WE ALL NEED white space – open, unassigned time. We need it for better relationships, mental health, and better productivity. Juliet Funt writes in A Minute to Think, “without space, we can’t sustain ourselves.” It is the missing element in our lives, and we need to get it back.
Funt suggests that first, we need to take strategic pauses to recuperate, reduce, reflect, and construct. They help us to separate. When you can’t take long stretched of pen thinking time, Funt uses what she calls the Wedge. “The Wedge is a small portion of white space inserted between two activities. It’s used specifically to pry apart actions or events that without it would have been connected.”
What keeps us from doing this are the Thieves of Time. “Four key drivers propel companies, teams, and human beings at work: Drive, Excellence, Information, and Activity. Despite being positive and helpful to us in their basic nature, these forces are also the biggest reason white space withers.” When taken to extremes, they reduce our effectiveness. They look like this:
We mindlessly accept a meeting invite because we are driven. (Associated with burnout and overdrive)
We overtweak a presentation because we want to be excellent. (Associated with perfectionism)
We go too deep into dashboards and data because we want to be informed. (Associated with overload)
We impulsively grab the next to-do on our list because we feel we should always be active. (associated with frenzy)
You deal with these excess use of these strengths by asking the following Simplification Questions:
Drive – when it turns into overdrive – needs to hear: Is there anything I can let go of?
Excellence – when it turns into perfectionism – needs to hear: Where is “good enough,” good enough?
Information – when it turns into overload – needs to hear: What do I truly need to know?
Activity – when it turns into frenzy – needs to quiet its flailing long enough to hear: What deserves my attention?
She also goes into using the Wedge to deal with the mirage of hallucinated urgency. The kind of urgency that we manufacture and causes us to “constantly and thoughtlessly interrupt our colleagues” and the kind of urgency that others place on us. Start to deal with it by putting a Wedge between what comes to mind and anything we do about it.
Funt reveals to us in A Minute to Think the core issues that invite the busyness into our lives and then provides us with practical applications to defeat them. It is geared to working professionals, but people young and old, working or not, deal with these same issues that diminish the quality of their lives. The busyness mindset that we have unintentionally adopted leads to shallow thinking, the acceptance of other people’s thinking, and the knee-jerk reactions that are so prevalent today.
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The answer to our collective busyness is to reclaim our days by freeing up time to think, process, and create. With the Busyness Test, you can take a closer look at your day-to-day activities and habits to help you learn how to uncover more of this crucial space for creativity and strategic thinking.