I’ve always been a busy person. If there ends up being a break in the action, I take it as the perfect opportunity to do all sorts of things that I’ve been wanting to do. I have a daily to-do list, a weekly, a monthly, and, of course, a life’s checklist. I love the thrill of it all.
However, the past few months have been incredibly busy for me, busier than any in a long time. Full of dinners with friends, pro-bono design efforts, trips to the dog park, coffee dates, networking events, retreats…all on top of the normal cooking, cleaning, and laundry. I’ve been feeling rather wiped out. A few weeks ago I was speed-hiking uphill to my casual carpool pickup spot, huffing and puffing and trying to get there as quickly as possible…and then it hit me. I am ALWAYS rushing, always multi-tasking. ALWAYS. No matter what the task: taking the dog on a walk, sketching at work, watching a TV show (folding laundry or cleaning during commercials). This can’t be a good thing, right? I mean, I’m gaining efficiency, but what am I rushing towards? Apparently towards the next thing, the next to-do list item, the next level of achievement. But what does that get me?
A week or so ago Brian and I were having dinner with our friends Kate and Chris Schwass. In one of our more serious moments, Chris says (and Kate expounds):Sometimes I imagine that my life is a piece of notebook paper. The page is full of the things that I do with my life, and yet I am always trying to write really small, cramming as much as I possibly can into every exposed margin. But I’m coming to believe that, just as in design, frequently the white space in life gives the written space more value. The more ink you have crammed in, the less significance any of it has. White space helps us breathe, reflect, adjust, edit.
That stopped me a bit in my tracks. Sure, I want to accomplish things. Sure, I want to live life fully, vibrantly, abundantly. As I said last week, I want to be a woman of action. But, am I pursuing that so strongly that I end up doing just the opposite?
White space allows you to breathe. It allows you those unexpected, memorable moments that only come with flexibility. It cultivates spontaneity and heart-full passion. It affords you the ability to pause and recognize the value and beauty of a moment that usually passes you by.
So. I’ve been pondering this for a little while, and I’ve finally decided.
I am in pursuit of some more white space.
Those moments for rest. Those moments to enjoy fully without the panic of a to-do list. The chance for a little unexpected fun.
Now, I’m not exactly sure how to go about this, but I’ve come up with a few initial ideas.
1. Limit multi-tasking. [no cooking/phone chatting, talking to brian/texting, no working/checking email]
2. Walk slowly. If I’m late, I’m late….[my 30 second gain really isn’t going to make me look any better]
3. Say ‘no’ to some things. I don’t need 4 dinner dates, 2 coffee dates, and 3 ultimate games per week. Practice saying ‘no’ and being okay with the responses.
4. Write 750 words per day. I found this website that offers a forum for a daily “brain dump,” to simply siphon off your subconscious and process thoughts. It’s been great for me, especially as a verbal processor! Starting off my morning by scribing all the things that I’m concerned with has proven an incredibly lightening effect.
5. Take a sabbath. From waking up to going to sleep, I do only what makes me come alive. [No email or phone, but anything else is fair game] Sleep in? Wander for the afternoon? Read random blogs? Try a new lunch restaurant? Read books, play ultimate frisbee, or organize my spice cabinet…all valid options.
My success has been spotty so far, but I’m working on it. Just one morning walk to work, one Sunday, and one dinner at a time.
Do you have enough white space in your life? Too much?
What sorts of things do you do to have that space? Is there something new you should start? Share your story, and let’s pursue some beautiful, clear, white space together!
Some additional reading if you’re intrigued:
Big thanks to Kate and Chris Schwass for inspiring this post, and to Momma Mader for reading the draft!