real life

How a boring work meeting became a life changing "a-ha" moment.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead. – Albert Einstein.

Work meetings and me don’t go together. We are like oil and water. A white bread Vegemite sandwich and Pete Evans. Public transport and Beyonce. I drift, I try to stay on point. I draw lots of arrows, I count random things on the wall like dirty marks. I wonder what everyone had for breakfast. Then I want breakfast.

But a work meeting recently gave me an idea that was as good as a portal into another dimension*. *Only slight exaggeration — maybe just a portal into another world.

As I sat wedged between a process person and someone who actually makes Excel spreadsheets and sends them to staff to be filled out, someone from Human Resources mentioned white space.

"There is only one rule with white space... you have to find it."

White Space is a transformational management term - but hear me out. I think it could be used to great effect outside of office hours. It could make life so much better, richer, surprising. It could bring back some wonder. Wouldn't that be lovely?

This is the definition of White Space, according to a work manual that has an accompanying picture of a woman wearing a pencil skirt:

The empty blank space that exists between the boxes of an organisational chart or a list of job responsibilities. 

Okay. They nearly lost me at organisational chart, too. But then it was explained. And then I swapped organisational chart for doing something and job responsibilities for doing something else.

White Space is the pausing between mental activities so you can think. Remember that old thing? Thinking. We step off the mental thoughts conveyor in our mind into "white space" nothingness. It is here in this clean, clear space that we can let our thoughts wander, dance, cartwheel, shimmy - expand and contract.


It's different to mindfulness because we don't need to be "in the moment"; with white space, you can be literally anywhere (and I don't use the word literally lightly).

Slow down and take some of Zoe Foster Blake's smart beauty advice for busy women.

But it's so hard for the average person to find that clean, clear white space because our brains are full. Stuffed. Crammed like a hoarder's house.

When was the last time you didn't have something in your head? When was the last time you weren't full of information, thoughts, To-Dos, schedules? The 410 bus route. Weather 25 and windy tomorrow, and let's look at the rest of the week. Like Katy's Facebook post so she doesn't think I'm being cold. Pick up Tom from soccer. Someone mentioned a new Ryan Gosling movie — hmm, let me find out more.

Brain full. My brain is so preoccupied with processing and storing piles of information and To dos and stuff sometimes I have been known to - okay, on quite a few occasions - leave the toilets at work with my fly undone.

I'm thinking about what's next. I have a mental list of emails I need to return or I'm problem solving as I flush and wash hands, and my poor zipper gets forgotten and I look like Benny Hill in front of an office full of millennials who look blankly at me when I try to make light of my fly mishap by saying I look like Benny Hill.

white space mindfulness
Image via Giphy.

As well as losing my dignity - and way too many of my pop culture references - I've lost my memory. I need to set an alert on my phone to remember things like milk or picking up a child.

I leave wallets and coffees on the roof or my car and drive off. I don't hear people when they call out my name, I can't seem to get a system for parking station tickets and I'm constantly walking into rooms and having no idea why I am there.

I've dabbled with mindfulness, yoga, meditation, running and drinking to change things up.

Nothing. No epiphanies. No change, except I did meet a very nice bouncer one evening.

You have to find it.

Without knowing it, I've been trying to find white space. I've written two books and am starting on a third and I ... can't ... get ... to that create-something-out-of-absolutely-nothing space because my brain has a door bitch with a clipboard on it and she's not letting me in.


So now I'm consciously trying to find white space.

I don't listen to any music/podcasts/whatever when I go for a run or walk.

I'm conscious my phone is the number one enemy of white space and I am leaving it behind whenever I can. I'm trying to not use it for an hour before before sleep, I've banned it from the bathroom (yes, I mean toilet), it shouldn't be a knee-jerk reaction on public transport (okay, I'm working on that one and am happy with a 50/50 split).

I've started to lie down on my bed when I shouldn't be and close my eyes for at least 20 minutes. With three kids and always something that needs doing or fixing, it feels like the biggest indulgence in the world. It's amazing the places you travel to in your head. Everyone in the house thinks I'm resting, but I'm working — on the inside.

White space may have originated from the least creative place I know — a work meeting — but it could very well be a portal into the most creative space I know.

In 2017, where it's more normal to check the weather on our phones than walk to a window to look up at the sky; where we fill our heads with other people's words, lyrics and thoughts as we step across breathtaking clifftops, white space runs the risk of becoming extinct.

Don't let it.

It will let us change the world. Even for those who are good at Excel spreadsheets.