
Here are some of the tools I use to craft white space into my days:
1. Sacrifice money for time
This is probably the most effective way to find more time. Pay for it – by working less.
Choosing to reduce our household income has been the biggest factor in increasing our family’s breathing space.
A year ago our collective income dropped by around 40 per cent. We've barely noticed the reduced income, largely due to making drastic changes to our spending. But we have definitely noticed the increase in our resilience and happiness.
We laugh at dramas now. We’re less overwhelmed.
I appreciate that I'm making this recommendation from a privileged position. But there are many equally privileged time-poor people who could choose to sacrifice money for time.
You can switch to part-time, job share, take time off as unpaid leave, become a single income household, or search for a more flexible job.
2. Practice saying no
Every time we say 'yes' to someone or something, we are saying 'no' to someone or something else.
We can’t do everything.
Nor can we have everything.
Saying no is easier if you cultivate contentment and learn to be grateful for what you have and with what you can do.
Having a clear vision of what is important to you also makes saying no easier.
Unfortunately, many of us are so busy and overwhelmed that we've lost sight of what’s important.
Enjoy a little white space and you’ll likely find some clarity.
We also have to learn to say no to things we’d like to have. And things we’d love to do.
3. Be patient
The biggest game changer for me has been learning to accept that life is long (touch wood) and that not everything has to happen now.
Even important things can wait.
We don’t have to rush to the finish line.
Missing out on things we really want to do is a necessary part of creating white space
4. Acknowledge and enjoy your down time
I was going to call this tip 'stop wasting time'. But there’s nothing wrong with wasting time, as long as you do it mindfully.
Most of us already have white space in our days – we just don’t notice it because we spend it mindlessly staring at screens. It’s white space but without the benefits.
Be intentional about the free time you have and swap some screen time for true down time.
Go for a walk. Sit under a tree. Meditate, breathe and unwind.
5. Be realistic and schedule it in.
There’s no sense in scheduling yourself to the limit. You need to leave time to simply play. Be realistic about what you can achieve in a day.
Intentionally book in 'white space'.
Until recently I rarely completed everything on my to-do list. These days my lists are shorter and I actually get to experience the joy of ticking everything off my lists. By trying to do less, I'm achieving more.
Wishing you a week full of white space.
Originally published in the Newcastle Herald Monday 16th November 2015.