Henry Kissinger once said, “There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.” Does that sound familiar? I am embarrassed to admit how many years of my life could have been described that exact same way. But not anymore.
I crave white space. And I am moving mountains these days to have white space in my life. It’s critical to my happiness and my mental health. It brings me joy. White space traditionally means the area on the written page or screen where there are no words or characters. It’s about leaving room on the screen or page for elements to breathe. And personal white space is leaving room to breathe in your life or your schedule.
Winston Churchill practiced lots of white space and I think we can all agree he had a remarkable and productive life, right? He would wake up around 7:30am every day and spend most of his morning in bed (this is my favorite place to work in the morning–who am I kidding, I’d work in the bed all day! ) Here, he had breakfast, read his mail, caught up on all of the national newspapers and dictated to his secretaries. At 11am he would get out of bed, wash and take a walk in the garden. His lunch was from 1–3:30pm most days, and was usually a full three-course meal with his family and guests. After lunch he would often work again until around 5pm. He then took a nap–a long one–at 5pm everyday for an hour and a half. At 8pm he would have dinner—dining again with family and guests. Usually he returned to his study for another hour or so of work after dinner. I don’t know about you, but this honestly is a perfect schedule in my opinion–a beautiful mixture of rest, work, love and enjoyment–every day.
White space is exactly that. Room for taking a nap everyday and not hiding it, or explaining it, or feeling guilty about it. White space means time with family or friends, including making spontaneous plans with them and having the freedom to make them happen. White space means alone time. And for me, some of the most important white space is work, but on whatever I want, for as long as I want. What a treat to lean into my creativity or brainstorming exactly when I want to, when the mood strikes or when the ideas come. And I believe if we use our white space as an opportunity to live in our sweet spot, to do our life’s work, to live our purpose–then a life full of white space can bring financial freedom too.
A great example of a famous lover of white space who has made a great living doing what he does best is Tim Ferris, author of The 4 Hour Work Week. Here’s a peek at Tim’s typical schedule. Mondays and Fridays are generally off-limits for phone calls from Tim’s assistants, so he has the flexibility to take a long weekend on either side. How’s that for white space? Tim also schedules very few things into his calendar period. That way he doesn’t need to stress about multi-tasking to get things done. Tim says: “The goal is to spend as much time possible doing what we want by maximizing output in minimal time. I don’t have to do anything in my schedule. I choose to do them because I like them. None of them are financially-driven or unpleasant obligations. If the chance to do something more fun comes up last-minute, I can cancel all of them.”
We have to remember that choosing a life that is right for us, even when no one else you know is living this way, is not only ok, it’s imperative. And just because this sort of schedule (or lack of one) isn’t culturally celebrated or even accepted in America doesn’t mean that you can’t create a life full of white space perfect for you. The glorification of busy is old news. White space is the new black. And on this second week of my 52 weeks of JOY, living with white space is far from empty…it’s what fills me up!
Wishing you much more white space in your life this year!