Recently a conference I was booked to speak at was postponed. That meant I found myself with four wide open days in my calendar. Not just a little free time, but four days completely unscheduled.
My first inclination was to immediately fill it up with things from my never-ending to-do list. But instead I held myself back.
What would it be like to simply let those days unfold?
What would happen if the only thing to do was to just be?
My inner committee of critics certainly had a lot to say.
You should do this.
You should do that.
Don’t waste this time.
Once all the chatter in my head quieted down, I decided these four days were an unexpected gift from the universe. An opportunity to practice being in the moment. A chance to slow down and focus on conscious and intentional choices.
I have always been an advocate of leaving white space in your calendar to allow time to deal with the inevitable overflow of commitments and responsibilities. Doing that gives you a bit of breathing space. When your schedule is jam-packed with no wiggle room, you feel continually pressed for time. Given that most of us underestimate how long any task will actually take, our schedules are usually unrealistic from the get-go. Throw an unexpected problem or crisis in the mix and we’re hooped.
In this instance, this was not planned white space. It was bonus white space. Commitments were flowing out of my schedule rather than into it. So it definitely felt like an opportunity.
Did I get some things from my to-do list done?
Sure. But I was very picky about what I would trade my time for during those few days.
Did life move at a slower pace? Absolutely.
Did my inner critics keep putting in their two cents? Definitely.
The other thing that happened was having time to step back and really be present in the moment. There was more quiet to hear the inner chatter and decide if it was worth listening to rather than just responding to it. I also had more time to do things I really enjoy instead of all the things that have to be done. Quite literally there was just more space in my day.
So now I’m an advocate of two kinds of white space. The first being some flexibility in your calendar to realistically manage the multitude of things on your plate.
The second, and equally as important, is what I am now calling “wide open white space”. How do you experience that? You can certainly schedule it too. Set aside a block of time in your calendar and then don’t allow any commitments to clutter it up. Pay attention to your inner chatter and know that, yes, you are entitled to it. Call it ME time if you like, or if that ruffles your guilt monster, then call it RE time – time to refocus, rejuvenate, re-engage with yourself.
Scheduling is great but also watch for unexpected white space from the universe. Guard against the tendency to fill it up with stuff that needs to be done. Perhaps what really needs to be done, is nothing at all.
What are your white space tips? Post a comment and share what you think.