Where is your white space?

Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash

Henry Cloud is one of my favorite teachers and authors. I began reading his books many years ago, and I now grab every new one he publishes as soon as it comes out. I have written a few summaries of his books on this blog (see links below). Now that I think about it, I may write some more this year!

Recently, I read a short post by Henry Cloud on the Global Leadership Summit (GLS) blog (which is a great blog, by the way!). Henry was talking about the importance of having WHITE SPACE (or rest) in our life.

too much stuff + too long = overwhelmed and tired brain

Henry was endorsing the valuable research and work done by a woman named Juliet Funt. Juliet spoke at the GLS, and you can find some excellent short video clips of her ideas on YouTube. Her company, WhiteSpaceAtWork.com, helps organizations reduce their busyness, schedules and digital habits so that people can be more engaged and creative at home and at work.

Research has shown that the highest performers in life
have a pattern of not being “on all the time.”

Henry Cloud

Juliet shares some great tips for protecting the WHITE SPACE in our schedules:

  • Take some thoughtful time and inventory your motives for saying yes.
  • Try to separate the emotional (the enjoyment of being asked) from the practical (will this opportunity truly move your goals forward?).
  • Attempt to mentally envision and realistically consider all of the inevitable to-dos and busyness of the time around the date of the request.
  • Make “No” your default answer. Let “less” be your guiding principle. You will  never regret having too much time.

Which of these tips could you apply in the next few days to find some WHITE SPACE in your week?

Henry Cloud book summaries: Integrity  •  Necessary Endings

one day at a time

calendar file000786402730I am scheduling my calendar from now until Christmas. Lots of routine, plus two special family get-together events, which are a big deal because we all live spread out across the country. Getting us all to the same place requires a bit of advance planning… and a more-than-a-bit of money.

I am also working on my final project to complete my MA. The last hurrah to a three-year long endeavor. There are assignment deadlines. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is still a long tunnel.

Work is ever-present, but less settled right now. Since my team focuses on serving others around the world, it is hard to commit very far ahead, and crisis like Ebola, ISIS, and international conflicts change the best of intentions.

On top of these things, my mom has decided to end her chemo treatments and begin hospice care. She is very tired and fragile, but is still mobile and mentally sharp. No one knows how much time she will have.

I have to live one day at a time.

I am keenly aware that I have to hold all the plans I make with a loosely open hand. There is no certainty that they will occur. No guarantees. Because of my mom’s condition, at any moment this Fall could easily take on a very different personality.

The truth is every day is the same – I don’t control them and they could be very different in an instant.

Only my level of awareness has changed. And my attitude.

I am more grateful for what I do receive each day – a long phone call with one of my children, fun times with friends, a walk or bike ride with my husband, a deep conversation with my mom.

I worry less on the front end, and I am more at peace with those plans that don’t turn out. I can often reschedule, plan something else, or just enjoy some time to rest rather than keep up the pace I thought I wanted.

I actually plan better and more. Because of my recognition that each day is a gift, I want to fill them well. I crave valuable experiences, efforts, communication, and relationships.

I don’t want to waste a single moment.

I am learning to more quickly let go of the anger and forgive the offense. I am trying to take the initiative to clarify misunderstandings and express appreciation and love. I want to listen well to others and encourage and empower. I am attempting to criticize less and give more generously of myself.

Isn’t it ironic that the awareness of death gives greater meaning to life? 

How are you living each day?

out of control

Have you ever had one of those days-weeks-years when everything feels out of control? Too many people with needs? Too much to think about? Too much to do?

I’ve been there. No, actually I am there now. Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe, like I have a huge boulder pressing against my chest. Other times I feel all jittery and accelerated as if I drank too many energy drinks or too many cups of coffee. I talk too fast, but struggle to connect coherent thoughts. A friend described it like a snow globe… ideas swirling everywhere in her head, even after she sits or lies down to rest. Some people dream that they are in a car, squealing around the corners out of control or flying over the guard rails.

Stop the car! I want to get out!

The problem is… I am not in a car. I am living life, and I can’t just get out. I can, however, learn to control the speed and handle the curves better. To manage my stress level, I’ve practiced a few tips over the years (that I am re-applying this week!). These are a few of them…

Talk to someone: It helps to get another perspective, receive objective advice, hear experience and tips, or just laugh with a friend or mentor about the chaos. It doesn’t require a lot of time; a chat in the hallway, an honest conversation over lunch, a phone call or coffee date can make a big difference in my attitude.

Toss the artificial deadlines: I put unnecessary pressure on myself because I want something done NOW that doesn’t really need to happen immediately. Many appointments can be rescheduled, due dates adjusted, bills paid in installments, dream projects postponed to a better time. If it is causing stress, but isn’t truly urgent, I am learning to let it go until later.

Test it visually: I quickly overload my calendar when I generalize tasks and time availability. To counter that, when life feels out of control, I write down every major to-do item or category that I have and then schedule specific time for it so that the calendar helps me see reality. “I’ll do that tomorrow” requires that I actually confirm that I have some free time tomorrow. “I can get to that next week” means that an empty day or part day is really available for the new idea. If I don’t have extra time, I need to understand – and see – that I will squeeze out a prior commitment when I add a new one.

Think rhythm: Life is a journey; it ebbs and flows. There are deadlines…and boredom. School semesters… and vacations. Friends… and loneliness. New babies… and graduates. Weddings… and funerals. Health… and crisis. Promotion… and retirement. Much we cannot control; some we can. I don’t want to add additional stress by stressing out over the stress. When I accept and appreciate where I am, and practice these tips when possible, I breathe a little easier, think more clearly and keep my car on the road.

How about you… Is your day-week-year out of control? How do you handle the stress?