[Advice] The Productivity of White Space

The human eye is a powerful bundle of tissues, nerves and liquid.

As the most complicated mechanism (short of the brain) in the human body, the human eye can see, take in information and transmit that information for interpretation in the brain.

One of the first things that a practicing artist must learn while still a student, is the value of white space: Those places in the piece of art where there is “nothing,” instead of “something.” The artist must dismiss her natural tendecy to trust what her eyes—that confuse the crowded appearance of the world, with meaning—see is “there,” and search diligently for what is not.

There are a lot articles on the Internet, which fall into the genre of the “new self-help.” These articles focus around “hacking” your life to become more “productive.” Some of them offer valuable information in the form of listicles, without much explanatory content, research based findings, or even a really good argument about how to implement all of the tips at a practical level. This species of article has become so rampant in parts of the Internet, that they are approaching the level of pornography in their ubiquity.

But what do the human eye, seeing, art production, and the “new self-help” all have in common?

The lack of—or the crowding out of—white space in the world.

The human mind has a limited attention span.

And the messages from various signal bearers (i.e. family members, neighbors, co-workers, etc.) tend to “crowd into” the human mind, creating distractions that cause a loss of focus, a loss of clarity, and sometimes, a loss of personal purpose. The solution to this limited attention span problem (or limited bandwidth problem) is not to read another productivity hack article on the Internet and then to vainly attempt to apply its proscriptions.

The solution is to focus ruthlessly on carving out more white space.

More absence of messages that don’t matter, in order to catch the signal of messages that do matter. In principle, this just reads like another “new self-help” proscription with no basis in practical fact, so here are three initial questions to ask yourself before carving out more white space in your personal interactions, your personal productivity, and even in your personal perspective on the world:

Is this action I’m taking right now (or think about taking later) going to give me the highest value beyond just this moment (or the next)?

Am I providing value to someone else by having this interaction with them, or am I not?

Am I playing the long game, the short game, or not playing a “game” at all by having/not having this interaction, taking on this task, or engaging with this person?

Through discipline and with an understanding of the power of absence, your human attention span can focus on the things that matter, and be more productive.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
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Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
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