The "White space"* that so infrequently gets used...

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

Whitespace seems to be one of those terms that is blessed with a wide array of definitions - Who knew?

  • White space is the empty space in a design. White space is used to separate disparate design elements and group similar ones. White space is the lack of graphics or text in the layout.
  • White space, in a communications context, refers to under utilized portions of the radio frequency (RF) spectrum.
  • White space, in computer science, is any character or series of characters that represent horizontal or vertical space in typography.
  • White space is a process management concept described by Geary A. Rummler and Alan P. Brache in 1991 as the area between the boxes in an organizational chart—where, very often, no one is in charge.
  • White space is an esoteric programming language developed by Edwin Brady and Chris Morris at the University of Durham (also developers of the Kaya and Idris programming languages).
  • The White Space (Italian: Lo spazio bianco) is a 2009 Italian drama film directed by Francesca Comencini.

And finally the definition that came to mind first (although it seems to be used so infrequency, let alone recognized as an important practice):

  • White space is time to provide the opportunity to think.

Or... ponder, reflect, deliberate, consider, meditate, contemplate, muse, ruminate, be lost in thought, be in a brown study, rack one's brains or put on one's thinking cap. 

Something, that in a culture where it can be said "busy is glorified" we just don't seem to do enough of. Mostly I wonder if it is because "thinking" just doesn't seem "busy enough"... it is rare thing indeed to hear someone say they spent their Friday night "thinking".

My humble aim here is to offer a thought or two regarding why it's worth considering "White space for thinking time" as an important practice, and not necessarily how to free up your time to find it - My experience is if you think something is important enough, you will find the time. I should also point out that at no level do I want to go down the bunny hole of "thinking as a philosophy", "frameworks of thinking" or anything of that ilk, but rather the recognition of how important it is to set aside time for thinking.

Thinking: the process of using one's mind to consider or reason about something.

As an important consideration, it should be pointed out that thinking, real thinking, is a solitary activity. So in the context of "White space", it specifically refers to time alone to think... you, by yourself, left to ponder whatever needs pondering. Thinking feeds everything you will be involved with - 

  • Planning
  • Brainstorming
  • Conversation
  • Presentation
  • Action
  • Interpretation
  • Implementation

It goes without saying (and I am certain there is data to back this up), the more you have thought about something, the higher the quality or probability for success in whatever you are involved with.

It is probably also worth pointing out that planning sessions, braining storming sessions and meetings are not for thinking, but rather to bring thoughts together to drive tangible action forward; the more cynical may suggest that's more of a "stretch goal" at the best of times. These meetings do not become a default for real thinking - White space for thinking time is needed drive better planning and execution and needs to find its way onto your calendar for "you, yourself and I".

Whether you agree with me or not, it is worth thinking about it. Have you freed up some White space?


* As always thank you Google and Wikipedia.