White Space and Getting Stuff Done

January 31, 2018 / Leadership
Share

“It’s already the end of January and I feel like I’m catching up on last year still!” Sabrina said. She continued to explain that no matter how much she tries to schedule time to catch up and then relax, she finds all the little bits of space get filled up in her life and she feels stretched too thin. Does that ever happen for you?  I know it has for me – a lot!  Maybe there is another way to relate to time and energy?

Spinning Plates

Years ago, I had the great pleasure to spend several weekends with the entrepeneur’s guru, Robert Allen. He devoted one segment of the weekend to the idea of spinning plates. “If you are to have multiple streams of income successfully, you will have many projects going at once” he said.  “But, how do you do it?” someone in the audience behind me asked.

Bob replied, “First you must handle the big rocks.” (Email me if you want to know more about this ‘big rocks first’ concept – I’ll send you something on it!) “And then, it’s a process of spinning plates.” He then demonstrated what it might look like to have 8 or 9 plates spinning on pole as you dance from one to the next to keep them spinning. It was a hilarious pantomime from the stage that was frantic and speedy and while funny, was exactly the frantic energy that Sabrina was talking to me about. This was a metaphor for how to run a lucrative business with multiple streams of income; or how to lead a company as a busy executive overseeing many departments. For more than 10 years I too ran my business and life this way. My kids were one plate, exercise another, and projects A, B and C were yet more plates. I got very good at spinning plates. I was out of my mind. I mean I was literally out of my mind. Every moment I spent spinning a plate, I was already thinking of the next plate coming. I was not relaxed. I was not present with what I was doing right then. I dashed about from one thing to the next thinking if I simply managed my white space well, I would get more done. I imagine that Bob Allen was more clever than I was, and that he didn’t dash about. For me, it wasn’t until much later that I started to understand how to properly use ‘white space.’

We so often think of white space, unassigned time, as something to be filled. As if, it’s not really doing its job – that unassigned time – unless we fill it with something ‘productive.’ Even the idea of ‘blocking out’ time in the calendar so that we have the ability to respond to things that emerge is missing the real treasure of white space.

Recently, I coached a brilliant Canadian musician and entrepreneur who said, “I have 29 days between now and my next travel plan, and I need to schedule out how I’m going to make something awesome happen during that time!” As if awesome only happens in the doing of things!

 

Being In Love

I thought of my mentor, Steve Chandler who said we must “slow down to speed up.” Magic happens in the slow spaces of relaxed time when we are in love with this present moment. When we are in love, he wrote in his powerful book, Right Now, we are full of energy. Colors are brighter, and we are more alive and more creative and more happy than at any other time. Why not be in love with every moment?”

“When I’m in love, where else would I rather be but right here right now?”

-Steve Chandler Right Now (2017)

Can you imagine what it would be like to feel that way about everything? Sorting through bills, handling challenging conversations? Solving problems? Taking out the garbage? What would it actually take to experience your work and your life that way?


Neuroscientists agree that stressful states rob humans of their creativity, problem solving, empathy, and ability to innovate. The term is “amygdala hijack.” [see FORBES article: Work in Progress for an overview] This hijack is the biological process by which we get duped by thought. When we are duped by thought – thoughts of the future, the next thing, the worries we have – we are biologically directing blood flow away from the neocortex which is where creative thinking happens. It is in that peaceful state that we get more done in less time. That’s where white space comes in!

White Space

I believe that using ‘white space’ to recharge our energy is the secret to a life of joy – and also to one of tremendous productivity. It would almost be as if the plates remain aloft on relaxed clouds. Our energy keeps them spinning! For that our energy really must be recharged. For energy to work for us, instead of being scarce, we must stay in our creative mind.

What if white space is really something to be treasured, sought after, and protected? What would have to shift in our mindset to make us willing to protect that emptiness? How will we both surrender and be in joy, and still make sure that the “to-dos” and urgent demands vying for time get done?

Steve Chandler speaks of how confused we all can get by this model of dashing from one thing to the next like frantic hamsters on a wheel in his book Time Warrior. Steve encourages us to test out the miracle of getting things done through clarity and focus, in a sort of Aikido of time. With clarity and spaciousness and from a relaxed state, we are able to get more done in less time. It occurred to me that for those of us who have habitually  raced on the hamster wheel instead, it will take some re-orienting our thinking! So how?

One way to break down access to a calm productive life is to get very clear about what it costs when we give up our spaciousness – and what is the gift when we protect it. So, what are the costs for you? What are the gifts?

Here is my list:

COST of relinquishing spacious time

  • Stress
  • Harried / bad mood
  • Not present
  • Unable to truly enJOY the moment
  • Things slip between the cracks
  • My presence suffers
  • My clients get less of me
  • I’m distracted even when I am with my friends and family
  • Even when I’m “relaxing” I am not relaxed
  • I get stuck in worry rather than creating effective solutions

GIFTS in the spaciousness

  • Reflection and being present to the moment
  • Kick the can time allows creativity
  • Inspiration occurs in the space
  • Ideas that shorten tasks occur
  • My clients get the inspired part of my thinking
  • Energy and love for my loved ones
  • I get excited about things in my life
  • I am healthier

 

It seems that there are two kinds of white space. There is calendaring spaciousness to make room for extra conversations, or tasks. And then there is BE space – time that is protected to be present, without structure, without a to do list to simply allow the thoughts to leap onto the frontal stage of our minds and dance away.

 

Declutter

To allow for the BE space, it seems to work best when we truly declutter. Decluttering takes a number of forms don’t you think?

  • We can declutter our minds
    • a mind dump, great talk with a friend, meditation, yoga, exercise;
  • Declutter our relationships
    • Have meaningful conversations with people we love to create completion on anything unsaid;
  • Declutter our business plan
    • get focused on what we really want to do or not do in our work;
  • Declutter our spaces
    • Literally have spaces with clear and clean surfaces that smell and look pleasant.

Then, spending time in a decluttered space allows for that BE time.

Decluttered BE time + Spacious calendaring = Peace

And wonderfully, magically, we are more creative, more effective and more productive when we are relaxed, at peace, and spacious.

Will you test it out for yourself?

I look forward to hearing from you about your experiments with space.

To your continued flourishing,

Lisa

PS: Click the link below to shoot me a message!

Focused Leadership Consulting the Art of Fierce Ownership

Focused Leadership Consulting