Steal This Lesson: White Space Enhances Productivity

For some people, it’s hard to come up with ideas, to think of ways to be more creative, to find time to nurture a passion.

For Pick the Brain readers though, a different type of problem presents itself: how to regulate the output of all those creative processes going on in your head. Make it sustainable. Make sure you don’t go crazy. Corral all those voices in your head before they become a problem. Here’s where borrowing from another discipline helps. You know, like ballet for football players?

The fact is, we all want to be productive, operating at our peak. When the quantity of work increases and becomes unsustainable, however, productivity actually decreases. How do we fix that?

White space
I had been hearing about “white space” in different contexts lately, and I wanted to see what the big deal was. Turns out its fame is warranted. White space is a concept used by graphic designers that fulfills several functions, some of which can be turned to good use in other disciplines, to whit, the following themes culled from NaldzGraphics:

White Space Creates a Balanced and Harmonious Layout
If your layout is your life, this is an easy metaphor. You want action some of the time, but not  all of the time. A balance of the yin and the yang. Give yourself some blank spots in your schedule to allow for your body and mind to recover from your awesome productive sessions!

White Space Improves Readability
If you want other people to read your message and act upon it, white space allows you to better communicate your core purpose, your driving passion, to others. For example, if you talk a-mile-a-minute to someone you just met about all your passions, they will leave the conversation (running!) without understanding what your core message is all about. Edit. Edit Edit!

White Space Gives Focus and Emphasis to an Object
By setting apart the colored, active space, you emphasize its importance. Consider a blackboard that has 4 quadrants of paper on it with writing. Compare that to a blackboard alongside that has one paper with writing, stuck in the middle. It makes you lean in to read it, doesn’t it? How much better would that work when the blackboard is your business, and the paper is your elevator speech, clear and concise? Another one for the edit pile.

White Space Acts as a Separator

Are you juggling a lot of balls in the air? Then honor each project, and instead of yoinking your brain out of one plane and jabbing it into another, let the thoughts and energies from one conclude and subside before tackling a different project. Setting aside a specific time slot, where you’re not rushing in, and you’re not rushing out of it to other responsibilities will make each activity more enjoyable. Switch it up, but in a civilized fashion! This will free up more creative engines for getting stuff done during those time slots.

Overall, making room for white space in your life helps you achieve your goals, meanwhile giving you balance, clarity, focus, and freedom from pressure. Not a bad way to organize!

This post is brought to you by chief cook and conniver Margaret Pinard, who blogs about food, travel, and other self-discovery adventures over at Taste Life Twice. If you’d like to hear her tips for tasting all life has to offer, sign up for the Taste Life Twice Newsletter.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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