“Take 5-15 seconds of whitespace before every important meeting, phone call or conversation to focus on the task, situation and people at-hand.” Juliet Funt
Juliet Funt is the CEO of WhiteSpace at Work. She gave a keynote address at the 2019 Training Conference promoting whitespace, which she defines as “the strategic pause taken between activities.”
WhiteSpace at Work has found that 95% of people are interrupted over 5 times per hour; 69% of workers feel highly overworked; 86% of employees agree that taking breaks would make them more productive; 61% of workers feel significant stress about the ever-present pressure of work email. And, as a result, 54% of employees are disengaged and have simply checked out.
According to Ms. Funt, there are four main thieves of productivity, which reflect assets run amok:
- Drive becomes overdrive
- Excellence becomes perfectionism
- Information becomes information overload
- Activity becomes frenzy.
On their website they state that “When starved for WhiteSpace, employees are disengaged, overwhelmed and distracted. With WhiteSpace, creativity and engagement take root and blossom into growth and focused execution.”
The idea is to make work simpler and more effective; reduce emails, meetings and reports; and achieve top-level priorities faster.
But you have to “remove before you improve.” Organizations and individuals need to adopt a reductive mindset to habitually strip away the unnecessary. In other words, it is important to “decrapify the workflow” to find the time for whitespace.
To avoid or minimize the likelihood of overdrive, ask “Is there anything I can let go by?”
To avoid or minimize the time and stress of perfectionism, ask “When is good enough good enough?”
To avoid or minimize being a victim of information overload, ask “What do I truly need to know?”
To avoid or minimize the tendency to frenzy, ask “What deserves my attention?”
On an individual level, tactical whitespace involves: scheduling time between meetings to prepare and/or reflect; controlling data and dashboards to inform without overwhelming; questioning tasks and activities to make sure they add value; and creating specifically designated time for creativity and innovation.
Now I’m not going to feel guilty when I need a breather, take a break or just sit quietly. I don’t have to be a human doing anymore (with a nod to Gloria Steinem)- it is all right and actually better than all right to be a human being! I get fresh ideas with my fresh air!
May your learning be sweet.