Why white space is so important (+ how to find more time for it in your life)
This essay first appeared in my newsletter, The Weekly Pep Talk. If you’d like to subscribe for a big old dose of positivity in your inbox every Sunday, you can sign up here.
When was the last time you felt bored? When was the last time you just let your mind wander? When was the last time you had a completely open weekend, free to spend exactly how you choose? When was the last time you had some white space?
I used to be truly terrible at creating white space in my life. I’d cram every spare second with commitments and activities. I’d fill my spare time with blog work or events, and even my commute was taken over by my to do list. To me, productivity was king, and any time spent not doing something was time wasted.
It was only while we were away on holiday last year that my mindset started to shift. I had two whole uninterrupted weeks to fill with nothing but adventure. I’d deleted the email apps off my phone, turned the social media notifications off, and truly committed myself to embracing the white space and living in the moment.
And do you know what? It was magic. After a few days, it felt like the creative part of my brain started to charge up again. I was soaked to the bone with new ideas and solutions to problems I’d been worrying about for weeks. And best of all, I started to dream again. Having that white space allowed my mind to get off the rat race and start wandering. I got back in touch with my intuition on that trip, and I made some big decisions that are still paying off for me right now.
I returned to the UK relaxed, refreshed and in a better head space than I’d been for years. And I knew that I wanted to feel this way more regularly. I wanted to be able to access that white space every week, not just once a year on holiday.
And so I started to make some changes. Small changes at first, tiny tweaks that didn’t feel too overwhelming, as I built myself up to the bigger shifts that I knew I needed to make. 8 months on, I feel like I’ve really got the hang of it. I have more time for me, more time to be bored, more time to get back in touch with my own intuition. And as a result, I feel more creative, more inspired and more excited about life than I have done for a very long time.
I thought I’d share some of those changes with you here today, in case you too could do with a little more white space in your life, for thinking and dreaming and doing absolutely nothing at all.
1) Schedule your white space
In our busy, hectic lives, I often find that unless you actually schedule something in your diary, it probably won’t happen. The same is true with down time - unless you actually mark it on the calendar, something else will end up sneaking in there and you’ll never get round to it.
I started small at first, keeping one lunch time a week free to take a walk, or marking out a midweek evening to do nothing but read. Now I aim to have at least one full weekend a month with no plans or social commitments. It will feel indulgent at first, but the breathing room that down time will give you is completely invaluable.
2) Create some proper boundaries
Another thing that hugely helped me was to put some proper boundaries in place. For me, that means no checking work emails outside of work hours (you’d be surprised how simply replying to one little email can quickly snowball into 2 hours at your laptop and a whole evening ruined), no phones for half an hour before bed and keeping Sundays free of any blog work.
Your boundaries might look different, but putting some in place can make a huge difference. Make sure they’re communicated to the right people, and feel free to put your foot down if they aren’t being respected. You don’t owe anyone your time, and you’ll be a better employee, partner and friend if you create more white space for yourself.
3) Turn down the noise
My final tip for creating more white space in your life is to turn down the noise and chatter you’re filling your day with. I used to have a podcast playing at all times, and would check social media every 5 minutes, but by constantly absorbing content from everybody else, I never gave myself time to think or just let my mind wander.
Now I try and make sure I have at least an hour a day where I’m just alone with my thoughts, and at least once a week I turn the notification on my phone off for a couple of hours and focus on living in the moment. It doesn’t sound like much, but I swear it makes all the difference.
How much white space do you have in your life?