A favorite quote of mine from Bob Goff (Love Does) is “I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to live a life of complete engagement, of whimsy, a life where love does.”
But some mornings I can’t seem to find the time to RSVP to my invitation, much less to live a life of complete engagement. I feel pulled in many directions, with a long to-do list and no time to devote to my priorities and the things I love.
On those days I crave some White Space in my calendar.
White space is the sweet time left after subtracting time needed to meet our commitments from the limits of our time. Tweet This!
It is time held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. It’s the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing and drowning. It’s the opposite of busy. It’s not something that just appears for most of us. We have to fight for it.
Time is one of our few finite resources. Rich or poor, young or old, married or single, we all get 168 hours in a week. Good news – you do not need a lot of white space. Small doses throughout the week, used intentionally, can make all of the difference.
White space is not intended for self-care, planned fun, or family time. White space is the buffer that allows you to call a friend at the last minute to meet you for a walk or a glass of wine. It is the time that allows you to read one more chapter of your favorite book or make a meal for a sick friend. It’s the time that allows you to say yes to a last-minute dinner invitation from your husband or to teach your kids to play kick the can.
Here Are 5 Steps To Create White Space In Your Calendar:
Step 1: Identify Your Priorities
Step 2: Create an Intentional Time Guide
Step 3: Say No
Step 4: Quit Stuff
Step 5: Stop the Glorification of Busy
Step 1: Identify Your Priorities
Marie Forleo teaches us that “When we know what is important, it’s a lot easier to ignore what isn’t.” Tweet this.
If you haven’t identified your priorities lately, the following could help:
- Brainstorm the things that matter most to you – family, kids, health, faith, friends, volunteering, career, hobbies, gardening, travel, or aging parents are a few examples. Some additional priorities include spouse, school, business, work/job, income, neighbors, beach house, lake house, charities, church, or community.
- Narrow the list to 4-7 items. This is the hard part. Things did not make your list unless they were important. A technique you can use is ranking your priorities and cutting off those which fall below your target number. I find six to be the magic number for me, for now. You make your rules and you will find your sweet spot, too.
- Identify your priorities using a term that resonates with you. For example, if volunteering is one or your priorities but you feel no emotion with the word, choose another word or phrase, such as “giving back.”
My priorities are: family & friends, health, community, finances, GraceWorks, and personal development & spirituality. You may notice I used “&” to connect family & friends as well as personal development & spirituality. This option allows me to go from eight priorities to six. It works because the priorities are related in my heart. Grant and I don’t have children, and our friends are very important to us, so combining family and friends works. If you have kids or spend a lot of time with your family, you may want family to remain its own priority.
- Create a vision for each priority. Make it engaging and fun. For example, one of my visions for GraceWorks is “I enjoy running three virtual classes that help creative women organize their space, time, and technology.”
Step 2: Create An Intentional Time Guide
Now that you have your priorities, live them each day. One of my favorite quotes is “The battle for our hearts is fought on the pages of our calendars.” – Bob Goff, Love Does. To me this means that what we allow on our schedules makes the difference in achieving our visions, or not.
My preferred tool to make this step actionable is an Intentional Time Guide. It works like your financial budget. Weekly, it outlines when you honor your commitments and devote time to your priorities.
Once you create your Intentional Time Guide, use it to schedule your days. If you cannot tie a task to one of your priorities, reconsider why you are doing it. If it does not fit, renegotiate it.
For example, if you commit to help with the school play and later discover that your child does not want to be in the play, talk with the teacher. Let them know that you will not be able to help, but offer to recruit another parent for the job, or not. Another option is to establish boundaries – say, three hours – to devote to the play, and let them determine the best use of your time. If you choose the latter, perhaps your child could join you in the activity, therefore aligning it with your priority.
The secret to living your Intentional Time Guide is to say no to those things that do not align with your priorities. Easier said than done sometimes, which leads us to Step 3.
Step 3: Say No
“It’s only by saying ‘no’ that you can concentrate on the things that are REALLY important.” – Steve Jobs Tweet this
Saying no is hard for many of us. But in order to create white space in your calendar and live your priorities, it’s vital. Learn how to say no, say it often, say it with conviction, say it with grace. A couple of options include:
- Just do it. Look them in the eye, smile, and say “That sounds interesting, but no.” Don’t give an excuse (“The kids have soccer”) or worse, tell a white lie (“I have an appointment at the same time”). Just say no.
- If you prefer a more subtle approach, put some time between the request and your response. “Wow! I am honored that you asked. Let me check my schedule and get back to you.” Later, after you slap down the innate desire to be needed, respond with “Thanks for asking me to help with your project, but in order to honor my existing commitments I must say no.” Here is the tricky part – accept that you will be misunderstood. Remind yourself that by saying yes to everything else, you are saying no to what is important to you.
- How do you say no to your boss? A prioritized project list is a great start. When she is pushing on your time and commitments, ask to review the list together and prioritize it.
Step 4: Quit Stuff
Every Thursday Bob Goff quits something because, he notes, “You can’t be open to new opportunities if your life is full.” The idea is that we are all doing things we don’t need to be doing. Things that zap our energy and passion and crowd our lives so much that we can’t do the amazing things that support our priorities.
Here are some quitables:
• A committee, board, or group that’s going nowhere
• A high-maintenance friendship
• A bad habit
• Something you could hire someone to do
• Procrastinating on your BIG idea
Another way to identify items that are quitable is to compare your current calendar with your priority list. Select one of the items and quit it next Thursday.
Step 5: Stop The Glorification Of Busy
Once you create some white space, you will need to resist the urge to be busy. Busy has become the new badge we wear that tells other “I am important.” It’s normative. We say it because everyone does. It may seem weird to say “I am idle” or “I am unoccupied,” but we are the leaders and we can change the norm.
Next time someone asks how you are, try something like this: “I’m great. I have been able to enjoy focusing on those things that matter most.” Then smile.
If you are going to create more white space in your life, you must take responsibility for it. No one is going to do it for you. The choice is yours.
Once you implement these five steps, you may hear the invitation every morning when you wake up to live a life of complete engagement, of whimsy, a life where love does.
I would love to hear how any or all of these steps worked for you, or to answer your questions about the same.
This article was originally published on graceworks.life