It’s taken me a long time to admit that every thing I do necessitates me saying no to a dozen other things. It’s just not a priority. It’s not that it isn’t cool, fun, or worthwhile, it’s just that I have a limited amount of attention, and it can’t go there. And yet, it’s so seductive to think that if I could just do things more efficiently, be better organized, I could shoehorn it all in.
Your Energy is More Precious Than Diamonds
Time and again, I’ve found that I’m most productive, relaxed and happy if I have a lot of unscheduled, unearmarked time in my day. But keeping that time footloose and fancy free? It requires constant vigilance. I have to be in touch with more than what I want to do… I have to be in touch with what I’m willing to let go of in order to achieve what I want the most.
The Importance of White Space
White space is a design term for the empty space in a layout. It’s absolutely crucial, because the more you add, the less enjoyable the overall effect is– in fact, the white space makes the important stuff more impactful.
And so it is with white space in your life. The more you take on the “hey, why not?” stuff, the more it detracts, not only from your priorities, but from the important stuff in your life.
Everyone Will Try to Tell You What’s Important
It’s so important to figure out what YOU can’t live without, because unless you’re vigilant, you’ll end up adding all sorts of stuff that only seemed important. And the reason it seemed important is that it’s important to someone else, and they’re trying to impress its importance upon you. Look up the old fashioned definition of ‘impress‘. That’s not something you want to have happen to you.
I like having long conversations with friends, cooking good meals, leisurely drives to nearby towns just to have good coffee in a quirky atmosphere. I like to teach, and I like to learn from people. I like to help people. I like to read, do yoga, garden, and write. I have three businesses to run, and to top it all off, I like to take road trips.
If I’m not careful, every waking minute will fill with a range of want-tos. So many that it will obscure the really important ones.
It’s Time To Make A Clean Break.
You know how, when you clean your desk, the first thin you do is take everything off of it, and then only put back the things you need?
Same thing. Imagine a wide-open schedule. Then, put in only the things you can’t live without. Your work, since you need to pay the bills. But not more than what you need to pay the bills. Family probably is next on the list. Then maybe one or two things you’re really passionate about. These are the things that if you didn’t do them several times a week your life would start to really suck.
Everything else? Brunches with the girls, spin class, art galleries, all that sort of thing: That’s garnish. You get the most impact from the most sparing use of it.
So, with that list, start scaling back. Which, for most people is way, way back. People brag about how busy they are, and that’s just weird. It’s like a design that has way too many whozits and curlicues and popouts and cool fonts. It all seems like a good idea…but it’s not.
It’s like when you go on vacation and hustle around to so many things that it all blurs together and you come home tireder than when you left. Don’t do that! At least not any more often than you have to — hey, if you’re in Paris, you’re in Paris, bay-bee.
But let’s face it: While there’s nothing wrong with most of the stuff that fills your day — It’s fun, or productive, or whatever — it’s also not the thing that makes your life meaningful. Sometimes it’s just not meant to be, y’know?
Personally, I try to stop at two “garnishes” a day. Any more than that and I barely enjoy anything, let alone the white space itself. Like working on a screen porch, listening to the frogs sing in the rain, and the way the texture of the carpet feels against my feet, and the taste of a cup of coffee after an hour of satisfying work. Does that really sound like it needs flourishes?
White space, my friends. White Space is the answer.
What are some ways you incorporate white space in your life?