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How to make time in your schedule for white space

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If you’re a busy person, and especially if you have kids, finding quiet time to do absolutely nothing is a rare opportunity. There are thousands of things we can do for self-care to fill these moments. And while self-care activities are important, they often get put on the endless to-do list and end up feeling like chores themselves. Our busy minds crave checking things off a list, which is why carving out white space in your calendar is essential.

White space is unplanned time. It’s a designated slot in your schedule to do whatever comes to you in the moment. It is completely free of obligations. If in that moment, you desire to work on a creative project, you can do that. If you feel like taking a nap or going to the movies or reading a book, you can choose to do it in the moment. White space allows you to be in the present and meet your needs as they come to you without feeling like you have to be doing something to meet a demand from others or yourself. It allows you to be spontaneous and feel like your most alive self.

Dr. Brené Brown, researcher and best-selling author, is an advocate for creating more white space in your calendar. She says, “It takes courage to look at why we’re so crazy busy. Yes, there’s a lot to do, but it’s more than that. The hard answer—the courageous answer—is that most of us may stay really busy so the truth of our lives doesn’t catch up with us. We’re tired. We feel scared and uncertain. And we worry that slowing down will reveal white space that is unfamiliar to us, when, in fact, it’s from that very place that we get to own the love and joy in our lives.”

On good busy days, we clutter our schedules with things that matter to us, but we still forget about allowing ourselves to follow our hearts in the present moment. Sometimes your best work stems from those rare quiet moments in your day, like those lightbulb moments you get in the shower. You get them because you’re not in “busy mode.” You’re just being.

Intentionally scheduling white space doesn’t have to be a rigid “at 3:15 p.m. I will spend 30 minutes without any plans.” But maybe every Sunday afternoon, you make time for a little white space. Or maybe you take a long lunch break mid-week. You can spend it alone or with others, as long as it’s unplanned. Make it a treasured part of your life, that you hold with as high importance as you do your obligations.

It takes intentionality and discipline to set aside this time, because it’s easy to fill up our calendars with activities that seem more important. You might say, “Sure, white space sounds great but getting groceries to feed my family is more important right now.” Or, “Maybe in the future I will have time for this but I simply don’t have the time right now.” These are valid points, of course. But we end up running ourselves ragged with busyness, and end up getting sick or feeling unfulfilled because we’re not pausing.

As it’s said in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

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