Whew, I almost made it through July. There were lots of concerts, teaching, and generally trying to hold things together. It just occurred to me today how far along we were in the summer. I leave for my annual Oregon trip next Sunday, and I will not return until the last part of August when school begins. This coming week will be my last opportunity to do anything that I had planned on accomplishing this summer.
And that thought brought me to another thought, and this is a rather important thought: when am I scheduling “me time”? In truth, I have to report that I have failed dismally at scheduling time for myself this summer. Instead, I have left myself open to the desires and demands of others. I opened up many teaching slots that ate into full days. Any time left over, I allowed summer camps and evening rehearsals for recitals to creep into my schedule. I have had to squeeze in personal appointments wherever I could around my already heavily scheduled life.
This is not the best life plan. I know that. I have written about that several times before (Got a Moment to Spare?, 8 Tips to Manage Stress, and Take Care of Yourself). Since we are more than halfway through the year 2013, I think that now is a good time to regroup and reconsider this important issue. When am I scheduling “me time”?
My husband calls it an aversion to white space; I am allergic, he says, to seeing white space on my calendar. After so many years of experiencing this problem, I have to agree with my husband’s assessment. He knows me well. As I looked over my calendar for the coming week, I was amused to see that I had penciled in one day this week as a “white space day.” That means that I leave the entire day white and schedule nothing.
Now, I may decide to do something on that day, and the sky is the limit, but I am forbidden to schedule anything. I can do laundry, clean the house, or experiment with a new recipe. I can walk the dogs, go to the gym, or take a nap. I can do whatever I want or nothing at all. It is all about me and my choice on that day. I am discouraged from making a list of things that must get done. You know what I mean, because we all do this. We make our list of things to do that we plan to get to when we finally have a day off. For me though, that list does not really get taken care of. If I try to take care of the list, I find that I am listless, mentally unfocused, and enervated. [I throw in vocabulary words for my dear friend, Nina, who says she finds at least one word in each article that challenges her to find her dictionary.]
Dr. Stephen Covey would consider this white space day concept under the 7th effective habit that he refers to as “sharpening the saw.” Dr. Covey's 7th habit encourages us to do activities that recharge our batteries, fill us with renewed energy, and rekindle our interest in life. Julia Cameron urges us to go on an Artist’s Date, which is a once weekly solo excursion that nourishes creativity and refreshes the spirit. The bible refers to this as the 4th of Ten Commandments: remembering the Sabbath as a day of rest dedicated to the Lord. In this case, the Lord commanded the gift of time, which cannot be destroyed in the same way that physical objects can be.
My husband and I call it “white space day.”
Here is how to find white space days. You need to start this process well in advance, otherwise it is unlikely that you will find any possible white space day candidates. For example, this week may already be shot for you. My good fortune in having a white space day this week is that I set up my teaching schedule two weeks ago and had the brilliant idea of designating a white space day on this coming week. That was three weeks before the actual day. The cause may not be completely lost, however, and if you are able to find a day in this coming week, then congratulations!
Typically I will look at my schedule a week from now to see if there are any possible days. In my case, there will be several, since I will have about 3-4 days that are open before I begin my music festival in Sunriver, Oregon. I generally have a list of fun activities that I want to do or places that I want to visit. The festival is kind enough to schedule a white space day for me, and I already have ideas about several possible long hikes that I might take on that day. Thereafter, though, I will need to diligently search for my white space days.
Because I generally teach about 6 days a week, I may have to designate my Sundays as white space days. Even though I go to church in the morning (I am the pianist for the traditional service in the earlier morning service), I will still be able to have the remainder of the day and evening free. I may need to schedule that block of time as white space in order to keep it free. For other folks, Saturday may be the white space day.
Consider using the white space technique as a general rule to give yourself time to recharge your batteries. As we near the end of the summer and the beginning of our fall teaching journey, now would be a good time to focus on the habits that will give us the most return for our effort and will enhance our quality of life and work.
For those still counting, today is the 30th Monday of 2013. There are 22 Mondays remaining this year.