| The Importance of Empty Time |

Screenshot 2016-08-10 12.12.44I have been getting so much out of this talk a reader from the Netherlands shared with me. I must have watched it a least 5 times in the past few weeks!

It’s all about the stuff we mindful artists love – using awareness to live a more happy, productive and fulfilled life.

Juliet Funt teaches us about the power of “Whitespace.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? If you have studied art at all you know about the importance of what we call in art “negative space” – that space which surrounds an object or image that is essential to balance the composition. This is the same principle applied to our time.

She defines Whitespace as “the moments in our life which we allow to remain unfilled and ready for what might come.

We all understand what it’s like to live in this over-stimulating society. We are bombarded by information, overloaded with work and responsibilities, appointments and obligations. We’ve become more and more accustomed to our time constantly being filled. How many of you check your voice email or text messages while waiting in line at the post office, supermarket or bank?

We’ve become more and more accustomed to our time constantly being filled.

How many of you can remember the last time you were bored?

When I first got a smartphone I loved how “efficient” it made me. I coud regain all that previously “lost” time and get more work done, so later I could have more time to make art, clean my kitchen, call my mom, pay bills, etc. Does anyone else use the time waiting in line at the post office, supermarket or bank to check your voice email or text messages?

But it gets to be too much, doesn’t it? After a while, the constant activity and stimulation become draining. 

We just want some quiet.

Sometimes now when I have to wait, I instead choose to look at my surroundings, the people, the architecture, the sky, the weather or just reflect on things I have to be happy about or things to appreciate.

But it takes concerted effort to stave off low-value activity

According to Ms. Funt, “This loss of time with no assignment comes at hefty, hefty costs to our life and work.”

She invites us to welcome the pause in our lives and gives us the science to support the importance of this “Whitespace.” During this seeming “inactivity” is when the frontal lobe of our brain is able to connect with the memory center. This brain activity is associated with increased creativity, increased engagement and productivity.

Juliet is an engaging, skilful, and entertaining speaker. Although I couldn’t embed her video here, I encourage you to click to watch the full 22-minute talk.

Some of the gems I gleaned are the Four Thieves of Productivity. Each of these qualities are desirable innately but can become destructive when they “overgrow their pots.”

Four Thieves of Productivity
  • Drive
  • Excellence
  • Information
  • Activity

And I’ve found these questions an enormously supportive tool to counteract these “thieves.”

Whitespace simplification questions:

  • Is there anything I can let go of?
  • Where is “good enough” good enough?
  • What do I truly need to know?
  • What deserves my attention?

So how about you? Which of the thieves of productivity do you most identify with?


Responses to “The Importance of Empty Time”

  1. SkyWriter

    So true and great to hear this speaker. Did not appreciate the terrible load on me as a professional (whose inner artist was incarcerated) until I retired and allowed the “white space”. Talk about being unleashed! I am now so protective of keeping that white space . I am a healthier person for it.

  2. cindy

    So true! Thank you for sharing video.

  3. Gabrielle Smith Noye

    Hello Michele, the link to this video is not working. Do you know where I can find it?
    Thank you!
    P.S. I love your teaching videos and artist mindset 🙂


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