Stress & Self-Care, Time Management

Why You Need White Space in Your Life

I recently watched some videos on basic graphic design techniques, hosted by the talented team at Before & After. Although I don’t consider myself at all skilled in this area, I loved seeing examples of designs which work well, and those which the presenter then improved. And I confess I can waste hours playing around with rough ideas for my book covers. One theme which came up repeatedly was the importance of white space. That is, of not filling every available inch of paper, but giving the design elements sufficient breathing room. This also offers the eye a place to rest.

It’s a concept which translates well to fiction. It’s important for a novel to have both fast-paced scenes, and slower sequences where the characters process the challenges they’re facing. And, we writers are often told to simply look at the pages we produce. If there is too much black type, chances are we are using too much description and not enough dialogue.

White Space in Your Life | Pauline Wiles

This made me think about white space in life as a whole.

One of my worst habits is constantly trying to cram in “just one more task”. For example, eight minutes before it’s time to cook dinner, I’ll start a fresh task. Six minutes before my biweekly Skype call with family, I’ll dart off to sort some laundry. If my life were a piece of graphic art, it might just be a design failure.

The good thing is, I have lots of variety: fiction writing, research and articles for purposeful productivity, loads of exercise and fresh air. But in common with many of us these days, what I don’t have is much time where I’m not trying to check “just one more thing” off my list.

Here are some pauses I plan to introduce:

  • Daily 10-minute meditations, as described here.
  • If a task finishes less than 10 minutes before an appointment, remind myself not to start something new.
  • Sitting outside for 10 minutes each day, just looking at the trees, birds and water.

What do you think? Where in your life are you most in need of “white space”?

(PS: talking of white spaces, if my writing ever hits the big time, I think I might buy a little mews house in one of these predominantly white London streets, beautifully captured by A Lady in London. This is a travel blog I love to visit, and if you’re an Anglophile, chances are you’ll like it too!)

Watercolor bubbles

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13 Comment

  1. Reply
    October 15, 2014 at 4:27 am

    As you know, Pauline, I’m a great believer in creating white space, in everything. I deliberately make sure that in my day I steal 20-30 minutes from my busy schedule just for me, to simply stay away from everything. Sometimes I have the feeling that time it’s not enough, and I need more, but it has to be enough, and it is better than nothing 😉

    There are occasions when I can’t have my “break” for one reason or another, and I do notice that on those days I don’t operate at my best, my writing is not as sharp, and even my work may not be as effective; generally I’m not as happy. So, the white space is important, I think it helps to see the contours of everything.

  2. Reply
    October 16, 2014 at 11:08 am

    Gorgeous house! I’d love to buy a place like this as well!

    Am definitely in need of more white space in my life. So much go-go-go and not enough slow—down! 🙂

  3. Reply
    Jean |
    November 1, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    I’ve been working at increasing my “white space” over the last two or three years, and it is wonderful. Introverts probably require more of it than extraverts. My most “dynamic” friends see it as wasted time, I’m sure, but I see it as little pools of serenity scattered over the landscape of my day.

    1. Reply
      Pauline Wiles
      November 1, 2014 at 5:55 pm

      Jean, that’s a great point that introverts and extroverts possibly need different amounts of white space in their lives.

  4. Reply
    Joanne Phillips
    November 10, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Brilliant post, Pauline – and a concept we can all learn a lot from. By the way, can you get The Great British Interior Design Challenge over there on iPlayer? You’d love it x

    1. Reply
      Pauline Wiles
      November 10, 2014 at 2:22 pm

      Jo, I love the sound of that programme but it doesn’t seem to be available on Netflix, which is the only screen time I allow myself (especially until Book 2 is done). It’s probably just as well – sounds like I would get impossibly sucked in!

  5. […] Why our lives need white space. […]

  6. Reply
    Everyday Mindfulness - Pauline Wiles
    November 7, 2018 at 10:16 am

    […] can start to feel unreasonably hectic, the reminder here to make the small but conscious effort to insert mini pauses into our daily lives is […]

  7. Reply
    April J Harris
    November 8, 2018 at 11:07 am

    I love the idea of incorporating the concept of ‘white space’ in my life. It’s definitely something I need to do!

    1. Reply
      November 8, 2018 at 4:21 pm

      And I need to make my teeny white chinks into more like white space 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, April!

  8. Reply
    February 20, 2019 at 6:20 am

    Pauline, I am no writer but I could also say that white space also works in decorating. We all need a bit of calm in our hectic environments.

    1. Reply
      February 20, 2019 at 6:55 am

      Absolutely, I’ve definitely heard the advice that the eye needs somewhere to rest in a room. Great point, Mary!

  9. Reply
    A Lady in London
    April 26, 2019 at 1:52 am

    Thanks for the mention!

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