How to Create White Space in Your Life

Be purposeful with your weekly commitments and responsibilities so that you can create white space in your schedule. This allows time for rest and self care.

I’ve been on a productivity and time management reading binge lately. Part of my interest stems from the goal-setting process I went through before the year began. Using Power Sheets for the first time opened my eyes to a lot of my own behavior patterns.

Looking back at what worked last year and what didn’t work, I was able to see that time management is an area where I really want to grow and improve. I have an abundance of time, but I can be a very poor steward of those hours.

While you may not feel like you have plenty of time to accomplish all you need, you probably recognize that there is some time in your life that gets squandered. I don’t believe that every minute of the day should be productive. However, I also know that I waste far more time than I’d like to admit.

What is White Space?

If we use our time wisely, it creates the opportunity for what I call “white space” in our weekly schedule. Some call it “margin” or “breathing room” or simply “free time.” The idea is the same. We need to have time available for rest and self care so that we don’t burn out.

Be purposeful with your weekly commitments and responsibilities so that you can create white space in your schedule. This allows time for rest and self care.

In the same way that the white space in this image allows you to focus more clearly on the different elements, white space in your schedule gives you the opportunity to find rest so that you can more easily concentrate on your priorities.

Related: Self Care – What, Why and How?

Far too often, I see moms who don’t feel as though they can prioritize their own needs. It seems selfish or like it just won’t fit into their schedule. They’re so used to worrying about everyone else that they don’t leave any room for themselves.

Here’s a little tough love: we often use the excuse that we don’t have time for certain activities when the truth is that we don’t make time for those things. Being a mom is a round-the-clock job. If we let it, the demands on our time and energy will be all-consuming. It’s up to us to find time to recharge our batteries.

How to create white space

You might be thinking, “how on earth am I supposed to make time for myself when I can barely keep up with the needs of my family?” Trust me when I say that I get this. It can be incredibly hard to carve time out of a busy schedule for something that doesn’t seem like a necessity.

But in this case, attitude is half the battle. If you don’t believe that you deserve time to rest, recharge, or invest in your own interests, then you will struggle to find the time. On the other hand, if you recognize that you can’t do all the things without some time of your own, then you will make white space a priority.

Here are the 5 steps I take to make sure that I carve out white space in my schedule so I don’t end up feeling exhausted and overburdened.

1 | Determine static commitments in your schedule.

Some elements of your weekly calendar are consistent the majority of the time. Aside from vacations and snow days, the kids are at school for the same duration each week. Music lessons, sports practices, and clubs generally meet at the same times. If you work outside the home, you most likely have some regularity to the hours you spend at your job.

Enter these static time commitments into your calendar first since they are the most predictable. Since there’s less (or no) flexibility in these activities, you’ll need to work around them.

2 | Schedule time for other responsibilities.

Aside from static commitments, we all have responsibilities that require our time each week. Household duties like cleaning, grocery shopping, and meal prep all demand our attention.

Make a list of all of the extra responsibilities you need to address in a normal week. Then divide these tasks into 3 categories: cleaning, errands, and personal.

Cleaning and errands are self-explanatory. Personal tasks might include things like exercise or daily Bible study or journaling.

Now put these tasks into your weekly schedule. For example, Sunday might be when you plan your weekly menu and grocery shop. Monday could be the day you vacuum. A less structured option is to schedule a block of time each day for household tasks.

The idea is to have these responsibilities worked into your schedule so that you know when you actually have time available for white space activities.

3 | Block out time for white space.

It might seem counterintuitive to schedule “free” time. But, the reality is that if we aren’t purposeful about planning time to rest, we often don’t do it at all.

White space doesn’t need to be hours and hours or every day. Planning 30 minutes to eat lunch and read a book in peace is a perfectly good way to recharge for me. Mindlessly scrolling on social media is not. It’s not that I don’t like to do it. It just isn’t what refuels my tank.

When you know that the rest of your commitments and responsibilities are accounted for in your schedule, you’re less likely to feel guilty about doing something for yourself. Having coffee with a friend is much more pleasant when you aren’t feeling like you should be doing x, y or z.

4 | How to Find time in a busy schedule.

If you put down your static commitments and your extra responsibilities, and you don’t see any additional time, there are a couple things to think about.

Are there activities that you’re committing to that bring you zero fulfillment? Saying no to an opportunity might be hard in the moment, but beneficial in the long run. I know this is easier said than done, but it’s also too easy to spread ourselves thin.

