Save your sanity: create whitespace in your life

Many people see productivity as a tool that lets us fit more into our days.But thinking this way can lead to what I call the Trap of Productivity:

The more productive we are, the more we can do. but the more we do, the more productive we need to be.

Once we get caught in this dangerous cycle we have to become insanely productive every single day just to get through everything we’ve signed ourselves up for. And with each day scheduled down to the minute, the tiniest thing can completely derail it:

  • a narky email from a client that needs a detailed answer
  • an unexpected phone call from a friend
  • the doctor who’s running behind even though you’re their first appointment
  • the slow driver you’re stuck behind
  • the toddler who does a poo just as you finish buckling them into their seat.

Suddenly we’re reacting to these normal, everyday events with frustration, anger, and declarations about everybody wasting our time.

I don’t know about you, but feeling frustrated and angry all the time kind of messes with my life of practical perfection.

That’s why I use productivity to create whitespace instead.

What’s whitespace?

Whitespace is actually a graphic design element that:

  • lets the other elements on the page breathe
  • reduces tension between elements
  • lets the most important things come to the fore
  • is essential for balance and harmony in a design.

And if that’s what whitespace does for a design, imagine what it can do for a person.

Create whitespace in your day - Champagne Cartel
Great whitespace examples from Instagram. From top left, and then clockwise: @sean_matchap; @this_unscripted_life; @y.039; @tiny_kittenn

How do you get more whitespace in your life?

To begin with, you need to stop scheduling your days down to the minute. You need to create pockets of time in your day where you can move slowly (be able to ‘meander’) and have plenty of time for what needs to be done.

For me, between 7am and 8.15am is one of those pockets of time. All I have to do in that hour is get my toddler up and dressed, make a green smoothie for myself and my husband, and clean up everyone’s breakfast dishes.

I could fit a lot more in that time if I wanted to. I could put a load of laundry on. I could prep dinner. I could check and answer emails.

But I don’t.

That chilled out hour or so in the morning means I’m not yelling at the kids because we’re running late. It means that if one of the kids spills milk all over the floor, or announces they need to study for a spelling test, it doesn’t derail the entire morning (and the rest of the day). It means I get to walk out the front door feeling chilled and ready to take on the day instead of frustrated and flustered.  (I’ve found that if you start the day feeling frustrated and flustered it’s very hard to pull things back from there.)

Do you have pockets of whitespace in your day? Or could you do with some?

Practical Perfection at Champagne CartelThis article as an excerpt from Kelly Exeter’s fantastic book Practical Perfection. If you’ve ever been told you’re too hard on yourself, if you’re especially prone to overwhelm and burnout, or if your perfectionist tendencies are holding you back from getting the most out of life, this book is definitely for you! We’ve both read it, and we love it, and we begged Kelly to let us share some of her wisdom here. Check it out for yourself at Kelly’s website.

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2 Comments

    • Lol trust me – I could fit those elements that I give myself an hour for into 30 minutes if I wanted to … but then that would make every morning very rushed and tight 🙂

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