Creating White Space in your Life – Part 1

by Marcy Heim on July 3, 2017

Issue 12 blog

Do some days feel too packed to even begin? 

Do your “smile” muscles hurt? Have you fallen asleep in a movie?  (Be honest here – my 19-year-old son has.)  Are you pushing through a fog all day? Do you feel like you’re ON all the time? Is it summer, but you feel like you’re drowning? Are you mentally exhausted?

This is not an age thing or a non-profit or fundraising thing. It’s a SPACE thing. It’s when there is NO WHITE SPACE on your calendar or in your brain! You are too FULL!

Mobile giving, monthly giving, tours, major gifts visits. You could literally be on a free webinar from 6am until midnight every day. Club leagues, summer programs, free concerts, movies on demand. There are so many options to choose from.

If you are like most people, you are overwhelmed with too much to do and too little time. As you struggle to get caught up, new tasks keep rolling in…like the unending waves of the ocean. Those ocean waves can be warm and caressing, or they can knock you over leaving you feeling panicky like you may
drown!

Let’s grab some white space and protect our time. 

What is White Space?

White space is the strategic pause taken between activities

The term came from literally looking at the white space on the calendar and realizing that on the days with more white showing, people were more effective and projects moved faster.

Think of an appeal letter. Narrow margins, tight line spacing and solid words look like a piece that’s a chore to read. White space is critical to how compelled we feel to even begin to read a letter, magazine, or book.

So, too, with your mind and life.

White space TIME can be created in tiny spots as small as 10 seconds. These intentional, thoughtful pauses laced through the busyness of the workday are the oxygen that allows everything else to catch fire.  They allow us to reconnect to us. 

As an advancement professional, you can use White Space to REBOOT and CREATE!

1. To recuperate, reinvigorate, restore, reconnect, reboot your taxed mind.

Our brains get fried. We become mentally exhausted.  There is a mindset component to this – the role telling ourselves how we feel plays.  But studies tell us we need downtime to “recharge our batteries.”  Just like our phones run out of charge, we too will be dead if we don’t stop to get plugged in and soak up energy.  Phones recharge faster when they can just charge…not work at the same time. While we may find time with friends enjoyable, time totally alone with our thoughts gives our mind the space to shutdown and reboot.

2. To create, innovate, renovate, plan.

In our daily push to reach the end of the task list, we move, usually at a breakneck pace, to cross off the list of mainly urgent (not important) tasks.  To mentally set aside the minutiae of the day opens up space to focus on big thoughts.  It gives us the room to evaluate if “we’ve always done it this way” is a good enough reason to KEEP doing it this way.  It allows us to think ahead (what a concept!)

As an organization, you can create a culture with built-in white space to think before acting (or reacting), set a pace that is productive yet avoids burnout and creative decline, and protects high-value action (personal visits) over technology (keying in data)

In an organization where white space is used strategically, Juliet Funk shares that staff will be ENCOURAGED TO…..

1. Schedule time between meetings to prepare and/or reflect on the content.

2. Control the amount of data and dashboards experienced so that they can be informed without being overwhelmed.

3. Create specific designated times for creativity and innovation.

EIGHT TAKE-AWAYS ABOUT WHITE SPACE

1. Everyone needs WHITE SPACE – a feeling of openness in your mind and schedule. How you “set your mind” to creating and enjoying this space is individual. How you think about your white space determines the complexity of the schedule you enjoy.  White space is not doing mindless activities like Facebook, TV, solo-drinking.

2. You define your white space by creating structure. Scheduling as little as 5 minutes of silence staring into space will make a difference in your overall feeling of calm.  Many mini-sessions are generally more impactful than fewer longer sessions.

3. Protecting your time (not managing it) means you place the same level of importance on your own work and personal “get to do” lists as those of others. Respecting yourself generates respect from others.  You are not selfish. Placing other’s needs before yours is a choice you make. You create the expectation for others about you. You can change it.

4. Placing white space in establishing timelines and deadlines produces healthier, more productive partnerships. The old “underpromise and overdeliver” holds true if managed with space. Look at each project within ALL your projects.

5. Protecting your time means you are PROACTIVE, not reactive. Every time you look at an email popping up, Facebook, a text message – you have turned over control of your time to someone else’s agenda.

6. Constantly evaluate with other priorities and timelines or tasks and projects. Give yourself a list of questions to ask when taking on new tasks. What can be delegated to someone else?

7. Your mindset controls your perception of how full your days and life are. Much of how you think is impacted by the rest you get. Rest is dependent on white space.  Sleep is white space.  GO TO BED

8. Your ability to select your most important task at each moment, then start on it and get it done quickly and well will be key to your success. YOU deserve to have White Space in your life.

I want you to enjoy success AND WHITE SPACE in your life!  It is always your choice!

Invest in Joy!

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