Message From Julie: The Magic is in the Whitespace
“The magic is in the whitespace. It happens between the lines.” This is what I tell the participants in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program at Dallas College on their first day. I ask them what I mean by that, and they immediately comprehend that I am emphasizing the importance of spending time building relationships with each other. It means that what happens outside of specific instructional time will be even more valuable than what they get in class.
To capitalize on this magic the participants must be intentional about how they use their time during breaks, at lunch, and connecting outside of class. If they spend all the break time responding to emails, lunch on phone calls, and rush out the door the second class ends, they are not leaving any whitespace for the magic occur.
I was reminded of the importance of whitespace in our lives as leaders a few weeks ago by a colleague who was providing feedback to a fellow business owner. The advice was something along the lines of, “You have to leave enough whitespace to do the big things.” In this case the “big things” meant working on the business instead of working in it.
And I was reminded of the importance of leaving whitespace in our personal lives a couple of days ago when I read an article written by Melissa Kirsch, a New York Times journalist called How to Slow Down. In the article, Kirsch talks about a drawing class she took. She says what she learned is that “In an age of instant everything, drawing invites us to slow down and appreciate the world around us” – to appreciate the whitespace.
I first learned about the concept of whitespace in high school as the editor of the yearbook. It is a graphic design concept where white space (the “negative” space between design elements, lines of text, paragraphs, etc.) is used intentionally to enhance visual appeal and readability. It focuses the eye to what is most important and increases readability of text.
In his blog post, What’s White Space Design? Nick Babich says, “The basic role of whitespace is to let your design breathe.”
I assert that intentionally building whitespace into our lives – our lives as leaders and as human beings – allows us to breathe and focus on those things that are most important.
As leaders we are not only responsible for the whitespace in our lives. We also impact the ability of our team members to design whitespace into their lives. Back-to-back meetings, operating in constant “firefighting” mode, moving from one big project to the next without taking time to celebrate success, emailing and texting 24/7 all rob us and our team members of the whitespace necessary to breath and focus, to be creative and innovative. It costs us not only in dollars and cents but in health and wellbeing.
Here is my challenge. What is something specific that you can do today to add whitespace to your life and to help your team design whitespace into their lives?