White Space, The Final Frontier

“WhiteSpace is a pause in your schedule, but the brain wakes up.”

“WhiteSpace is a pause in your schedule, but the brain wakes up.”

Juliet Funt: ‘Our Time Is Under Attack’

Keeping pace in today’s busy workplace is overwhelming, stifles creativity, and is counterproductive, according to Juliet Funt, yesterday’s Networking Luncheon and General Session speaker.

The founder and CEO of WhiteSpace at Work, Funt told attendees that we live in a culture of insatiability — nothing we do is ever enough, and that mindset carries over to the workplace. To counter that, Funt shared a streamlined method for personal process improvement designed to increase creativity and engagement.

For attendees, it was a humorous approach to slowing down and learning to prioritize. “Our time is under attack,” Funt said. “The U.S. workforce is so fried, it belongs in the food court of the county fair.”

When talented people don’t have time to think, Funt said, their work suffers. She challenged attendees to remember a recent time when “you caught someone thinking where you work.” Instead, most of us choose exertion — putting the “pedal to the metal” as quickly as possible. Admirable, perhaps, but racing around comes at a cost, both personal and professional. In fact, Funt said, there are 33 unique sources of pressure, further grouping them into the “four thieves of productivity”: drive, excellence, information, and activity.

Funt’s solution to these pressures is WhiteSpace — her term for a strategic pause taken between activities. Some cultural WhiteSpace examples include reacting to challenges or obstacles by thinking before acting; setting office pace and cadence for humans, not machines; and using controlling technology appropriately. “WhiteSpace is a pause in your schedule,” Funt said, “but the brain wakes up.”

To help regain control, Funt encouraged attendees to ask themselves four critical questions: “Is there anything I can let go of?” “When is good enough truly good enough?” “What do I truly need to know?” “What deserves my attention?”

Funt also offered tips to generate more WhiteSpace at work, including learning not to react when you see people do something the wrong way (if it’s not critical). “It’s so freeing!” she said. “I would wander through supermarkets and airports looking for people doing stupid things, and I would not help them!”

Or consider labeling your emails in the subject line as NYR (need your response), NYRT (need your response today), NYRQ (need your response quick), or NYR-NBD (need your response next business day). “We are constantly accelerating response time with emails,” Funt said. “We sit in front of the inbox with a Ping-Pong paddle. This is disastrous for our work.”

When doing the math, Funt said, companies find that creating more WhiteSpace will boost employee creativity, productivity, and engagement. It can improve our personal lives, too, she said, as we learn to enjoy the moment and the “cascade of WhiteSpace benefits” that come our way.

Funt will host a session today exclusively for corporate planners in Corporate Meetings HQ (VCC West, Rooms 116-117) from 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. The deep-dive session is designed to empower corporate planners who want to create organizational WhiteSpace and provide tactics to regain bandwidth at any level.