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White Space, Capacity, and Slack Time Are All Seriously Underrated

By Joey Havens

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As I pulled out my favorite catch-all drawer at the cabin, I was dismayed that it was already overstuffed. Well, now I need to find another place to put this wrench. As I continue my “honey do’s,” (yes, CeCe has a long list of those for the cabin just like the house) I now need a tape measure to help with hanging the new blinds CeCe wants in our bedroom.

Finding myself back at my favorite catch-all drawer, I feel frustrated again. After digging around for a few minutes, I can’t find the tape measure and I am pretty sure it’s in there. I have no choice but to start taking stuff out and ensure I am not overlooking it. Bingo! After another five minutes of putting all my stuff on the floor, I see it in the back right corner. I grab it and throw everything back into the drawer and return to hanging blinds. Maybe you have a frustrating over-stuffed drawer like this?

Do you see the leadership lesson from my frustrations, delays and ineffectiveness above? When the drawer is overstuffed, it is of very little future use. It’s unorganized and difficult to find things quickly. Overstuffing is how we frequently run our calendars, days, and teams. Most people that I coach or work in an advisory capacity are dealing with being overstuffed. The higher up they are in the organization, the more overstuffing you will find.

We seriously undervalue the benefits and powerful impact of creating white space for focused critical thinking and reflection. Due to short-term benefits, we find ourselves overstuffing our teams rather than investing in more capacity and managing that capacity for the long haul versus pushing to 100% utilization — which is a fantasy. No one controls someone else’s focus, creativity, discretionary efforts or critical thinking. We see these when we demonstrate we care and help to manage overall capacity.

My overstuffed drawer highlighted this opportunity to #beBetter. What drawer is overstuffed in your day, team or calendar? Let’s consider:

  • Scheduling 25, 50 and 80-minute meetings so that team members have 10 minutes of slack time after to refocus and recharge.
  • Block off time slots for creative reflection time as a priority
  • Taking more control by organizing the types of meetings and when they are scheduled. Grouping meetings that might be similar.
  • Create a stop-doing list that we update monthly.
  • Think no before we say yes to something new. It’s okay to say no to things that will not help us realize our full potential.
  • Schedule time off and fun times to recharge.

Yes, CeCe, the new blinds are hung. It took longer than I thought, but they are installed. Are you coming to spend the night on Friday? NO….

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