by Juliet Funt, founder of WhiteSpace at Work
Is your company sacrificing you to the false god of busyness?
Is your day filled with an endless barrage of meetings, emails and presentation revisions? Do you arrive at work tense and stressed – dreading and anticipating an avalanche of urgent requests and directives?
Do you have time to truly think… and really get anything done?
Your time is under attack — and most companies are in passionate denial about the bottom line costs of the frenetic pace and endless pressure.
WhiteSpace is the strategic pause taken between activities. It’s the open, fluid, flexible time that’s used to make the smartest of us even smarter. And it is one of the most valuable and endangered elements of the workplace. Everyone needs time to decompress and evaluate what just happened and what they need to do next. Without the right amount of reflection time, the human mind starts to shut down. Performance and productivity dramatically reduce and mistakes are made.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are several ways to protect and reclaim whitespace. Among my recommendations are the following:
1. Reclaim Capacity.
Every day we take on countless responsibilities between our families, careers, and relationships, and everyday those responsibilities ask just a little bit more of us. We fall in love with this image of a busy self, but that constant action is slowly choking us all. Redistribute that daily effort by identifying the small, low-level tasks that can be eliminated. Nix the endless wordsmithing of every email, or micromanaging each member of your team, and discover where those missing hours disappeared to.
2. Fight Pavlov.
Like the renowned dog and bell, we have conditioned ourselves to jump to our phones, tablets, and computers at the slightest ding, notification, or vibration. Every time we check a text or knock out an email we experience a tiny shot of dopamine—the chemical in our brains that makes us feel good. Make sure you add time and create cushion to the intense periods of work in each work day. Don’t be chained to your technology. Put your cell phone down. Reclaim your time by setting designated times for checking email. If you don’t need to use it, place your phone on airplane mode.
3. Practice Selective Perfectionism.
We can only do so much. Between meetings, projects, presentations, dishes, laundry, reports, and dinner, it’s impossible to commit to perfection at every moment. Choose your battles and practice the art of selective perfectionism. Sending out a routine meeting agenda for your coworkers? Don’t obsess over it. Finalizing a presentation for your manager? Now it’s time to let your inner perfectionist shine.
4. Insert Wedges of WhiteSpace.
We often get wound up in hyperactivity — rushing from one task to another without taking even a moment for reflective thought. This relentless pace often causes us to make errors within tasks or even focus on the wrong tasks. Insert the WhiteSpace Wedge between two connected things such as activity-activity or stimulus-response. Pry them apart like you would split a log and give yourself some WhiteSpace before you act.
Juliet Funt is the founder of WhiteSpace at Work, a company that works with businesses and organizations to manage productivity and performance by unburdening their talent.