Creating White Space in your Life – Part 2

by Marcy Heim on July 14, 2017

White Space Header

The bad news is time flies – the good news is you’re the pilot.

In the last Artful Action, I gave you eight take aways to create WHITE SPACE!

White space is the open space between blocks of copy or graphics.

The amount and location of white space gives you a feeling that reading a piece will be easy or challenging.  It also gives you the mental pause to digest and reflect on what you’ve read.

So it also is with your life.

Planning those moments of openness gives you the space to reboot your too-full and too-bombarded brains. It also gives you the space to be creative – able to do more than just numbly (and generally too quickly) react.

When I coach individuals and non-profits, I see environments that are out of alignment with time on several levels.  Today, I’d like to look at how some organizations function and steps you can take FOR YOU to be happier and more productive WITHIN these environments.

Does this sound like your non-profit organization?

  • There is a “do more with less” mentality.
  • The Board vomits ideas, and you jump to add them to the list without considering the impact on staff, systems, budgets and current priorities first.
  • The goal is to stay one step ahead of the shark biting you in the butt…meet today’s crushing deadline.
  • There is judgment around “value” based more on frantic activity than actual productivity.
  • There are bosses (cultures) who have absolutely no boundaries on their time and expect you to be the same. This blurs the lines between work and personal and both seem “on” all the time for everyone.

How do YOU Create a Better Relationship with Time?

1. Take control of your time

To control your time you must first understand how you are thinking about it, where it is going now and how you can redirect where you spend it.

What is your MINDSET around time?

I will begin where I always begin.

“We Become What we Think About” Earl Nightingale – the Strangest Secret.

So how we THINK about our time impacts how we FEEL about our time. How we FEEL about our time impacts the ACTIONS we take and our ACTIONS create our results. (Enough time)

How are you thinking about your time?

  • “How will I get this all done?”
  • “There is SO much to do.”
  • “Nobody else around here does anything.”
  • “I don’t have quality time with my family.”
  • “I am CRAZY busy.”
  • “There is never enough time.”
  • “I am exhausted.”

What you tell yourself IS what you experience.  So begin with, “I Create My LIFE” and take responsibility for deciding that YOU control your time.  Change how you talk to yourself about your time.

  • “I GET to do these visits/projects/tasks today.”
  • “I can focus 100% for this time on Johnny” (Moms, put down your cell phone, PLEASE)
  • “Today I will get this most important task done.”
  • “I am totally unplugged now.”
  • “I am clear on what is more important.”
  • “I take action in my time and focus.”

Nothing I teach you from here will make any difference if you continue to tell yourself you are crazy busy and overwhelmed. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.  


NEXT understand that there is a difference between protecting your time and managing your time.

Protecting your time means you TAKE AND PLAN YOUR TIME according to your thoughtful, planned goals.

Managing your time is applying those tools and techniques you have all heard to try to maximize what you can get done in every minute – to perform at peak proficiency.

Too many of us only work on managing our time while allowing others to dictate how we spend our time.

In order to TAKE AND PLAN YOUR TIME, you need to know where is goes now.

About 3 times each year, I do a Time Audit. This is when I judiciously and honestly (this is not easy) track what I do in 15 minute chunks for 2 weeks. This includes how many times I jump to email or texts (for some this is Facebook) while allegedly doing a task.  This is eye-opening.

After you see where your time goes now, figure out where you need to better DIRECT it.

  • Delegate.  Determine your time cost per hour – delegate anything less expensive than what you make per hour – house cleaning, filing, etc.
  • Decide what is Urgent versus Important.  Important has to be discovered. Urgent is someone else’s agenda. Always seek clarity with your supervisor.
  • Take the Kolbe A Test. It will tell you how you work and where you need support.
  • Manage what you measure. Pick the key facts that speak to where you are trying to go.  Take charge of your data! Too much adds to the overwhelm. Number of visits instead of dollars is a great place to start.

2. Proactively manage those times when “everything happens at once!”

Schedule time to look ahead for “high-stress” times. You can see the potholes coming. For me, it’s a big client event, a band gig, flying out to speak, kid’s birthday all at once.

Be honest here – you see this coming. Proactively manage these times. 

  • Set clear priorities and when you are asked to add tasks, seek clarity on priority with what you are currently doing. I had a workshop participant who was constantly on email to the point where others ask me to speak to her about being engaged.  She said her boss was sending her emails and she was panicking about how she would get these and current tasks done.  After some coaching, the boss said he was just moving these things to her to get them off his mind and really hadn’t addressed a deadline. When she asked these to be prioritized, he was glad to do it in a way that worked for both.  He also was not intending his email to be read during the workshop. Really that was her unwillingness to turn it off, not his. He would have preferred she was fully engaged in the workshop.
  • You know when your child was born – you were there. Your friends/parents/key donors birthdays, anniversaries, do NOT Change. Give yourself a tickler to get a card, gift, order balloons well ahead and DO IT (or delegate it).
  • Ask others to shift to make these situations workable.  Sometimes, it’s better to celebrate a personal event on a different day so the key players can be ALL IN. How this works is largely dependent on how you feel about it – your mindset.  Are you apologizing or creating an exciting time, just on a different date?   
  • Build space into project timelines.  Look at everything you commit to in light of everything else you are doing – not just what this one task takes as if you had nothing else to do!  

3. Embrace structure as a source of freedom

The dog runs free in the dog park.  On a leash, he’s stuck at your pace and path.  The fence gives him this freedom.

Your Calendar is your friend.

  • Group like-work together so you get on a roll.
  • Block off time for recurring tasks. Maybe this is “write thank you notes” from 8:00-8:30 three mornings each week.  
  • Eat that Frog. Begin with your biggest, ugliest task each day and get it done.  You will be FREE of the weight of the big task the rest of the day.
  • Set (and keep) appointments for working on tasks. Block time to write that visit follow-up letter and then don’t let anything stop you!
  • Plan for the knowns. Hedge against “everything happening at once.”
  • SLEEP. For goodness sake, GO TO BED.
  • Create RAPS. Relationship Action Plans for each major donor gives you the freedom to know what comes next.
  • Schedule time to THINK.  This is the time you stare into space – a bit glazed looking.  But your mind is working – not frantically, but creatively.
  • Exercise. This can be as simple as standing up and stretching for 30 seconds.
  • Find something that takes your mind away. For me, it’s my band. I can’t sing and think about other things.  But take care here to prioritize the time this takes into the overall plan.

4. Manage yourself during times of overload 

  • Breathe. It’s always available to you. There is nothing like a few deep breaths.
  • Silence.  Step away and watch a second hand for 60 seconds. Go to the bathroom and hide in a stall if you have to.  
  • Laughter.  Just start laughing – really.
  • Mind-consuming activity.  I sing! What can you do?
  • Ask yourself, “What thoughts deserve my full attention right now?”
  • Break away for a bit.  Just yesterday I stopped to watch a sunset.
  • Ask yourself – “Am I hungry? Am I tired?” It makes a massive difference.  
  • Delay key conversations.  “This conversation is very important to me and I need a bit more time to reflect.”

Yes, the bad news is time does feel like it flies, but the good news is you’re the pilot.  And when you protect your time and prioritize what is most important, personally and professionally, you win!  

Thank you for allowing me to share this time with you. I am honored you made this a priority for you!

Invest in Joy!

Marcy sign


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