Why paying close attention to the “white spaces” in our lives can significantly improve the quality of our days

Dennis Sparks

Educators days are often face-paced and stressful.

Fortunately, though, even a subtle shift in thinking and perception can sometimes alter our experiences in ways that produce significant change in the quality of our work and lives. Take, for instance, learning to pay attention to the “white spaces” of our days.

Here are two examples:

The white space between events.

How we use even the brief periods of time on our calendars between meetings or other events can affect the quality of our participation in those events and their outcomes. (If there is no space between events, do your very best to schedule such times on your calendar.)

Even a few minutes of “downtime” can enable us to feel calmer and better prepared for whatever happens next. We can use this space to breathe deeply, gather our thoughts, clarify our intentions, and restore our energy.

The “white space” of a deliberate pause between the conclusion of one person’s speaking and our response.

This pause—which educators think of as “wait time”—provides an opportunity for both the speaker and listener to think more deeply about what was said, which, in turn, strengthens relationships and improves our capacity for influence.

Because we were not preparing our response while the other person was speaking, we are a more attentive listener and better prepared to offer a more thoughtful comment.

As a result, it is in this pause that the most important learning occurs as we reflect upon what we are hearing and learning and what we would like to say.

Attending to these two categories of white space may take only a few minutes a day.

But focusing on them is a potent means through which educators can affect the quality of their days and those of the individuals with whom they interact, both young people and adults alike.

How do you create “white space” in your days to provide opportunities for meaningful reflection and renewal?

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