The era we are in where exertion has replaced thought and the trance of busyness has overcome millions will eventually be a thing of the past. We are already starting to see the shift happen as we see masses of people flock to mindfulness training, yoga workshops and other centering activities as they come to realize this pace is no longer sustainable.
So, how do we overcome the age of overload at work where acting busy and over stimulation is worn as a badge of honor? Start by incorporating white space into your day.
What is White Space?
White space is a pause taken between activities. It brings you back to the present, giving your brain a chance to reboot before rushing on to the next activity. It takes a matter of seconds or a minute or two at most. I call it a ‘micro move’ like an adjustment a golfer makes to a putting stroke. The alteration can be minor, but the effects quite significant.
A few years ago, I was leading an enterprise-wide leadership development program where we incorporated white space at the beginning of the training. At first, I was a bit nervous at what leaders might think, but they were appreciative of the intermission between events. It was like watching thirty leaders come up for air after holding their breath under water for a long time. I could see a physical shift in their bodies and expression of relief. Following the two-and-half day training, per the leader’s request, we continued to incorporate white space into their group coaching sessions, calling it, “The 60 second pause”.
How does White Space Work?
White space is the experience we create for ourselves between events to recuperate before moving on to the next event. It’s no different than if you open thirty documents on your laptop and expect it to run just as fast as if you only have one document open. The brain needs time to become ‘conscious’ of the things that zap its productivity such as being overly driven, perfectionistic, or drawn into continuous activity. We can become servants to these forces without realizing it, so we need questions that will challenge the status quo. Questions are powerful antidotes for helping us break the trance of reactive busyness. Here are a few examples:
“What can I hand off?”
“Does this require 80% or 100%? If only 80%, am I there and can I move on?”
“What is most important now?”
“What is the most important information I need to know?”
So, once you take that pause, ask a provoking question to challenge if what you are doing is most important. Don’t succumb to what you always did or you’ll get what you always got.
Why Practice White Space?
- Increased focus and attention
- Break-through thinking; “aha moments”
- Greater focus on more important activities
- Greater attunement/engagement with others
Mastery of the human element of busyness is probably the biggest difference between a smart guy and a leader.
~ SVP- Fortune 500 Company
Is White Space the Same as Mindfulness?
White space” and mindfulness have similar effects on our overall well-being, and practiced together they can be powerful because they build our brain’s capacity to be more present, but they are different practices.
White space is a brief second or moment pause between events used to recuperate, decompress and refocus, or process new information before rushing on to the next event. It requires challenging old beliefs about what it means to be productive.
Mindfulness, according to Ellen Langer, Harvard Psychologist, “Is the state of mind in which we are actively engaged in the present noticing new things and sensitive to the context.” Being engaged in the present moment cultivates our ability to see a situation differently or consider a different perspective and be more accepting.
Due to our continuous partial attention on our work and spending over half our days on average consuming media, staying fully present takes practice, so most people seek out white space and mindfulness training to gain greater proficiency. If you would like more information please contact me at: Marcel@TheC3Group.us.