While you can’t say no to raising your children, you don’t have to be on every fundraising committee at school. Just because someone asks does not mean you have to say yes if it means giving up your only free morning.

Another trick I use is to make otherwise wasted time more beneficial or enjoyable. Instead of just watching my kids’ 40 minute karate class, I pop in headphones and listen to a podcast. It makes the time pass in a more interesting way where exactly zero participation is required from me as a parent. I do the same when I’m in the car running errands.

When my kids were home full time, we had a babysitter come every other Friday. She arrived in the afternoon so I could have a couple hours on my own. Then my husband would come home from work and we’d go out for a date night. Yes, it cost money, but it was worth it. Swapping time with another mom is a great option if you’re on a tight budget or don’t have family nearby to help.

5 | Focus during your white space.

My final tip is to make sure that when you go through the steps to block out white space in your schedule, use it wisely. Don’t channel surf or scroll through social media unless that is truly what recharges your batteries.

Don’t do “just one more thing” around the house that eats into the time you’ve allocated. While you’re in charge of your own schedule, we all know how quickly those little things add up. Give yourself permission to use that time for you.

This is a sample of my weekly schedule:

Be purposeful with your weekly commitments and responsibilities so that you can create white space in your schedule. This allows time for rest and self care.

Pink is for free time, personal responsibilities, or time with my husband. Yellow is time primarily devoted to kid-related stuff, although dinner technically falls under family time. Purple is for work/blog-related tasks and household duties. Green is family time. Blue is sleep.

I purposely kept the descriptions vague so that it would be easier to envision your own life broken into these categories. Obviously they sometimes overlap. Saturday and Sunday include household tasks, date nights, and kids’ activities on a regular basis. However, those days are typically spent together as a family in some capacity.

Also, remember that this is a work in progress for me too. I don’t stick to a rigid schedule every day. Mapping out my week is my attempt to stay focused and purposeful about how I spend my time.

If you’ve been struggling to get things done, this might help you as well. Think of it as a game plan for the week. It’s not going to go perfectly, but it provides a starting point.

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Self Care – What, Why and How?

As moms, we work so hard to make everyone happy and to make life go smoothly. We often do the shopping, the laundry, the cleaning, the cooking, and the driving everyone from here to there and back again. We wipe noses, bottoms, and tears.

When we go to bed, we’re so tired, but we can’t sleep because we’re thinking about everything we have to do the next day. We plan parties, playdates, real dates and holiday celebrations. But often we forget to organize time for self care.

What is Self Care? Why is it important? Tips for incorporating self care into your own life.

Self care, very simply put, is taking care of your emotional and physical needs. My daughter once asked me how our local pharmacy employees have time to sleep when the store is open 24/7.

I explained that the employees work in shifts because no one could possibly work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Except that sometimes being a mom feels like that.

Parenting is a round-the-clock job. We’re always on-call. Without taking time for ourselves, eventually our energy runs out, and we start to suffer.

Making time for yourself often feels like the last item on the priority list, but it shouldn’t be. Just like spending time with your spouse or significant other, having time for yourself is not bad or wrong or selfish. It’s necessary to recharge our batteries.

I love my family more than anything, but I need time on my own occasionally, and that doesn’t make me a bad wife or a bad mom. Self care can be as simple as reading a book or as elaborate as a weekend away from home.

Here are some of the ways that I take care of my own needs.

Time With Friends

Whether it’s meeting for breakfast on a Saturday or dessert on a weeknight, I try to meet up with my girlfriends on a fairly regular basis. I crave that time where I can laugh and talk with friends.

It’s important to have times of undistracted conversation, especially if you’re at home with kids full-time. Yes, a playdate for the kids can be a fun time to chat with another mom, but we all know there’s no such thing as a distraction-free conversation when the kids are around.

Bible Study and Book club

I meet with a group of women every other week for Bible study and once a month for a book club, and both are so renewing. We have good conversation and I learn so much. I’ve developed some good friendships too.

If you aren’t interested in a faith-based group, a book club, a cooking class or a yoga class are all great options. The idea is simply a regularly-scheduled purposeful group.

TIME ALONE

For those of us with an introverted side, time spent alone is essential. As much as I love to be with my friends and family, I also need time on my own to fully recharge.

Sometimes I’ll go to the bookstore and browse the shelves. Occasionally I go to a movie alone. I spend a lot of time around other people and sometimes I just need a break from interacting with others.

Weekend away

Each year my three closest girlfriends and I make it a point to have a weekend away together. The kids stay at home with their dads, and we have a weekend of undistracted conversation and fun.

