A Necessity: “White Space”
“White space” is negative space. In design, it is balancing the remainder of the design by providing some relief on the page or screen, which helps focus your visual attention.
What if you analyzed your daily schedule with an eye towards design? Some questions one can ponder are: Have you preserved enough “white space” within your daily work? Or does the way you design your day look very busy and cluttered?
We all need white space in our daily lives just as much as we need it in designs because the concept is two-fold: If our lives are over-cluttered and over-booked, we cannot focus properly on anything. Importantly, this way of working actually diminishes our ability to think creatively.
In their book Scarcity, the researchers Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir make a compelling case for how “time scarcity” — the state of being constantly over scheduled lessens our imaginative powers. Below is an excerpt:
Because we are preoccupied by [time] scarcity, because our minds constantly return to it, we have less mind to give to the rest of life. This is more than a metaphor. We can directly measure mental capacity or, as we call it, bandwidth. We can measure fluid intelligence, a key resource that affects how we process information and make decisions. We can measure executive control, a key resource that affects how impulsively we behave. And we find that scarcity reduces all of these components of bandwidth—it makes us less insightful, less forward-thinking, less controlled. And the effects are large.
If we want to create an environment that nourishes innovation and imagination, we need to build quiet points into our daily rhythm. These small moments of “white space,” where we have time to pause and reflect, go for a walk, or just breathe deeply for a few moments are what give balance and flow and comprehension to our lives as a larger whole.
It is important to see how you can open up your schedule and let some white space in.
But what exactly is white space? Ultimately, that is up to you to define what works best. Here are a few ideas:
- Sitting quietly and letting your mind wander
- Free drawing with no specific objective
- Going for a walk around the block
- Doing a mini-workout
- Journaling and writing
- Taking a short nap
- People watching
Ask yourself: Do you have enough white space in your daily routine? Or do you plow through an over-cluttered schedule day after day, unconscious of how much this pattern is cramping your creativity?
Consider building a few white space blocks directly into your schedule weeks in advance so that no matter what meetings or deadlines come up, you still have time blocked off to take a few moments and think about the big picture or think about nothing at all. Not having enough “white space” in one’s life will eventually lead to immense burn out and significant fatigue.
I need more white space blocks in my day!! Thanks for the reminder… 🙂