My life, like yours, is full of projects, work, family, errands, all kinds of lovely people, closet organizing aspirations … I could go on and on. I filled up the calendar with all that good stuff and found myself feeling anxious and resentful and bummed out by it. I wanted white space –- not a zoo of text — on the calendar page.
For a week, I hung out in the discomfort, saying to myself, “I want free time. But I just can’t right now. I have commitments.” It took some stewing and a helpful chat with a friend before I was willing to take my longing seriously and act.
Acting on this was high stakes. I’m a people-pleaser. I hate to back out of commitments. I worry I’ll offend or disappoint.
I can report back that the world didn’t stop turning. People understood. Some people even thanked me for getting us both of the hook for things to which neither of us were wholeheartedly committed.
I now have a lot of white space in my calendar, and it feels delicious. Undeniably right. My anxiety and resentment are gone, which shows me once again: when I get in touch with what is happening within, believe it’s valid and act from there, life works. I feel generous and connected to myself.
I know that most of us want more white space in our lives, and it is difficult to make it happen. Here are three simple steps to creating white space in your life:
1. Take yourself seriously.
2. Pack your courage.
3. Start small.
1. Take Yourself Seriously. If white space is calling you, take that call seriously. Something important wants to be born, to heal, or to rest, and needs white space to do it. White space will, without a doubt, give you a precious gift. Don’t miss it.
2. Pack your courage. In our culture, busy-ness is celebrated. We draw a subtle sense of security and worth from it. Many workplaces celebrate martyrs who sacrifice themselves to busyness, instead of recognizing those that produce great results without overwhelm and long work days. Recognize that these cultural forces are alive in your life. Creating white space requires leaving the herd. You’ll need courage to do it.
There is another reason that you’ll need courage. Especially at first, white space feels uncomfortable. White space isn’t really white, because all the colors that are in you quickly fill the space. White space is the container for you to discover, spend time with, and paint with those colors. Feeling resistant and scared to being with what might come up is normal. This is a habit that takes some practice to get used to. Be in it for the long run with yourself, and sit through the discomfort that will show up at first.
3. Small is big. Small changes — what we do with 10 minutes, 5 minutes, 15 seconds — have a huge impact. If scheduling an hour of white space strikes you as a hilarious joke or physical impossibility, begin with:
- Five minutes for pure white space time every morning or every evening. Check in with what is happening with yourself at that moment.
- Between appointments, instead of a quick email check, dedicate 2-5 minutes for white space. Connect with your body, your breath, or a part of nature. That desk plant counts! If you have an iPhone, try Dream, a free application that provides sounds of rain, ocean, and rushing wind. This will help you click into a white space frame of mind.
- Find low-quality time–transit time, time spent drying your hair or folding the laundry, and bring a white space intention to it. Slow down and reconnect to yourself.
Tara Sophia Mohr is a writer and coach who works with women to help them live more fulfilling, authentic, on-purpose lives. She received her MBA from Stanford University, where her studies focused on leadership and entrepreneurship. Visit Tara’s site at www.sophiashouse.wordpress.com. Or click here to get Tara’s free guide to setting and achieving your most important goals.