I learned an unexpected life-lesson from the front row seat of a technical writing class at Texas A&M University. That’s right. Technical writing - a class chosen for it’s simple, uninspiring merits of time and location in order to fulfill one of my English credits. When I consider all the classes from my degree, that little class wins for being the most practically helpful, and as a bonus, it introduced me to something I now know is invaluable: white space.
White space is simply the portion of the page left unmarked. It’s the principle that keeps designers from covering every inch of a document with words and pictures. White space leaves separation between the content, it makes the important things stand out, and it creates balance. See the life-lesson here?
Adulting somehow translates to packing every minute of every day. I'm forever fighting the urge to type out one more email, to slip in one more appointment, decision, or project, or to tend to one more household need.
Sometime ago, life ran out of space. I felt like I couldn't breathe. I love my family. I love Jesus. I love my job. So why did I feel like I was drowning from the inside out?
Simply put, my life didn't have any white space.
No breathing room.
No margin for the unexpected or spontaneous. No elbow room to gracefully accommodate the challenges of motherhood, marriage, and a career. Even if my calendar wasn't full - which it usually was - my mind was.
Without breathing room, the treasures of our lives feel like inconveniences. By doing more, we are actually offering less.
I used to laugh (on the inside of course) when people recommended margin and rest. It seemed completely impossible - for millions of reasons you already know because you feel them too. But friend, I’m here to tell you, it’s not. The most impactful changes aren’t huge and drastic; they are small and (mostly) consistent.
Here’s the short list of what’s made the most difference in my life.
5 Tips for Creating White Space
- Take a break from social media. The biggest problem isn’t the content (though the negativity adds unnecessary stress). It’s the reflex of checking it every minute we are still that robs us of so much opportunity to live, breath, and experience. Find a week, some weekends, or some evenings to take a break. Leave the phone in the car when you head to the grocery store or doctor's office. I want to be more present, more available for conversation, and I can't do that if my face is buried in my phone.
- Schedule time off before the year starts. After years of frustration, I've finally learned if I don't put time off on our calendars before the year is in full swing, it probably won't happen. Before January started, I block time on the calendar - some for family time at home, some for family travel, some for David and I to travel alone, and some for me to just be alone.
- Plan to not have plans. It's easy to use days off to tend to the business of life or to travel to fun places. While good and helpful, those things aren't necessarily restful. Whether it's a day once a quarter or a week once a year, time off to simply do absolutely nothing is an important part of rest.
- Create quiet. I like noise. In fact, some of my best work is accomplished from a busy coffee shop. But God made our souls to need quiet, even if it doesn't feel natural or comfortable. While life doesn't usually hand it to us, we can create it. 30 minutes before the rest of the house wakes up, 15 minutes after everyone is asleep, 10 minutes sitting in our cars before we go into work, 20 minutes in a bubble bath guarded by a locked door. It needs to be intentional, and most importantly, it really does need to be quiet.
- Put "It can wait" on repeat. Few things are as urgent as they seem. Text messages, emails, laundry, dishes, to do lists, and so much more can feel pressing. But often, my own self-imposed expectations create the urgency, not true need. Everything can have a place and time, but it doesn't have to be all at once, and it doesn't have to be now. Giving ourselves permission to move something to the "it can wait" category is incredibly freeing.
The theme here is intention. Breathing room won't happen without it.
Join the conversation by commenting below: What one practical next step you can take the create some white space in the coming week?