Covered by Kelly Mantick, SHARE'd Intelligence Editor
Having finished his major tasks for the morning, David decided to head home for lunch. He packed up his keys, sunglasses and laptop — just in case — and walked out to his car. Just was he was about to pull into his driveway, his phone vibrated to signal 20 unread text messages, five missed calls and multiple voicemails and emails. He sighed and looked down at his phone to see, in all capital letters, “THE COMPUTERS ARE DOWN!” No one at the office knew what to do. Staring longingly at his front door, he reversed out of the driveway, heading back toward work, his phone vibrating off the passenger seat. The moment he arrived, a barrage of angry colleagues met him, “Everything is broken!” they yelled at him. He strode to the server room, trying to assuage their fears on the way there. People banged on the door, yelling status updates to him, “Still broken!” one called. He couldn’t think. Then, he remembered his WhiteSpace® training. David exited the room, walked outside, sat under a tree and took some time to just think. As he was thinking, he smelled fumes and recalled that the office had recently gotten recarpeted. Which led him to realize — someone else had been in the server room that day! He headed back up, past the insistent office mates and realized that the carpeters had unplugged everything and replugged it back in incorrectly. He fixed this simple problem, and the office was back up and running.
During Juliet Funt’s keynote presentation at the SHARE in San Antonio event, she used this story to illustrate the importance of incorporating WhiteSpace into your day. Have you ever faced a similar situation? You’re not alone. In today’s workplace, busyness, overwork and email overload are commonplace, while taking time to sit back and think is nearly nonexistent. Juliet Funt, the mastermind behind WhiteSpace at Work — a consulting agency that helps organizations retrieve their talented teams from beneath piles of crushing to-dos and relentless task assaults — explained that, in our connected, busy world, people are uncomfortable taking a pause to think, and this is hurting businesses around the globe.
What Is WhiteSpace?
Funt explained that WhiteSpace is the strategic pause you take between activities throughout the day, and these act like oxygen to the fire of your creativity. These pauses enable your brain to wake up, Funt said, activating your default neural network, which is responsible for creativity. While you may be shaking your head thinking, “I have no time for pauses in my day,” Funt argues that this WhiteSpace is already in your schedule, waiting to be uncovered. Social conformity, the unconscious mimicking of what people around us are doing, has made it seem that taking work home, checking email throughout the day and night, and increasing the pace of business are normal. When, in reality, these actions originated with a group of people, creating a cascading pressure throughout the organization to act accordingly. Enter: social conformity. For the record, this behavior is not normal, and there are ways to combat it.
The Call Is Coming from Inside the House
To uncover this WhiteSpace, we need to take a good look at our productivity. Funt identified four thieves of productivity, which start out as positive attributes but quickly turn to the dark side when abused:
- Overdrive: This thief starts out as a drive to do well and get things done, but can take a turn for the worse when it turns to overdrive.
- Perfectionism: Wanting to produce quality work is a great attribute; its negative effects come into play when it turns into an unwavering perfectionism.
- Over-information: This thief derives from a need to gather evidence and information, but can quickly consume your time and energy.
- Frenzy: Many people enjoy activity; however, that can easily turn into a frantic frenzy.
As Funt put it, “the call is coming from inside the house,” meaning that this pressure to be busy is coming from within us. She recommended figuring out which of these thieves is robbing your productivity the most and hone in on it first. Take note when it pulls you away from being productive, and develop a “filter of reductivity” to interrupt your automatic sensor. For example, if your thief is activity, focus instead on what deserves attention, rather than spending time doing everything.
Why Does WhiteSpace Matter?
This all may be good and well, but why bother with uncovering WhiteSpace in your schedule — you don’t have much time for these activities. However, Funt explained, your organization can’t afford for its employees to be overworked and stuck answering emails all day. “There is no innovation without thoughtfulness,” she said. Funt referenced an article by the Harvard Business Review that states 41 percent of employees’ time is spent on low-value tasks. To that end, if employees had more time in their day to be thoughtful, creative and innovative, how many more actionable ideas would be generated?
Juliet Funt, owner and founder of WhiteSpace at Work, is a rare find. For more than 10 years, she has worked with organizations to flip the norms of business for the better. With thought-provoking content and immediately actionable tools, Funt has become a nationally recognized expert in coping with the Age of Overload in which we all live and work. As a busy corporate speaker and consultant, business owner, wife and mother, she practices on a daily basis the WhiteSpace® concept she shares with clients. Funt is a force for change in organizations from coast to coast, helping them find their WhiteSpace, recharge their people and re-energize their business.