We try to make it a pretty inexpensive trip and just enjoy a lot of “chick chat,” as my husband would say. Having a few days off from all my responsibilities as a wife and mom helps me recharge and regroup. I come back rested, happier and more than ready to be back at home with my family.

My husband and I also try to get at least one full day and night away from home each year. We need that concentrated time to connect apart from navigating the busyness of daily life as a family.

I’m very fortunate to have a husband who makes it possible for me to spend time with my girlfriends or on my own to refuel my tank. I make sure that he gets time with his friends too.

We spend plenty of time as a family and as a couple, but we both understand the importance of being off-duty. If you don’t have a partner that can give you these breaks, consider asking a family member, hiring a sitter, or trading off with another mom.

Just don’t neglect yourself because you think it’s not important!

How do you make time for yourself??

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How to Get Out of a Rut and Into a Routine

Four ways to find balance and get out of a rut.

The past couple months have been busy for our family. Between Mother’s & Father’s Day, my daughter’s birthday, a camping trip, and end-of-school stuff, it’s been pretty crazy. I’ve been productive out of necessity, but it’s completely thrown me off my routine and I’ve been feeling beyond frazzled.

I know I’m not the only one who feels a little less than motivated by this time of year. Jen Hatmaker’s post “Worst End of School Year Mom Ever” will literally validate everything you are thinking about the last month of school when we must do ALL THE THINGS. Field trips, plays, socials, projects. It is thanks only to Amazon Prime that my daughter even had a costume for the second grade play about bugs.

As much as I want to throw in the towel, we all know that’s not reality. We might have said adios to all of our school responsibilities, but we have now entered the all-inclusive entertainment package that is summer break. For a stay-at-home mom, summer break is similar to tax season for an accountant. It’s a whirlwind of activities, sunscreen and a never-ending stream of wet towels.

Thanks to some, umm, gentle prodding from my husband, I’ve had our kids signed up for a handful of day camps since March. In the summer, it doesn’t take long before my little ones are tired of spending every waking minute together. Then the good times stop rolling and the bickering starts. “Referee” is one of my least favorite mom roles so I’m doing everything I can to head this one off at the pass. The quickest way to kill summer break is a tired, cranky mama so I’m working on getting back into my own routine.

So what does that look like exactly? Here are four things I’m doing to take back my sanity.

Get an early start

I really see a difference in my day when I have some time to myself first thing in the morning. Now, if you have a baby who still wakes during the night, you are probably shooting the screen with lasers from your eyes right now at the very suggestion of sacrificing sleep. Before you stop reading, let me be clear that I never did this when my kids were babies. I was taking advantage of every minute of sleep that I could get (and sometimes I still do). My kids are now 5 and 8 which is a completely different season of life and makes this an actual possibility. Take a look at some of my tips for waking up early here.

Get plenty of rest

My habit for a long time was to take advantage of the time after my kids’ bedtime to get things done or have time to myself. Two problems result from this habit. First, it makes getting up early a lot harder and I’m more likely to be tired the next day. I’m not a morning person so waking up even 15 minutes before them means a few sips of coffee, some time to gather my thoughts, and a much happier mom to greet them. The second problem with burning the midnight oil is that it doesn’t leave much time to spend alone with my husband. We need that uninterrupted time to reconnect after a busy day. Whether it’s meaningful conversation or watching tv and quietly unwinding in each other’s presence, it’s important. 

Get moving

Admittedly, this is not my strong point, but getting regular exercise really does make a difference. It took a long time for me to recognize that I feel better overall when I’m getting even 30 minutes a day. Still, when there are a lot of other things competing for my attention, I tend to drop exercise first. I’m trying to get in the habit of exercising first thing in the morning because then there’s not as much risk of plans changing, but this is definitely a work in progress.

Get a break 

One thing that my husband and I have always done is make sure that each of us gets time to recharge. This looks different depending on the phase of life we’re in, but even a couple hours to relax, hang out with friends or just go to the bathroom without someone hammering on the door asking for a snack can be worth it. Too often, we feel guilty for needing time away from our family responsibilities, but raising kids is incredibly demanding. Taking time to do things on my own keeps me from burning out and actually makes me enjoy my kids more.

Whether it’s kids or a job keeping you busy, it’s easy to feel like you have no control over your day. For me, doing even one of these things helps me feel less frazzled and more balanced. A combination of the four makes a huge impact, but trying out even one of these suggestions can help you get into a better routine. When you feel like you’re in charge of your time, it can make all the difference in your overall attitude.

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