As leaders in a busy world, our valuable time is underplanned, meaning we don’t take time to leverage our creative minds. On the heels of attending the Simmons Leadership Conference in Boston with world renowned leaders crossing a broad spectrum of business lines, one of the key messages that resonated with me was how important it is to allocate time at work for independent thought.
At the conference, Juliet Funt presented on “Creativity, Productivity and Engagement: Reclaim your White Space.” Funt is the founder and owner of WhiteSpace® at Work, a training and consulting firm that helps organizations flip the norms of business to reclaim creativity, productivity, and engagement. She is the daughter of Allen Funt, the creator and host of “Candid Camera,” a popular TV show from my generation. Funt delivered her message with the same sense of entertainment as her dad did in his show, fun and inspirational.
WhiteSpace is defined as improvised or scheduled time and thought for which we have no predetermined agenda or plan. It is open, uncommitted time during which our thoughts can be fluid, flexible, and free-form. It’s the time during which strategic thinking occurs, creativity soars, and focus returns. We live in the age of overload, crushed by emails, back-to-back meetings, and smart phones that demand our constant attention. This allows us little time to reboot our exhausted body and look to the future.
Based on personal experience, I know this is a challenge faced by most of us every day. Unlike social media challenges, the two areas that we can take immediate action in improving go back to the fundamentals of business communications. I’m going to give these a try and suggest you join me!
These are specific points Funt shared:
The first point pertains to email, which was originally designed as a non-urgent medium and today is treated as texting with a presumption of real-time response. As a result, we reply to emails as soon as possible, which can be tortuous and time consuming.
- Work with your teams and fellow associates to create a purposely designed response time, it could be 24 hours, 48 hours, or whatever makes sense to gain time to think.
- Create spaces in the day of purposeful periodic abstention where you do not look at any emails. Try the email diet: only touch your emails at breakfast, lunch, and dinner and two snacks in between.
- Become samurais of the email subject line: try to fit in as much information as you can in the subject line such as purpose, time needed, and deadlines. This will make us as productive as possible when cycling through our emails.
The second point surrounds meetings, which gobble up much of our white space. It’s magical thinking that we can have meetings scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and concurrently get work done at our desks.
- If you’re attending a meeting and feel that you’re not contributing and there is no benefit, make a dot on a piece of paper to raise your awareness that you’re wasting your time sitting passively.
- Build white space between meetings, schedule meetings for 50 minutes to give yourself a 10-minute transition time.
- Work toward a no meeting day at least once a week; it will be amazing how much work you will get done.
“When a company adds WhiteSpace® to its culture, every single employee benefits. You can almost hear an audible sigh of relief as a path is cleared back to strategic thinking and focus.” -Juliet Funt